Frequently Asked Questions about Sleep Training
Learn more about Dr. Roban's Techniques for Getting Your Child to Sleep
1. When can I begin sleep training?
A child must be 4 months of age and 14 pounds to begin sleep training. That is when s/he is cognitively and physically able to start sleeping through the night. A child must also be healthy in order to sleep train. If the child is getting sick, is currently sick, or is at the end of an illness you must not sleep train. If you have already begun the process and your child becomes sick you, must refrain from all sleep training until the child is healthy again. 2. Will there be any crying during the sleep training process?
Unfortunately, protest crying is almost always involved in teaching a child to become a good sleeper. You will be implementing new schedules and methods at nap time and bedtime. Most children will object to these changes. Many children who are going through the infant sleep training process do not have large enough vocabularies to express themselves, so they use crying as their form of self expression. Children tend to resist the new sleep program only temporarily, and then begin to not only accept sleep but crave it. It is important to remember that sleep training is not all about "crying it out." There are other important components such as consistency in methods utilized, regularly maintained sleep schedules, and age-appropriate sleep schedules. 3. Do you work with families who follow attachment parenting, and/or co-sleeping techniques? Are you against any "cry it out" methods?
Unfortunately, baby and child sleep training does not work effectively when a child sleeps in the caregiver's bed. In order to learn positive sleep habits, a child must learn the invaluable skill of self-soothing. My job as a sleep specialist is to help a family get well rested quickly and effectively. The methods I recommend to my clients would not work well with attachment parenting families nor co-sleeping families. Having said that, if you are a co-sleeping family by choice and everyone in the family is well rested and happy with the sleeping arrangement, there is no need to change the sleep situation.
4. Can you tell me how long the sleep training process will take?
There are many sleep training methods available, but some work faster than others and have a better success rate. When parents call me, they are usually at their wit's end and need a quick fix. This could be accomplished in as little as 2-3 nights for night time sleep (though naps can take longer). The good news is that most methods work, as long as you stay consistent with your chosen method. The reason baby and child sleep training most often fails is inconsistency on the part of the caregivers. 5. Do you work with older children or just babies?
I work with parents of children from birth through preschool age. About 50% of my practice involves working with babies, but the other 50% is with preschoolers. It is definitely not too late to teach a 2, 3, or 4 year old to learn positive sleep habits. Yes, it is easier to sleep train when a child is still in a crib, but the methods I advocate work beautifully with older children as well.
6. If I don't fix my child's sleep problems now, will they eventually go away on their own?
Most children with poor sleep habits will eventually sleep through the night in their own rooms. However, this may not happen until six or seven years of age. I do not recommend that a family stay sleep deprived for so many years. Also, these children will never be the amazing sleepers that their sleep trained peers are. Children who had negative sleep habits as babies and preschoolers have more sleep regressions, sleep disturbances (such as nightmares and night terrors) and night time sleep issues throughout their childhood than children who were taught positive sleep habits at an early age. 7. How many times throughout my child's life will I have to go through the sleep training process?
The positive effects of sleep training last a lifetime. Of course, circumstances will arise in a child's life that may cause sleep regressions, such as an illness and vacations. The good news is that once a family has successfully sleep trained a child, both parents and child have the skills and confidence to get past the sleep regression and get back on track to good sleep. It often only takes one night of retraining to get a child's sleep back to where it was before the sleep regression. For a child with negative sleep habits, sleep regressions can last months or even years if not dealt with appropriately.
Proper sleep training can add a lot to a child's development. For more on sleep solutions for your baby, toddler, or preschooler, contact Dr. Whitney Roban, pediatric sleep consultant, at (646) 504-9448.