There are hundreds of baby books on the market touted as solutions to getting your baby to sleep. I have read a handful and found many contradictions. My first project was to find out what the scientific research says. I shared my discoveries through this blog and podcasts. Through my research I learned a lot about sleep, and that there are many useful approaches to improving your child’s sleep. This led to the creation of the Sleep Options Wizard for 0-5 year olds, which provides you with suggestions based on your situation, so you don’t have to trawl through all the information – only what is relevant to you.
Questions I have addressed through my blog posts and podcasts are:
When can babies be expected to sleep through the night?
Not for a long time, and there is huge variation. See these posts:
Baby sleep and night wakings: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/02/05/baby-sleep-night-wakings/
Baby sleep routine: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/03/29/baby-sleep-routine/
My first podcast episode on baby sleep: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/02/03/episode-1-baby-sleep-or-lack-of/
Sleep associations: when do they form and how hard are they to change?
Sleep associations start to form from birth but they can be changed.
For the theory see Sleep associations: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/06/28/sleep-associations/
For a novel take on associations see possum sleep intervention: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/08/25/feed-your-baby-to-sleep/ and The Possums Sleep Intervention Part 1 Podcast
For a combination of the two approaches, see my second podcast episode: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/02/25/pr-p-002-sleep-associations/
Is controlled crying harmful to the baby?
There is no conclusive evidence that controlled crying is harmful and there is evidence that the sleep gain is beneficial. HOWEVER, there are theoretical reasons why controlled crying could be harmful, and some preliminary research suggesting harm. See my rationale under controlled crying techniques in this post: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/07/30/get-baby-self-settle-sleep-training-review/
and in my response to “Self settling – what really happens?” post: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/10/23/response-self-settling-really-happens-sarah-ockwell-smith/.
There are gentler methods (see below).
What other methods work?
Early intervention, scheduled awakenings, and faded bedtime routines are reviewed here (as well as cry it out and controlled crying techniques). There are also posts on:
Gradual withdrawal: A series of three podcasts, the first of which you can find here: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/07/02/prp007-a-sensible-sleep-solution-with-associate-professor-sarah-blunden-part-1/
Positive routine management: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/10/10/dream-baby-guide-review/, and PRP010: Baby Sleep Book: Dream Baby Guide Review.
Bedtime routine modeling: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/08/02/bedtime-routine-modeling/,
No-cry solutions from birth: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/07/17/sleep-solutions-birth/, and the
The possum sleep intervention: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/08/25/feed-your-baby-to-sleep/ and The Possums Sleep Intervention Part 1 Podcast.
My first podcast episode also provides three gentle steps that can be introduced throughout the first year.
My second podcast episode explores how you can use sleep cues such as music, cue words, or humming.
The Sleep Options Wizard for 0-5 year olds selects methods appropriate to your child’s age and stage.
Sleep routines: when do babies benefit from routine sleep times?
From 10-12 weeks of age babies will begin to form routine sleep times as detailed in
My first podcast episode: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/02/03/episode-1-baby-sleep-or-lack-of/.
When can babies be expected to self-settle and how?
This is a skill that develops gradually with time and age. For details see:
My first podcast episode: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/02/03/episode-1-baby-sleep-or-lack-of/,
Response to “Self settling – what really happens”: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/10/23/response-self-settling-really-happens-sarah-ockwell-smith/, and
The two teaching emotion management posts:
Interpreting emotions: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/09/22/teaching-emotion-management-interpreting-emotions/, and
Helicopter parenting and sleep: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/08/29/emotion-management-sleep-2/.
Sometimes your baby will need your help, even if they can usually self-settle. For why you should help your baby when they need you to see
Help your baby to sleep, guilt free: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/10/25/10-reasons-why-you-should-help-your-baby-to-sleep-and-not-feel-guilty/
Check out The First Step in any Good Sleep Intervention (that is where I’d look first)
PRP013 My Child refuses to Sleep interview with Dr Ashley Soderlund.
The Sleep Options Wizard Video below:
Can the time of night predict the reason for waking?
I am not aware of scientific research on this. There are common times when babies sleep cycles end and they are likely to wake up. If they can’t self settle, they’ll let you know about it. The Dream Baby Guide helps to diagnose the cause of waking based on the time of night. This is based on the author’s experience.
If you have any scientific journal articles on the topic that you would like me to read, critique, and interpret, or any more questions on the issue of sleeping through, please email them to me at Nicole@PracticalResearchParenting.com.
This is the first of many issues I plan to tackle. Email me if you have questions that you would like to see the research on. I can send you leads and add the question to my to-do list.
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