I’ve talked to a lot of parents over the years who love every part of parenting except sleep training. These days, sleep training has become controversial, involving dozens of methods that range from gentle to strict. Some cry-it-out methods, that may have been popular in the past, aren’t considered good for child development now. Sleep training can be done without hours of crying and tears.
As a nanny, I’m a big fan of Ferber’s sleep method, which encourages parents to let children cry for very short periods of time – five to 10 minutes at most – before going back in and reassuring the child that their caregiver is still there. But, I warn parents who want to use this method that they should never use any kind of sleep training with young babies under the age of eight-months-old. Babies at that age can’t understand that their caregiver or parent is going to come back and may feel abandoned, which can create psychological problems.
Sleep training doesn’t have to be as regimented as the Ferber method though. Starting with a bedtime routine is key. A child who goes from playing and being excited straight to a dark, quiet room at bedtime is obviously going to have trouble falling asleep. Transitions are the name of the game with small children, and having a sleep routine that includes a warm bath, perhaps a massage, a bedtime story, and a cuddle helps encourage children to sleep. A routine alone helps a lot with a fussy child who doesn’t want to sleep.
Sleep training helps me at my job as a nanny. It’s difficult to have a child sleep properly without a nighttime routine. I don’t like to listen to children cry and get upset. A normal routine often eliminates sleep time fights because the child knows what to expect. Ideally, I love to work as a nanny for children who go to bed easily and can sleep alone.
As a nanny, I know that I need to be flexible and willing to learn from the parents to help the children in my care grow and thrive. When parents work with me and give clear expectations for sleep, I find that nighttime goes a lot more smoothly.
Click here to learn about all the most popular sleep techniques.
What are your favorite techniques for helping little children sleep well?
More from parenting