Getting Baby to Sleep Through the Night

Trying to figure out how to get your baby to sleep through the night can be tricky. While every baby has their own sleep patterns, trying to get them on to a regular schedule, and one that keeps them down for the night, can take some time. But don't despair! There are many different theories out there that are helping babies (and parents) get a good night's sleep. Here are some of the best-known theories and methods.

American Academy of Pediatrics: The AAP advocates teaching your baby how to sleep and comfort herself when she wakes up right from the get go by establishing distinctions between day and night sleeping. When your baby wakes during the night for a feeding, keep the mood quiet and lights low or even off if you can safely maneuver in the room. During the day, wake your baby up if she naps longer than a few hours. This way she learns that the day is for short sleep while the night is for longer sleeping.

When you go in to comfort her at night, use your voice to comfort her rather than physically soothing her. This allows your baby to learn how to soothe herself when she wakes up during the night. When she does cry out for you, gradually allow more time to pass before you go in and check on her.

Ferber Method: Perhaps one of the most well-known methods, and somewhat controversial theories on training a child to sleep through the night, "Ferberizing" was created by Dr. Richard Ferber. While many parents find this "tough love" method to be too much for them, others love it because it can work quickly.

Dr. Ferber says that, by using his technique, parents can train their child to sleep through the night in seven days. For this method to work, a child should be put down while they are still awake and always at the same time every night. When your baby starts to cry, let a set amount of time pass before you go in to check on him, increasing the elapsed time every night.

When you do go in to soothe your child, use your voice to calm him, perhaps give him an extra toy or fix his blanket, but don't pick him up. Soon he will learn how to comfort himself and see that crying is pointless because you won't instantly materialize. This method can be adjusted for each parent's comfort level. For example, you might prefer to only wait 30 seconds the first night while another couple may have no problems waiting two minutes the first time around before they check on their baby. The Ferber method should not be used for children under six months.

Dr. Jodi Mindell: This method looks to mainly set a schedule for babies to follow that will help them develop good sleep habits. Establishing a regular nap and bed time is essential to getting your child to sleep as is making sure she is still awake when you put her down. As long as your baby is able to fall asleep on her own initially, then there is no harm responding to her cries during the night.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton: Like the Ferber Method, this theory suggests waiting a few moments before responding to your baby's cries; you want to make sure that he is genuinely upset and awake before you go in to check on him. You should look to comfort your child with your voice and some physical contact but avoid actually picking him up and taking him out of the crib. Gradually work up from waiting to check on him to simply responding to his cries with your voice from outside of the room. This way, he learns to comfort himself and get himself to sleep.

Attachment Parenting A method conceived of by Dr. William Sears, this parenting style aims to create a warm, comforting environment where your child can associate pleasant thoughts with sleep. Attachment Parenting methods look to encourage strong emotional bonds between a child and parent. Therefore, while regular sleep times and nightly routines that maximize the bonding opportunity between parent and child are encouraged, this theory does not look to prevent parents from responding to their baby's cries. Quite the opposite, in fact, since ignoring your child's cries is thought to cause an unnecessary distance and distrust between parent and baby.

Instead, parents should comfort and soothe their child when they cry out at night. If a positive and loving sleep atmosphere is created, then a child will come to look forward to sleep rather than feel abandoned and forced to sleep at bedtime.

When you have decided on a theory that seems to best suit your parenting style, then it is time to start practicing it. And remember to be consistent. Constant changes in your way of dealing with your baby's sleep habits will cause you more problems in the long run.