Montessori and Sleep Training

Putting your infant or toddler to bed can be daunting even for the most experienced of parents. 

While it can be easy as a parent to let your infant or toddler sleep next to you, bedtime often becomes an opportunity to develop the qualities of independence and confidence in children from a young age. 

When having an infant or toddler isn’t a handful on its own, then comes the back-breaking struggle of putting them to bed. 

Most parents vouch for using sleep training as a method of effectively imposing a structured bedtime schedule for their children. 

However, this method can be too restricting, seldom effective, and doesn’t align with the Montessori Principles or philosophy. 

Being left alone in a cold, dark room, placed in a tall caged crib with no comforting energy can be nightmare fuel for the best of us, more specifically for young children. 

The Montessori Method of education is a pedagogical tool developed by Dr. Maria Montessori that promotes holistic development in children based on their natural progress. 

If you are a parent or an immediate caregiver who wants to sleep-train your child in a nurturing, gentle, and fulfilling manner, look no further. 

Here is everything you should know about the Montessori Sleep Training method to build a healthy, gentle bedtime routine based on your child’s needs and requirements.

What is Sleep Training?

Children during the initial months after birth tend to sleep quite heavily, however this habit changes and decreases as they grow older.

Infant Sleep Training is a method of putting the child to sleep that encompasses different techniques or regimens to mold and adjusts the child’s sleep behavior. 

Ideally, Sleep training for infants is a technique or method that allows your child to sleep without any adult assistance. 

It often involves putting the child to bed as soon as the child begins to show signs of drowsiness but is still very much awake. 

When Sleep Training your infant, remember that you must not cuddle, sway, hush, or nurse your child. 

Sleep training may sound harsh at first, but it is also a great way of teaching your infant to slumber throughout the night as it promotes your child to fall back to sleep independently even if they wake up in the middle of the night.

Different Methods of Sleep Training for infants

Sleep Training is a technique of teaching your child to fall asleep independently without the presence of a parent or an immediate caregiver. 

Although the goal of the practice may be the same, there are several different variations of Infant sleep Training. 

To help you further understand the method of infant Sleep Training, here are different Methods of Sleep Training in detail:

1. Cry it out or Extinction Method:

The Cry it-out method or the Extinction Method is a Sleep Training Technique that involves putting the infant in the crib even when they are awake and letting them cry all their energy out until they fall asleep.

2. Chair Sleep Training Method:

The Chair Method of Sleep Training involves a parent sitting in a chair next to the crib and remaining sitting there without picking up the infant until they fall asleep.

3. Bedtime Fading Method:

The Bedtime Fading Method involves keeping a sharp eye and paying attention to the infants sleeping patterns and adjusting the infants sleeping schedules based on these sleeping cues.

As soon as the infant begins to show signs of drowsiness, you can put them to bed, but when they begin to cry they should be attended to and taken out of the crib.  

The bedtime should be pushed up gradually within a few days and parents should take fewer trips to the infant’s bedroom.

4. Ferber or Graduated Extinction Method:

Ferber Method synonymously known as the Graduated Extinction method or Ferberization is a Sleep Training Technique developed by Richard Ferber. 

This technique is an enhanced variation of the Extinction or Cry It Out technique that promotes parents to check up on the infant after scheduled intervals of crying. 

This method of sleep training is a great way of habit or behavior formation where the child begins to learn how to self-soothe as the intervals become longer.

5. Pick Up and Put Down Method:

The last sleep training technique is the Pickup and Put down Method of infant sleep training where the parents are promoted to wait a couple of minutes every time before picking up the infant from the crib. 

This method helps parents ensure whether or not the infant has settled down, if not they can pick up the infant to soothe them.

Does Sleep Training Align with The Montessori Method?

According to Dr. Maria Montessori in her book “The Child in the Family” forced sleeping schedules like sleep training can hinder and affect the child’s natural development process, especially during night time. 

The Montessori Method of education provides children with unique opportunities to learn and develop on the basis of their natural capability as well as curiosity.

In fact, in Montessori, the child is regarded and considered as their own individual being

Hence, every element, and activity in the child’s environment is based on their needs, requirements, as well as personal preferences. 

The Montessori Method of education promotes the child to explore new experiences and stimuli, develop at their own pace, and become independent from a very young age.

The technique of sleep training imposes and forces sleeping schedules or routines that do not come naturally to the child. 

This factor in itself does not align with the Montessori Principle and philosophy of auto-didactic education. 

Based on these compelling arguments, one can say that Sleep Training is not a part of Montessori.

How much sleep does the child require?

Based on different age ranges here is a list of required sleep time for children throughout the day:

  • Birth to 3 months: 14-17 hours
  • 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours
  •  1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours

What is the Montessori Approach to Sleep training?

The Montessori Method of Education does not have any specific approach toward aiding the process of sleep training for infants. 

However, there are certain guidelines to remember that can facilitate the process and help make bedtime easy for both infants and parents alike. 

To help ease the bedtime process, here are some basic guidelines you can follow:

  • Follow the child’s cues and identify their behavior when they become drowsy and tired (rubbing eyes, yawning, or irritability). 
  • Try to keep a proper pre-bedtime or pre-sleeping routine (bathing, pajamas, massage, reading, or feeding). 
  • It is important to ensure that any post-nursing or breastfeeding gas has been successfully passed out of the child’s system. 
  • Make sure your infant is drowsy but still awake when you lay them down.

Some other tips to remember during bedtime:

  • The atmosphere of the room should be comforting with the room being bright and lit during the day and the light being extremely dim during the night time. 
  • Ensure that there should be no screen time right before the child’s bedtime schedule.
  • In order to stimulate the child’s senses you can indulge in collaborative calming activities. 
  • The infant should be promoted to cluster feed in the evening itself. 
  • Have plenty of bonding time and indulge in collaborative activities with the child during the daytime
  • Make sure your child is well-rested throughout the day to avoid overtiredness.

Why Should you Try Sleep Training your child the Montessori Way?

Sleep Training is a method of habit formation that allows children to sleep in their room with the help of rigid schedules and routines.

It often involves putting the child to bed as soon as the child begins to show signs of drowsiness but is still very much awake. 

The technique of sleep training imposes and forces sleeping schedules or routines that do not come naturally to the child and does not align with the Montessori Principle and philosophy of auto-didactic education. 

In Montessori, while there are no specific guidelines, for training your infant or toddler to sleep, there are certain ways to ease the process of developing their independence by allowing them to sleep alone.

The Montessori Method of education allows children to naturally fall asleep in their Montessori Crib or floor bed without adult assistance and forced schedules.

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