The best person to sleep train your baby or child is the person (or people) who understands the process, and who is committed to the process.
“What is the process?” I hear you ask?
Let me explain.
When getting started I suggest parents take the reins of sleep training and educate other family members or caregivers who are responsible for the care of your little one. It is important for everyone who is responsible for your little one to understand and be committed to the below guidelines to ensure sleep training is successful and continues to be long into the future.
I cannot emphasise the importance of consistency enough when it comes to sleep training.
The more consistent the first few weeks of sleep training are, the sooner baby will settle into his routine.
Everyone involved in looking after baby needs to understand the IMPORTANCE of the following:
- Baby’s room/environment
- The pre-sleep routine
- Understanding potential sleep thieves
- Managing initial protesting
- The post-sleep routine
- COMMITMENT, DISCIPLINE AND CONSISTENCY
Creating an optimal environment is more important than many parents realise. Without knowing it we could be sabotaging baby’s chances for good sleep if we don’t take care to get that sleep space perfect. Consistently.
Baby’s room HAS to be a certain way so it is a calm, peaceful and a safe place for baby to sleep – think about your own room. Is it a sanctuary of sleep for you? Is it organised, neat and peaceful – or is it messy, chaotic and disorganised? I know for me that when my bedroom is neat and orderly it makes going to bed feel right. The same holds true for baby.
Has storage space semi taken over by baby? Or is their room carefully taken care of? My essential environmental considerations for baby’s room:
- Baby’s room needs to be EXTREMELY dark once the curtains are closed. Even a chink of light coming from behind the curtain or under the door is enough to wake a sleeping baby.
- Cribs need to be safe – on the lowest setting if baby can sit or stand. Free of any bumpers, bolsters, pillows, blankets or cushions.
- If your baby’s bed is close to a curtain make sure there are no hanging cords or curtains within reach.
- Free of distractions. Toys are kept well away from the crib so as not to distract baby while she’s falling asleep. Keep stimulating toys away i.e. mobiles, crib aquariums, light emitting devices, etc.
Baby needs to be put to sleep at the RIGHT TIME in the RIGHT WAY according to their age-appropriate needs of sleep, feeding and awake time.
- Understanding the signs saying it’s time to sleep: rubbing of eyes or face; redness under the eyes; frequent yawning/clinginess/fussiness; hyper/amped-up; excessive crying with no calm; pulling on their ears; arching of their back
- Pre-sleep routines to be done in a quiet, boring room. Lights can be dimmed – though not essential – so baby starts learning to associate this with sleep
- Sample nap routine: Diaper – Change – Book/Song – Swaddle (Swaddle if under 10 weeks or sleeping bag if older.)
- Sample bedtime routine: Feeding – Bath – Massage – Changing into pajamas/sleeping bag/swaddle – Book/Song – Good Night
- The goal is for baby to be put into bed fully awake so that he can fall asleep entirely on his own – without any external assistance. If you are taking baby part way on this journey then he will remain dependent on you to get part way through the journey to sleep. This is where baby learns the skill to fall asleep independently. Yes, she might protest initially, but not for long.
*Baby’s day-time needs are best met by being arranged around several series of the ‘wake – eat – play – sleep’ cycles. The age of baby determines how long the appropriate sleeps are as well as the amount of calories required. (See ‘Navigating a Newborn’ under ‘Free Resources’ on my website for more information in this regard.) By keeping baby in this daytime cycle she will benefit enormously from it. It will also make sure baby is appropriately sleepy for her next nap/sleep.
KNOWING ABOUT POTENTIAL ‘SLEEP THIEVES’
The below points list possible reasons why a baby or toddler might find it difficult to fall asleep at their appropriate sleep time:
- Overtiredness: A child who is overtired is often harder to settle, wakes more overnight, and may even protest eating. When they are overtired, it creates a vicious cycle that is difficult to get out of.
- Overstimulation: One of the best things we can do for baby is to keep him away from vigorous play, light and away from screens for at least half an hour before he goes down for a nap.
- Undertired: In order for baby to be ‘tired enough’ before his nap, think: “Let’s make sure baby’s awake time after his feed is full of fun, laughter and physical activity.” Just please do not encourage this too close to nap time!
- Too noisy: We don’t all live in a household where quiet can be guaranteed. It is for this reason that I recommend a white noise. You don’t need to buy a fancy white noise machine – an old or spare mobile phone with a free app downloaded is perfectly adequate. This is the only ‘safe’ sleep aid I will recommend as it is beneficial to creating an environment where household noises are neutralised.
- Hungry: It goes without saying that baby will sleep better if she is getting the right amount of nutrients and calories. Please check out more information regarding feeding on ‘Free Resources’. You are also welcome to email me to ask any questions you might have.
- Incorrect room temperature: In order for us to fall asleep our core body temperature needs to drop. It is easier for our body temperature to regulate in a slightly cooler environment. This is why sleeping in a cool environment is better. Therefore, an ideal temperature for sleeping in Hong Kong is approximately 22 degrees Celsius. In Europe and in colder climates 18-20 degrees Celsius is normal.
- Being sick/reflux/teething: My advice regarding sleep training when baby is unwell is to just do the best you can and to not stress too much. Seek medical advice if you are feeling uncertain. Most of baby’s ailments will pass after a few days.
MANAGING INITIAL PROTESTING
If baby is used to eating himself to sleep, or being rocked to sleep, or has been sleeping in bed with mommy, etc., then he will be a little grumpy about being put down to sleep in a different environment – fully awake. Wouldn’t you?
It is very important for parents and carers to understand that this short period of wakefulness (potential discomfort) before baby falls asleep is the very necessary opportunity he needs to help himself learn to fall asleep independently. Not only this, it is an essential tool to learn how to self soothe.
I would never tell anyone to leave their baby crying for long periods of time. It is important that baby feels secure and knows that a loving adult is not far away.
I encourage a very respectful approach to sleep training. Parents and carers are given a comprehensive strategy to deal with helping their baby learn this essential skill. The sleep strategy serves as a blueprint for sleep in the future.
*If the person sleep training baby finds this part too difficult to manage or doesn’t understand the reasons why this bit is so important, I suggest someone else to do the sleep training. This part is, unfortunately, paramount to successful sleep training.
The person who is responsible for tending to baby after her sleep must know to do the following:
- In the morning open up the curtains and start the day. Make a bit of a song and dance about it being ‘wake up time’. This is important so baby starts learning the difference between day and night.
- If baby wakes up and is happily babbling and chatting in their crib – you don’t need to run in and take them out straight away. If they are happy and content – you can watch with joy and pride as baby has woken happily.
- If baby wakes and starts crying, wait a few seconds to respond. You don’t have to drop everything and break your neck getting to baby. Remember that she doesn’t need to be held every second that she is awake.
COMMITMENT, DISCIPLINE AND CONSISTENCY
The more committed, disciplined and consistent the ‘sleep trainer’ is with the sleep programme, the sooner success is achieved.
However, in order for the person doing the sleep training to be committed they not only need to understand and be comfortable with the above information, they need help and support and to plan for this time properly.
HELP AND SUPPORT
Sleep training can take a few nights and this could prove more stressful than necessary if the ‘sleep trainer’ is unsupported.
Depending on how established baby’s pre-existing sleep habits are, sleep training can be challenging. Taking care of a baby requires energy and can be an exhausting and emotional experience. The more help and support the person doing the sleep training can get, the better the chances of managing consistency for a few weeks.
In my experience, the more help and support given to the sleep trainer, the smoother the sleep training process.
Starting and then having to stop due to poor planning minimises the chances for success.
The sleep trainer must be aware of the following:
- In some cases success only takes two days, but in other cases it can take a few weeks.
- Aim for all baby’s sleep to be at home for the duration of the sleep training programme. Babies – like adults – need to be given a chance to adapt. It’s best to have a consistent approach before doing naps-on-the-go.
- Plan around any trips and functions and be mentally prepared for a potentially challenging few nights as baby learns to adjust.
Many of my clients are busy working moms and dads. The reality for these parents is they need the help of a carer or grandparent to help support them through the sleep training process.
Whatever your situation, whatever your circumstances, with the right communication sleep training can be achieved.
I would love to support you and whomever else takes care of your baby. Together we will achieve the success of helping your baby learn to fall asleep independently and in time, sleep through the night.
Not only that, I will also help you manage a perfect routine designed exactly for YOUR unique circumstances. This routine will ensure baby is happy both day and night.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me to arrange a free 15-minute chat. I would be delighted to talk to you.