The baby can start sleeping on his own in his room when he starts sleeping through the night or wakes up to feed at most twice a night. This occurs around the 4th or 6th month when breastfeeding is consolidated and the baby begins to create his own rhythm.
Unicef recommends that the baby sleeps in the same room as his parents, in his cot, at least until the first six months of life, for safety. However, for the mother’s convenience, due to breastfeeding, this date can be extended to 9 or 10 months. After this age, the baby may have more difficulty in adapting to sleeping alone since he or she may find the new room strange and find it more difficult to fall asleep.
It is important to remember that until the baby is two years old, he should never sleep on his tummy because there is a great risk of suffocation. It is always best to put the baby lying on his tummy upwards. To reassure parents, what can be done is to place a camera or an “electronic babysitter” in the room, close to the baby, to listen and see if everything is OK during the night, without having to enter the room.
How do you get the baby to fall asleep on his own?
Learning to fall asleep is a new skill for babies. They often fuss and cry as a normal part of this early learning. Short periods of crying help babies learn to settle down, fall asleep, and master the skill of falling asleep. Some babies have a harder time than others learning to fall asleep on their own. Sleep challenges are probably one of the hardest parts of early parenting.
When babies regularly receive loving, responsive care throughout the day, sleep training is not harmful to their brain development or to their relationship with parents. To teach your baby to fall asleep on his own in his cot, parents can
- Put the baby in the cot while still awake: At this time the baby should be calm, quiet and sleepy, notoriously a baby who is not in these conditions will not fall asleep on his own quietly and peacefully.
- Prefer a rocker cot: Cribs that rock from side to side help your child sleep, and may be used from the first week of life. Not having too many stimuli in the room, opting for light walls, without too many toys or colourful decorations also helps the baby to fall asleep. Placing low, monotonous music, such as classical music or “the sound of the womb”, also helps the child to sleep alone.
- An adult should stay in the room: When the mother stays in the baby’s room and puts him in his cot to sleep, it should be a very quiet environment, without too much light. Staying in the room folding the baby’s clothes and whispering a lullaby can help the baby fall asleep without being on your lap. The adult should stay in the room until they are sure the baby is asleep. As time goes by it will become easier and easier for the baby to fall asleep this way.
However, there are babies and children who really need the attention and warmth of their parents and prefer to sleep on their laps, in a rocking chair, or when their parents walk around the room rocking them. Each baby is different and parents must be attentive to the baby’s needs for safety and healthy growth.
When should the baby move to his room?
The baby may sleep in his parents’ room until such time as they deem necessary, either for convenience because the baby wakes up many times during the night, for instance, or because the baby does not have a room all to himself. It is not recommended to have more than 2 adults in the baby’s room, so, in case of a house with only 1 room and 2 or more children, one should consider the possibility of a bigger house where there will be more space.
When the baby already sleeps through the night or wakes up only once or twice in the middle of the night, and the parents have observed that this has been the case for at least one whole month, the baby can be moved to his room to sleep on his own.
The baby can also sleep in his room as soon as he comes home from the maternity hospital, however, in the first months of life it is normal for the baby to wake up many times during the night to feed. Parents should go to see the baby every time he wakes up, which can become tiring. In addition, being close to the mother makes breastfeeding easier and also reduces the risks of sudden death.
Why shouldn’t you leave your baby crying?
Crying is a primitive form of communication, and babies cry when they’re hungry, cold, hot, uncomfortable, sick, afraid, or need company, the preferred one usually their parents. When a baby cries, he knows that he is calling for attention and that he needs something, which he does not always know what it is, but he is aware that an adult will appear when he cries.
Therefore, it is not recommended to leave the baby crying for more than 5 minutes, because important brain alterations may occur and because this compromises the baby’s notion of security. Babies who are immediately attended to when they cry are calmer and emotionally more secure throughout their lives.