Training baby to sleep through the night will take courage, resistance, and consistency. After several months of broken sleep, many parents reach the point where they strongly feel that baby should be sleeping solidly through the night. Perhaps these midnight feedings are unnecessary. Baby may appear a little too pampered and coddled during these tri-nightly awakenings. Many baby-gurus will fortify this opinion, reminding parents that they are in charge, not baby. Unfortunately, despite size and education, baby always wins. Why? Baby is just plain louder.
About Training Baby to Sleep Through the Night
The real challenge involved in training baby to sleep through the night is the long trek through the marshes of morally ambiguous and questionably effective baby-raising philosophies. There are a lot of books on the market that tout contradictory theories regarding getting baby to sleep through a solid six hour stretch. Some of these books favor a nurturing approach, while others support a more stern regimen. The truth is, the right approach is the approach that actually works for you. Though you may want to follow the more nurturing regimen, if the stern theory works for your baby, then that is the approach to use and vice versa.
Every child's disposition and reaction towards certain parental techniques differs. As much as you would like to uncover the deep innerworkings of baby's soul, at this stage in the game, you'd be better off getting some sleep. So, provided the parenting methods that work for your family don't weigh heavily against your conscience, let things be as simple as possible.
The Cry-Out Method
Try discussing your eight-month-old's facist sleep regimen with a Russian grandmother. She will chuckle and tell you that in her country, babies are taught proper sleep habits from the moment they exit the womb. This may initially sound like an exaggeration, but her wry smile may lead you to believe otherwise. "But what if baby cries?" you'll ask from a deep rooted motherly concern. That's when grandma will kick her feet up on an ottoman and take another long sip from her swill-looking tea to respond, "Well if he does, we don't hear him."
There are few child-rearing methods more controversial than the cry-out method. Stories have circulated the parenting world of Eastern Europeans shoving towels under baby's door to keep the sound of his cries from interrupting the household sleep. As much as the cry-out method can rail against modern parenting philosophies, there are many success stories to keep this age-old routine active today.
The cry out method should '''not''' be Draconian. Despite grandma's claims, the nights in Eastern Europe are not rife with the cries of neglected children. If baby is fed, bathed, diapered, rocked and adequately loved by his designated bedtime, it follows that he should go to sleep. Baby is, then, gently laid into his crib (using a sound machine can help), and it's lights out from that point on. The door is closed, and parents need only await the crying that will ensue.
The purpose of the cry-out method is to let baby naturally exhaust himself until he falls asleep. Parents will often check in on baby at twenty to thirty minute intervals to ensure that baby's diaper is dry, or to reassure their child that "Mommy and Daddy have not abandoned thee." Theoretically, it will take a few nights for baby to realize that Mommy and Daddy aren't giving in this time, and longer sleep stretches are finally achieved.
That is the theory of the approach. However, some children are particularly willful, and even in their exhaustion they will continue to cry more. This sort of crying can go on for hours upon hours. If this proves the case for your baby, then the cry-out method will likely destroy your parental confidence far more than your initial lack of sleep. Hence, baby has determined that this method is not for you.
When Baby Is Lacking Naps
Another method that can prove quite effective is to remove naptime periods from your baby's routine. Often, a baby will nap so well during the day, that by eventide, he is ready to romp. You cannot make your baby sleep when he is not tired, so the most logical conclusion is to keep your baby awake as much as possible during the day.
The problem with this method is that many parents use baby's naptimes for either work or relaxation time. Eliminating these much needed breaks in the day can lead to a more nervous and exhausted set of parents. Also, your child understands the demands of his internal clock far better than parents. Baby may just choose to fall asleep during the day, despite your repeated "awakening" efforts. That "super stimulating" theme park trip you planned will seem deflated once baby zonks out in his stroller.
There are certain lifestyle factors that will largely influence your baby's sleep habits. If you are breastfeeding exclusively, your baby will need his nightly feedings, and, therefore, will have to wake up a few times during the night. As your baby becomes more dependent on solids, midnight feedings will dwindle, and you will be able to exercise fairer judgment as to how many hours your child should sleep between feedings.
Many parents reach the four months stretch and determine that it is now necessary for baby to sleep through the night. This judgment is reached regarding their own sleep deficit, but factors such as a child's feeding methods and rituals alongside his daily activities are far more weighty in this decision than Mommy's under-the-eyes circles.
Finally, whatever method you choose to follow, it is important that you remain consistent as you attempt to establish a sleep routine for your baby. Eventually, you and he should both begin to get a restful night's sleep.