Many parents balk at the idea of putting their child on a sleep schedule. Our little one has newly entered the world, and so quickly society is ready to press upon our vulnerable bundle of joy, all of it's fast-paced neuroses? I don't think so! It's a fair concern.
However, you may be surprised to find out that when experts talk about sleep or eating schedules for a child, they usually mean the much looser term, routine. And instead of expecting your baby to start meeting a schedule of play dates & 9am meetings, it is meant to be a guideline for you the parent as to what is a healthy length of time for your child to be awake during the day or night...how much & often your baby will need to eat, etc. These "schedules" should always take into account the age & physical development of a child & his own unique needs. And if the method you are using is causing you or your baby prolonged or an unbearable amount of stress & anxiety, then it's a sure sign something needs to be adjusted.
So when a child expert starts talking about the benefits of sleep training, try to listen with an open mind...especially if you & the whole household are starting to become seriously sleep deprived. A sleep schedule may be the real-world version of a miracle cure for you. And don't worry, you don't have to just lay your child down & listen to them cry all the time in order to "sleep train" them, there are gentler ways that are still effective.
The truth is you & your child are establishing some pattern of behavior around sleep whether you believe in sleep training a baby, or not. The idea of a sleep schedule should never be to dictate what your baby does...but more to help create the healthiest sleep associations & patterns for your child's optimal health & happiness. And yours too! It's hard to be a patient, happy parent when your sleep is interrupted every hour or two. While this is to be expected at the very beginning, many children need a little help shifting into distinctive day/night patterns of rest when it becomes developmentally appropriate.
In a nutshell, what works for your baby at 1 month, will not continue to be the same at 4 months...their needs & how they are presented change, sometimes drastically. Sleep training recognizes and gently reconfigures our child's time into longer awake periods & longer sleep periods, with the longest being at night.
Another benefit of sleep training is that it focuses on the babies needs & can help prevent us from unknowingly expecting our infant to meet our adult schedules & behavior patterns that they of course are not ready for. We can then set our schedules around their needs. When parent & child unwittingly form habits that we can't continue to maintain, then we are just setting ourselves & our child up for needless trouble...on a subject as paramount to her healthy development as sleep. Why not minimize or avoid the problem altogether?
By setting a sleep schedule, you are being mindful of when & under what conditions your child will get the optimal amount & best quality of sleep. The process of sleep training can be a little daunting at first; mostly due to all the methods & opinions out there. And it's easy if you don't know your child's developmental stages or are going on your past knowledge of what worked, to misinterpret her cues that a change & what kind is needed. Sleep training can only effectively be done by someone who is well-educated on child developmental ages and stages, and the various sleep training techniques. They should also take into account your parenting style & your child's temperament. This is why for your first time, I recommend an expert to help you get through this process as quickly and painlessly as possible. But after being a part of sleep training one child, many parents go on to successfully sleep train their other children with minimal help.
At Your Family Guru, I am a hands-on parent educator. I literally meet you where you live...striving always to facilitate and equip you the parent, so that you become more confident with your parenting abilities. Please comment below & share with friends if you found this info helpful. Feedback is paramount to what I do. And greatly appreciated! Feel free to email me today if you have any questions about this or another parenting subject.
Your Family Guru