When baby sleeps through the night for the first time in his life, it is a milestone to be celebrated by the whole family and perhaps, the neighbors! The lucky experience this momentous occasion early in infancy while other mums are dragged through the torture of sleepless nights into toddlerhood. Parents desperate to get a full night's rest may resort to sleep training to get baby on a lengthy snooze cruise.
There are two basic training methods — crying it out and not crying it out. While Dr. Emmett Holt, author of The Care and Feeding of Children described cry-it-out back in 1895, it is often credited to Dr. Richard Ferber, Director of The Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders. Careful not to describe his style as CIO, the Ferber method preaches that a child can be taught to put himself to sleep with self soothing techniques somewhere between four and six-months-old. In order for the baby to learn the steps to self soothing, they need to be put down while still awake. If he rouses during the night, parents are instructed not to pick him up, but to comfort and pat him after set periods of time. It is up to the family to decide how long the intervals should be and how often the wakings. Theoretically, baby learns how to handle his own falling asleep and learns that mommy will only check on him — not rescue him.
Critics of the Ferber tactics argue that tots left to cry themselves to sleep endure long-lasting damage to their nervous systems. Researchers from a recent Harvard study claim CIO makes children more susceptible in later life to anxiety disorders, including panic attacks.
To see what the opposing technique is, read more.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Dr. William Sears, a private practice pediatrician from Pasadena, CA, prefers an attachment fashion to sleep training. Author of texts Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep, The Attachment Parenting Book and The Baby Book, Sears supports a theory of routine, affection, and sleep mode. Before bedtime, the child should follow a strict routine cluing the infant into the fact that bedtime is near. Many parents give their babes baths, read a book, play music, and put the child into the same sleeping spot. Contrary to Ferber's belief that the child should stay awake until being placed in the crib, Sears instructs parents to put the baby in the crib after she is asleep. Sears also promotes following a schedule during the day for naps and other activities. Keeping a tot on task will help her expect certain events like naps and bedtime. Unlike Ferber's approach, Sears believes if the child wakes in the night, parents should pick her up and soothe her back to sleep — nurse, rock, cuddle, bounce, or whatever it takes.
The naysayers of the Sears plan believe that infants will sleep more soundly and awaken less often if they can put themselves to sleep.
Thankfully sleep training is optional and up to each parent's discretion. Moms and pops eager to get baby to saw some long logs may choose one of these paths or a modified version of the two. In any case, parents should be comfortable and consistent with their choice.