Sleep training is a very personal decision and one that should be made with your pediatrician's advice as well as your own gut feeling. For families who would like concrete advice on how to help a baby who's old enough sleep long stretches, here are 3 techniques that will help:
1. Encourage feeding between 6am and 6pm:
Scheduled feeding is not recommended in the early weeks as baby's stomach is tiny and s/he's used to that "on-demand" life inside the womb. Once baby is about 12 weeks old though, and we have the pediatrician's blessing, parents can slowly increase time spent at the breast for another minute or 2 as well as the amount of fluid in the bottle by a 1/4 ounce or so.
2. Do a Dreamfeed:
A dreamfeed is usually given around 10pm to sustain baby during the time parents are asleep. In other words, rather than feeding baby at 1am or 2am when s/he naturally wakes from hunger, we're heading off this hunger by feeding earlier in the night. Don't wake babies to dreamfeed, they'll instinctually take what is needed when milk or formula is held to their lips. A quick diaper change can be done at this time as well.
*Breastfeeding moms may want to pump and have their partner do the dreamfeed, so baby doesn't become extra wakeful from the scent of mom.
3. Gradually decrease overnight feeding: When baby wakes in the overnight hours, decrease the amount of milk or formula normally given. Breastfeeding moms can try to take baby off the breast 1 minute or 2 sooner than usual. Bottle feeding parents can give baby 1/4 of an ounce less than usual.
You can try to give baby a pacifier at the end of the feeding session if baby still needs to suck to be soothed.
We're not removing overnight calories when we encourage daytime feeds and discourage overnight feedings; we are just gradually repositioning when baby takes the feed. This process can take 2-3 weeks of gradual change.
Every baby is different of course and there are many ways to help baby sleep through the night if that's what parents choose to do. For example, here is one schedule that may be useful for 5-6 month olds.
What are your tips and tricks? Let us know!