Question of the day:
I heard that sleep education can start from 6 weeks of age. Is education possible for such a young child?
How can you start sleep education for your 6-8 week old baby?
When they hear the word 'sleep education', many people may have an initial negative reaction. Parents might think that it is a process of forcing the child to cry and separating the mother from the bed. So, many people are puzzled when they hear that sleep education can be started from 6 to 8 weeks after birth.
However, in fact, ‘sleep education’ is not simply a matter of ‘putting a child to sleep alone’. Broadly speaking, it is the process of creating general daily habits for your child to eat well, play well, and sleep well.
If the first stage of sleep education is well understood, both mother and child will be comfortable. If you consistently practice regular habits from the time your child is born, your child will sleep well at night without having to cry.
If so, what would be a good daily habit to practice consistently from 6 to 8 weeks of age, or even before that?
First Steps to Sleep Education for Young Babies
1. Eat when you wake up!
The key to sleep education is sequence. Naturally, babies tend to develop a 'play-eat-sleep' routine. They have fun playing, and they look for milk when they are hungry, and they drink milk and then fall asleep.
If you repeat this process, you will naturally develop an associative habit for your baby of drinking milk and then falling asleep. If this habit is formed, later children will continue to breastfeed and then try to sleep afterwards. If possible, repeat this routine from a very young age. When the baby wakes up, allow them to feed then play with them. Then you will be able to easily put them to sleep if this associative habit has already been developed, so that both you and your baby can enjoy a more regular sleep routine.
2. Avoid bad sleep associations.
A habit that is easy to form at this time is the habit of drinking a bottle of milk or drinking milk while sleeping. In fact, when it comes to breastfeeding, it's really hard to avoid the habit of suckling. Your baby may be too young to follow the 'eat-play-sleep' process.
If so, continue breastfeeding, but help your baby stay awake for even a few minutes. After feeding, lay them down to give the baby a massage, read a storybook, or sing a lullaby. If your baby is whining, hug them and pat them, but put them down before they go to sleep so that they can fall asleep on their own.
3. Set the same time and place to sleep.
There are children who are sensitive to sleep. The more sensitive these children are to the regularity of their sleep routine, the more regular the sleeping habits you introduce to your baby from the beginning should be. This is because it is possible to reduce the anxiety of a child who is sensitive in nature only if the daily routine flows regularly.
First, separate the play area (ex. living room) and sleeping area (ex. master bedroom). Take your child to the bedroom when they are sleepy and let them play in the living room when they are awake. Furthermore, set a regular bedtime in the process of sleep education. When the sun goes down, create a dark and quiet atmosphere so that your baby knows it's time to sleep.
Tip: Do the same sleep routine every day before going to bed.
A bedtime routine is a set of actions that you repeat before going to bed. Practice the same movements every day so that your child will naturally recognize that it is time to sleep. This way, your child will understand it's time to sleep, just by starting the first phase of sleep consciousness.
Take a bath, sing a soothing song, read a fairy tale, play quietly on your bed before bed, pat their tummy, or provide an attachment doll, and repeat it every day. Practice this process consistently for 1-2 months.
4. Ensure regularity between feeding and sleeping intervals.
You can start sleep education when regularity is established between feeding and sleeping intervals. It is difficult to create these regular periods while your child is a newborn, but after 1 month of age, gradually increase the amount your child can eat at one time. It is recommended to have a regular feeding period of about 2-3 hours. Try to get your baby to sleep regularly with an interval of 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours between naps.
Once you record and analyze your child's usual behaviour patterns, then you can create a regular habit routine. Check how many hours your baby is now feeding and how many hours they sleep. Now, if your child is eating every hour, or every 1 hour 15 minutes, or every 1 hour 30 minutes, then you can slowly increase the feeding period over time. You can't feed a child who eats every hour once every two hours, so don’t rush!
Author: Eun-Kyung Beom, Pediatrician
- Baby Sleep Education Expert
- Director of Baby Sleep Research Institute
- Formerly Director of Gwangju Central Children's Hospital