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    Posted November 4, 2015 by
    jdesmarais
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    Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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    New Methods in Infant Sleep Training Offer Parents a Much Needed Break

     
    For the exhausted parents of newborn babies, a good night’s sleep may seem like a distant memory, but it doesn’t need to be. According to a growing number of sleep training experts, the science behind getting infants to sleep through an eight hour stretch at night boils down to a comprehensive feeding and sleeping schedule that parents who are willing to learn the guidelines can help their baby establish.

    A recent study investigating infant sleep duration found that 27 percent of babies between the ages of newborn and one year do not regularly sleep through the night without waking—that is, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. In fact, 13 percent of babies ages newborn to one year do not manage to stay asleep for even five straight hours without waking. Parents whose baby shows no signs of sleeping a full eight hours without waking may quickly begin to think that they will never feel rested again.

    Numerous studies over the years have been conducted by neonatologists and pediatric sleep specialists in an effort to find a sure-fire solution to getting infants to slumber for long stretches, and those who have had the best results all seem to share a similar approach: progressive watching techniques that provide infants with the opportunity to establish effective self-soothing skills. Babies are not able to establish their own sleeping and waking patterns. That leaves parents with the task of teaching baby the difference between day and night by providing both an eating and sleeping schedule that helps the infant learn what to expect, and when to expect it.

    According to William A. Silverman, M.D., former medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan, infants are capable of sleeping for a long stretch at night starting as early as six weeks old. Author Karen Kirsner expanded on Silverman’s findings in her recent book, “The Baby Fast to Sleep Formula” that offers a two-step strategy using a progressive watching approach and emphasizes a gradual, week by week transition that begins in the second week of life to teach and train infants to sleep through the night by the age of eight weeks.

    “Just as babies need to learn to walk and talk, infants need to learn when to be awake and when to sleep,” Kirsner says. “Learning to sleep through the night is about creating a structure for the child that includes feeding, daytime activity, and sleep schedules.”

    The sleep training approach assumes that falling asleep on one’s own is a learned skill like any other, and that babies can master this skill if given the opportunity.

    Advocates of infant sleep training say that a baby can become so used to having a parent rock him to sleep or falling asleep while nursing that the baby won't be able to fall asleep on their own, since they have been taught that to fall asleep they need to be rocked or nursed.

    What most people do not know is that babies and children have sleep cycles just like adults. The difference is that adults have had decades of practice at falling back into a deep sleep in between natural sleep cycles. Babies and children are still learning this skill, and between cycles they may wake and cry since they have not mastered the skills necessary to soothe themselves back to sleep.

    Babies who learn to self soothe at bedtime can use those skills when they wake up at night or while napping. Experts say that crying it out for hours on end is not the goal of sleep training, but since crying is the only form of communication a baby knows it is a natural part of the process of learning to adjust and get themselves back to sleep.

    In the end, despite the short-term pain of a few tears that parents may experience during the progressive watching process, waiting a minute or two before comforting baby will seem like a small price to pay for the long-term advantages to both child and parents—a child who falls asleep easily on his own, and parents who benefit from a good night’s sleep consistently.

    Above all, pediatric professionals encourage parents to try to maintain a long-term perspective during the sleep training stages. The difficult early weeks of frequent wakeups and sluggish mornings serve as reminders that the goal of helping baby learn to sleep through the night is well worth the effort, and it doesn’t have to take months on end to accomplish.

    In fact, ask any parent of older children and they will say that those sleepless nights soon become the most faded of memories. What parents do remember is the satisfaction of being able to sleep through the night because their infant sleeps, and being energized in the morning and able to take on the day.
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