My friend sleep-trained her baby in three weeks. How early can you start?
All children have different patterns of sleep and all differ in the amount of sleep they need. The same applies to parents. The problems begin when the child prevents either parent getting the sort of sleep they need. Sleep problems vary; one set of parents might find many disturbances a night acceptable, others might not. It is important to establish what your sleep expectations are for your child, bearing in mind that one in three children wake regularly in the night at 12 months. Perhaps you should talk to your friend about the technique used and when she started it.
Between the ages of 3-6 months a routine should start to emerge; ideally the baby will sleep more at night than during the day. Do not worry if this is not the case. Try to establish a bedtime routine as soon as possible; perhaps a warm bath followed by a quiet feed and a cuddle. This is often the time parents try to encourage a better sleep routine.
If sleep problems begin to dominate your life, it may be time to introduce a routine to teach your baby how to go to sleep. All sleep training relies on being consistent, and being sure that your baby can cope on his own. Before you start a routine make sure both you and your partner agree it is the right thing to do and will support each other during the first few difficult nights. Whichever routine you choose, do the same at bedtime and during the night. You will need to continue the routine faithfully for at least a week; though after two or three nights you should begin to see an improvement.
Controlled crying is one method. Leave him to fall sleep alone but visit him briefly after five minutes, then ten and then after fifteen, if he is still crying. Remain with your baby only long enough to pat his back, say a few kind words and tuck him in, don’t cuddle him or pick him up. The first few times he may cry for what seems like a very long time. If he wakes at night follow exactly the same checking routine.
Gradually moving away from him is another technique. Sit by his cot and hold his hand for a few nights until he can fall asleep this way. Move further away each night until you can sit outside his door but where he can still see you until he falls asleep.
Your Health Visitor will be able to offer more individual advice.