Sleep education goals for children before 3 months of age and for children after 3 months of age should be different. This is because children before 3 months of age have irregular and unsettled sleeping habits. However, if you start preparing for sleep training little by little from this point onward, you will receive a great help when you begin to try and develop a sleep pattern in earnest after your child reaches 3 months of age.
So, what are the most important priorities in sleep education for babies before 3 months of age? There are two goals.
The first is to create good sleep habits. The second is to prevent bad sleep habits from forming in advance. Most sleep education after 5-6 months of age is focused on correcting the bad sleeping habits that have already occurred.
Before 3 months of age, the sleeping habits may not have been formed yet, so it is good to take care not to develop bad sleep habits. Aim to gradually lengthen the feeding intervals and maintain a regular daily routine.
First Sleep Training Know-how for First-time Parents
1. Avoid the habit of breastfeeding and then sleeping (avoid association with bad sleep).
The easiest habit for babies to adopt 100 days ago is the habit of breastfeeding and sleeping. The average adult has a sleep cycle that repeats once every 90 minutes while sleeping. At the end of the sleep cycle, you enter a state of vague awakening and sometimes wake up slightly. Think of changing pillows or tossing and turning while sleeping.
However, babies have shorter sleep cycles (40-minute cycles) than adults, so they wake up much more often at night. Babies who wake up from a light sleep need 'sleep associations' in order to fall back into a deep sleep. You have to repeat the movement you did right before they went to sleep.
Therefore, children who have a habit of sleeping in their mother's arms need to be hugged, and children who used to sleep with breastfeeding need to be breastfed before falling into a deep sleep again.
You may be able to survive the first few months physically, but if you have to wake up several times throughout the feeding period to breastfeed or hold your baby, it will be difficult for the caregiver to carry on delivering positive energy to the baby.
At this age, if children avoid the habit of feeding and then sleeping, being their guardian becomes much easier. If a child falls asleep on their own when they start falling asleep, they can fall asleep again by themselves, even if they wake up in the middle of the night.
It is for this reason that the order of eat/play/sleep is emphasised. If a baby's day progresses in the order of play/eat/sleep, it is natural that they have no choice but to eat and then fall asleep. Encourage your baby to breastfeed immediately after waking up. If you repeat this process from birth, your baby will naturally develop a pattern of sleeping well, waking up, eating well, and playing hard.
If your child keeps falling asleep while breastfeeding, try waking them up slightly and help them keep their eyes open for even a minute or two. If you are breastfeeding during the night, practice short sleep rituals, such as waking up a sleeping child and then singing a storybook or lullaby. The key to sleep education is to learn how to help your baby sleep on their own while your child is awake with the active help of the mother.
2. Create and repeat a sleep ritual (adopt a good sleep association habit).
If you have avoided bad sleep associations, now try to create good sleep associations for your child. 'Sleep consciousness' is the natural process of letting your baby know that it's time to sleep. If you practice repeated sleep rituals every day, your child will be able to yawn just after the first sleep ritual begins.
When it comes to 'sleep time', you can help your baby’s body react naturally. Sleep consciousness can be anything. Any quiet activity that will make your baby fall asleep is fine. You can try a baby massage, or you can give them an attachment doll.
If it is a sleep ritual before bedtime, you can repeatedly practice the sequence of taking a bath, massaging the gums, and then reading a book or singing. Instead of arranging the atmosphere and turning off the lights just before going to bed, lower the lights 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed to create a quiet atmosphere.
3. Maintain a regular daily routine.
If your baby goes to bed at 9 pm on one day, and at 11 pm on the other day, and sleeps at different times, it will be difficult for your baby to have a sleeping pattern. To make your baby's day regular, you need a habit of recording and observing their routine.
Check your baby’s comfort and sleep schedule by recording their daily routines such as waking up in the morning, first feeding time, feeding term, nap time, sleeping place, and their overall physical condition. Observing your baby's daily routine for several days gives you an objective view of your baby's life, allowing you to effectively correct bad habits. Occasionally there will be exceptions, but you will be able to see a tendency for your child to fall asleep at certain times and for various reasons.
Author: Eun-Kyung Beom, Pediatrician
- Baby Sleep Education Expert
- Director of Baby Sleep Research Institute
- Formerly Director of Gwangju Central Children's Hospital