When to Train My Infant to Sleep Through the Night?- Day time behavior and attention issues often related to poor sleep in toddlers, preschoolers, and young school-age children
The study “Sleep onset and night waking insomnias in preschoolers with psychiatric disorders,” published October 2014 in Child Psychiatry and Human Development, looked at those having difficulty getting to sleep and those waking up frequently in the middle of the night, in young children enrolled in a psychiatric day treatment program. 41% of the 183 children met criteria for a sleep disorder with 23% having trouble getting to sleep and 4% with night awakenings, and 14% with both. You can read this study here…
I think many parents have struggled with how to get our infants and toddlers to sleep and have them stay asleep. This study shows how common day time behavioral and emotional troubles can be linked with poor sleep. Rather than promote one approach over another, I encourage parents to be willing to teach and train, if that is what it takes, so your infant or young child can learn to sleep through the night. I find the earlier good habits are established, the more likely they will last.
Preventing sleep issues may be a better approach than waiting until your infant is already slipping into sleep problems. So what is the right age to start sleep training? I suspect we will not agree on the answer, but can we agree that if our infant who was starting to sleep through the night or most of the night, is now waking more often (this usually happens around 4-6 months) that perhaps they are learning some bad habits (needing to eat in the middle of the night or needing a parent to help them get back to sleep). Unless your infant or young child is neurologically challenged (think severe autism or anxiety) or is ill (think fever, vomiting, etc.) then would it be kind to teach them how to self console rather than be so helpless and dependent on us even for the simple act of falling asleep or getting themselves back to sleep?
Now the how of all this is the topic of many books, Ferber, the not cry sleep solution, and many more. I urge you to take it upon yourself as a parent to keep trying techniques until you succeed. Be willing to concede that your chosen method is not working if that is the case. The goal is not proving you have a “superior parenting sleep training” method, but rather that you have a method that works for your child. No method works on all kids. Some need a very gentle gradual movement away from parent comfort, while others will cling to parent contact at all costs until that parent makes the decision for that child. It is actually the parent involvement that is the problem. Left to self console or get themselves back to sleep, almost all children will adapt and learn.
If I am insecure, and what I want most is to get back in the womb so to speak, the closest I can get to that is nursing and cuddling with my mommy. If you let me do that until I am 2 or 3 or 4 years old, I will gladdly do that and in fact I would show you, (my mom), that without that I am a disaster. Your maternal instinct that cuddles and nurtures and keeps me as close as I want to be, actually reinforces my fear of being on my own. I thus know that the world is a scary place and the only place for me is in your bosom, and safe arms. We inadvertently make our children more anxious by not helping them learn to separate and feel capable of self consoling.
I’m not advocating shoving them to the street, but I am suggesting you get this sleep training done by around 6 months. Smart insecure infants can become more insecure and dependent, which, as this study illustrates, may put them at greater risk for psychiatric and attention issues.
Parents, who have struggled with this, please share your tips on what worked best for you.