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There is a lot of advice about how to sleep train out there… everything from “dictate your baby’s life down to the minute” TO “my baby sleeps whenever they want and I never know what to expect.” We have taken what we call a holistic, parent-led approach in our sleep training.
The philosophy of a parent led home can be summed up as follows:
Parents observe their children, and make the choices they think are best for each child, the family, and the home.
Learning how to sleep train with a parent led approach means observing your baby from the beginning and making the best choices for that baby to become a good sleeper and healthy baby.
We have also taken a parent led approach to all our parenting. You can read more details and practical tips about the wholistic parent led home approach in this post.
Parent Led vs. Baby Led
Your baby basically needs sleep, food, and love.
And as the parent, you have the choice to either let the child determine how and when their needs are met (child-led) or to let the parent determine how and when the child’s needs are met based on your observation of the child.
Parent Led Sleep Training Includes:
- observing your baby’s tired cues
- observing your baby’s hunger cues
- listening carefully for various types of crying
- becoming educated on the amount of sleep babies need and what constitutes healthy sleep habits
- thinking proactively about your home, your personality, and your family as it relates to your baby’s sleep
- making a routine that works based on what you’ve observed in your baby and in your family
Examples of how to sleep train with parent-led method
Example #1 – Full Feedings
We know based on research that newborn babies, if they are given a full feeding, need to eat about every 2.5- 3 hours. So, just make an effort to get your baby a full feeding when they eat, rather than letting them nurse for 5 minutes and fall back asleep.
I actually cover full feedings more in depth in my sleep training guide and you can snag it right here.
Example #2 – Something is Wrong
Your baby generally takes 1.5 hour long naps throughout the day, but suddenly wakes after 45 minutes crying loudly! Since this is unusual, you know to go in there and check on her. When you pick her up, she has some gas and eventually a bowel movement, and you determine she was not hungry, but rather experiencing some indigestion pain.
If this were to continue, you could think about adjusting your diet.
If you nurse baby to calm them down every time, it’s harder to distinguish when they’re in pain or need something else, and when they’re actually hungry.
Example # 3: You had a Busy Morning, and Baby Won’t Stop Crying
You know baby usually naps for 1.5 hours from 9-10:30. This morning you were out and about and baby only got a 20 minute snooze in the car. When you get home at 11:30, the baby is very upset and won’t stop crying.
While you might usually be feeding the baby some baby food and having playtime right now, you know the baby is tired because he missed his normal nap. So you give him a bottle and lay him down as fast as possible. He crashes and takes a 2.5 hour nap.
Usually, you’d wake him from a nap after 1.5 hours as is per his routine, but because you were out all morning you decide to let him sleep.
PARENTS MAKING DECISIONS BASED ON THEIR KNOWLEDGE + BABY’S CUES
In all 3 examples, you see how the parents have established the norms and how they can react in various situations. Ultimately, how to sleep train (and do everything in your home) is up to you.
You are either choosing to have a parent led home or a child led home. Both choices are ultimately yours!
How to Sleep Train with Parent Led Sleep Training
The basics of parent-led sleep training are:
- Wake your baby to eat every 3 hours during the day.
- Don’t let them sleep through a feeding.
- Don’t nurse your baby to sleep, except at the bedtime feeding.
- Teach baby how to self-soothe.
- Don’t rush in to get them at the first peep they make during a nap. See if they can get themselves to sleep.
These are principles, not militant rules. There are obviously a lot of situations where you need to make a judgement call based on your observations of baby.
Several years ago, I wrote a short & sweet ebook guide about the way we got all 4 of our kids to sleep through the night at a really young age. It includes tons of info about helping baby get on a feeding/ sleeping schedule as a newborn. Plus it has lots of sleep-related tips. Thousands of parents have read it and raved about it – you can check it out here!