So, perhaps that’s a bit of a misleading title.
I’m not suggesting that you can remove yourself from baby’s bedtime routine altogether. Even if you could somehow say to your child, “Alright. It’s almost bedtime. Go have a bath, brush your teeth, get into your PJs, read yourself a story and tuck yourself in. Mommy will be out here watching The Bachelor with a glass of wine if you need me.”
Even if we could pull that off, I don’t know a single mother that would actually enjoy removing themselves from the routine. (Well, maybe once a week.)
Truth be told, I loved putting my kids to bed. Watching them play in the bath, getting them dressed in their warm, fuzzy pajamas, cuddling and reading stories, I wouldn’t trade that for all the wine and trash TV in the world.
But the issue that I see with most parents whose babies won’t sleep through the night takes place after their little one gets into bed.
Specifically, the problem stems from a parent getting in bed with their child in order to get them to fall asleep, and here’s why…
When you crawl into bed with your little one, they will almost always want to cuddle up to you in some manner. Even if it’s just the slightest touch, they rely on the sensation of feeling you next to them in order to soothe themselves to sleep.
The problem with this arrangement is that babies, like their adult counterparts, don’t just fall asleep and stay asleep for eight or ten hours. We all sleep in cycles, which transition from a stage of light sleep to one of deep sleep, and back again.
When adults wake from one of these cycles, we typically don’t even remember it happening the next day, because we’re barely awake for a minute or two before we fall back to sleep. We can do that easily because we’re good at it. We know how to get back to sleep on our own.
But if baby is accustomed to falling asleep next to a parent, with the reassuring ability to reach out and touch that parent, then what are they supposed to do when they wake up after a sleep cycle and that parent is nowhere to be found?
Well, as I’m sure every parent knows, when a baby wants their parents, they cry.
They cry until a parent shows up and gets back into that familiar spot, which baby recognizes as a cue to go to sleep.
So that’s the reason why you’ll so often hear parents utter some twist on the old line, “My baby absolutely won’t go to sleep without me next to her.” It’s not because they need the reassurance that they’re safe, or that your presence is necessarily calming to them, it’s just part of their routine that they follow to get to sleep.
So what’s the solution?
Well, you could co-sleep, so your baby can reach out and touch you every time she wakes up, but if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve already given that a go, and found it’s not the Utopian solution you had hoped for.
A couple of late-night kicks in the face, or a perpetually writhing baby with her fingers in your eye can cause a quick change in plans for a lot of parents who thought co-sleeping would solve their nighttime woes.
Or, and this suggestion comes with a much higher recommendation, you can let them learn some independent sleep skills which they can call on anytime they wake up, in order to get back to sleep all on their own.
I know that might sound like a tall order for a baby, but I’m not suggesting anything too challenging, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly they adapt to new strategies for getting to sleep. Stroking a lovey, chewing on a blanket, or even just playing with their own fingers and toes can be effective little methods for making the transition into sleep, and the best part is, they can be done anytime baby wakes up, whatever time of the day or night.
P.S. I'd love to hear your comments below!
Is your baby a light sleeper? Does she wake up every time you so much as walk past her door? Does she go from fast asleep to wide awake the second you put her into her crib?
This is one of the most common complaints I get from parents. They say that their babies are just so easy to wake, and when they do, they’re exceedingly difficult to get back to sleep.
So first of all, let me dispel a little myth.
All babies are light sleepers, and all babies are heavy sleepers. So, for that matter, are all adults.
We all go from light sleep to heavy sleep and back again several times a night. Some babies spend more time in light sleep stages before slipping into deeper sleep, and some go from light sleep to deep sleep in almost no time at all, but everyone goes through these cycles every time they shut their eyes.
The truly restorative sleep, the stuff that does us the most good, is the NREM or “deep” sleep that we get in the middle of the cycles. That’s why some people can get by on less sleep than others, because they get more NREM sleep than those of us who spend more time in light sleep stages.
So when someone claims that their baby is a light sleeper, what they probably mean is that their baby tends to spend more time in light sleep than deep sleep, because that’s the easiest stage to wake up from. It’s when we dream and are more aware of our surroundings, so external noises tend to wake us up easier.
Babies also have shorter cycles than adults, and are therefore spend nearly twice as much time in light stages of sleep than grown ups. So if you’re finding that your baby is prone to waking up a lot, it’s partly a matter of inconvenient timing.
So what can you do about it? How can you teach a baby to spend more time in deep sleep?
Well, you can’t really. But what you can do is teach them to fall back to sleep on their own when they wake up. It’s a wonderful gift to give them, and it will benefit your entire family for years to come.
There are a lot of elements to teaching a baby to fall asleep independently, but the single most important one is the elimination of sleep props. By that, I mean anything that baby uses to help them fall asleep that they can’t provide on their own.
Pacifiers, rocking motions, and feeding are all good examples of sleep props. If baby needs a car ride to fall asleep, then they’re going to need another car ride when they wake up again at the end of the next sleep cycle. If they get rocked to sleep, they learn to rely on that motion as part of the process, so once they wake up at night, they’re stuck that way until you come in and help them get back to sleep.
This is often accompanied by a bunch of crying and fussing in order to get your attention, which wakes them up even further and requires more soothing to get them settled.
However, the babies that people refer to as “good sleepers” have the same sleep cycles as the ones who wake up crying. They’ve just gotten the hang of falling asleep on their own, so they wake up, squirm around a little, maybe babble to themselves for a bit, then go happily back to sleep.
So although you can’t stop your little one from waking up at night, you can absolutely teach them how to get back to sleep independently, and once you do, you and baby can both look forward to full nights of deep, rejuvenating, uninterrupted sleep.
P.S. Have a thought about a light sleeper? Comment below!
I’m sure you can guess what my answer is to this question, since I am, after all, a pediatric sleep consultant. I tend to put a high priority on sleep and am, in my humble opinion, justifiably passionate about its benefits for babies.
But is my passion for sleep clouding my view on this matter, or is there evidence to support my position? Oh, I am SO glad you asked.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer that feeding our kids a healthy, balanced, varied diet is essential to their well-being. I might even go so far as to say that it’s the single most important factor when it comes to our children’s health.
But sleep is, if not equally as important, a very close contender. Childhood obesity is a huge public health issue, and kids who are obese grow into obese adults, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the myriad health issues that come along with obesity. (But just in case you’re not familiar, they include diabetes, heart disease, all kinds of cancer, osteoarthritis, and joint inflammation, just to name a few.)
But what does sleep have to do with obesity? Again, I’m glad you asked.
A 2008 study by the National Institute of Health looked at the average number of daily hours of sleep that kids between 6 months and two years old were getting, and then compared those results with their occurences of obesity. The children who got an average of less than 12 hours of sleep a day were over twice as likely to be obese than those who slept for 12 or more. A much larger study done in the UK showed similar results.
With all of the health issues, as well as the general quality of life concerns that come along with obesity, it seems to me that sleep should be a major concern for parents.
However, every day I hear people advising new parents with what I’m sure is meant to be reassuring rhetoric, but I must admit, given the evidence, I find it really upsetting.
“Babies sleep when they want to sleep. Don’t force it.”
“Not sleeping is totally normal for a baby.”
“Just follow your baby’s lead. They know how much sleep they need.”
Can you imagine this same kind of talk if it was concerning baby’s diet?
Babies know what’s healthy to eat. Just follow their lead.”
“Eating chocolate is totally normal for babies.”
“Kids will eat when they’re ready. You shouldn’t schedule mealtimes.”
If you heard those words coming out of anybody’s mouth, you would immediately qualify them as a lunatic, and you certainly wouldn’t listen to their advice on your kids.
As parents, we all obviously want our kids to live healthy, active lives, and we want to give them every advantage to ensure they get a good start.
Making sure they get enough sleep, and teaching them solid sleep skills, will go a long way to promoting their overall health down the road.
P.S. I'd love to hear your thoughts on sleep & health. Comment below!
At the risk of generalizing here, it’s been my experience that there’s usually one parent who handles the bulk of the nighttime responsibilities.
And that parent, in a man/woman relationship, is almost always Mom. Now, before you go accusing me of sexism of stereotyping, I’d just like to point out that there’s a reason this happens. As a sleep consultant, I don’t get called into situations where both parents are contributing equally, and where baby’s not relying on any external props, and everyone sleeps soundly through the night.
Anyone who calls a sleep consultant in that situation either has money to burn, or has mistaken me for a dream interpreter.
I’m usually contacted by parents who are having issues getting their babies to sleep, and that’s almost always because baby’s got an external sleep prop that they use to get back to sleep when they wake in the night.
And the most common prop I see, by far, is nursing, which pretty much leaves Dad out of the equation.
Now, this is a problem for a couple of reasons. Obviously, if baby’s waking up six times a night and demanding Mom come in to nurse her back to sleep, that’s taxing on mother and baby.
But there’s another person who tends to suffer in this scenario, and that’s Dad. It might be hard to imagine, if you’re currently reading this in the middle of the night with a baby hanging off your breast, listening to your husband snoring contentedly from the other room, but it’s true.
Dads, the vast majority of them anyway, want to be great dads. They want to have an active role in bringing up their kids, and they love it when they feel like they’re succeeding in that role.
But because Mom is the one with the magical breast milk, Dad often feels powerless to help out in the sleep department, which means Mom’s up every time baby cries, and Dad, while sympathetic, can’t do much but go back to sleep.
This can lead to some hostility from a sleep deprived Mom, who feels like she’s doing more than her share, and some defensiveness from Dad, who gets to feeling attacked for something he has no control over.
But here’s the good news for both of you… If you’ve decided to give sleep training a try, it often goes better if Dad takes the lead.
That’s right! Take a load off, Mom. Dad’s taking point on this one. Because Dad doesn’t nurse, and baby knows it. So when it comes to breaking the association between nursing and falling asleep, baby tends to learn quicker and respond better when Dad comes into the room during the first few nights of baby learning to fall asleep independently.
Here’s the funny thing. Whenever I drop this little tidbit on couple I’m working with, Mom lets out a big woot-woot and teases Dad about how he’s much fun he’s going to have getting up six times in the night.
But then, night one, as soon as baby starts to cry, Mom shoots out of bed and goes straight into baby’s room. Or even more regularly, Mom stands in the doorway instructing Dad on the right way to settle Baby back down, and corrects him every step of the way.
I have literally sent full-grown women to their rooms in this scenario. If Dad’s going to get involved, him and Baby have to find their own rhythm, and Mom needs to have little to no part in it. And as much as they always say they’ll have no problem letting their husbands take the wheel, when it comes down to the moment of truth, many women have trouble giving up control.
So remember, Dad might just be the magical solution to your baby’s sleep issues, but you’re going to have to let him take over. Take heart though. Most of my clients see dramatic improvements in their baby’s sleep in just a couple of nights, so you won’t have to control yourself for long.
After that, you and and your partner will have the evenings back to yourselves, and your whole family can get back to sleeping through the night.
P.S. Do you think you could get your partner involved in sleep training? I'd love to hear your comments below!
Have you ever heard the story of Catherine O'Leary's Cow?
Back in 1871, the Chicago Tribune reported that the cause of the great Chicago Fire was a cow, Catherine O’Leary’s cow to be precise, kicking over a lantern in the barn while it was being milked.
Unfortunately, the Tribune admitted later on that it had completely fabricated the story, but that didn’t stop people from blaming Catherine and her cow from being widely blamed for one of the greatest disasters in US history.
What’s this got to do with teething, you ask?
Nothing really, except that they’re both victims of some unnecessary scapegoating.
Teething gets blamed for just about every ailment imaginable when it comes to babies. Baby’s got a fever? Probably because she’s teething. Baby’s crying more than normal? I bet it’s sore gums from those teeth coming in. Baby’s got runny poop for a couple of days? I’ve heard that diarrhea can be caused by teething.
Now, all of those things are potentially the result of a tooth coming in, that’s true. But most parents are too quick to blame teething for any and all deviations from the norm as soon as they notice that first tooth appearing below the gum line.
And this is especially true when it comes to sleep.
As parents, we’re predisposed to preventing discomfort in our babies, and that’s a good thing, obviously. But the natural reaction when baby starts crying in the night is to go in and do whatever we can to soothe them, which can lead to baby being unable to get to sleep without that comfort.
So let’s say you’ve been sleep training for a couple of weeks, everything’s going well, and then suddenly, you start to see a regression. Baby is suddenly waking up crying two or three times a night. Naturally, you’re going to look for a reason why they’re slipping back into old habits. And if there’s a tooth coming in, that provides a quick and easy answer.
And, of course, it’s not fair to leave baby to cry if they’re actually in pain and not just looking for Mommy to come nurse them back to sleep, so you give in and decide you’ll get back to sleep training once this whole teething thing is over with.
Cut to a year later, and baby is still getting rocked or soothed to sleep every time they wake up, because hey! I think there’s a tooth coming in!
So... just a couple of things to bear in mind before you give up on your sleep training routine due to incoming choppers.
First of all, teething symptoms last for around eight days, so if you’re looking at two weeks of baby crying through the night, it’s either due to some other ailment, or baby has once again learned that crying when he wakes up will bring his favorite person into the room, and she’ll be helping him get back to sleep.
Second, teething symptoms are not nearly as uncomfortable as parents typically imagine they are. We hear about teeth “breaking” or “erupting” through the gums, which conjures up some cringe-worthy images, but nature is not nearly so heartless in this instance. Baby’s gums move out of the way to allow for incoming teeth.
Long story short, according to many experts, teething doesn’t cause a significant amount of pain. So, once again, I’m not suggesting that you should ignore the teething thing altogether. Just bear in mind that new teeth are not the villain they’re often made out to be.
And remember, baby’s going to be a lot happier while going through the process if he’s getting full nights of uninterrupted sleep.
The same thing goes for his parents.
P.S. I'd love to hear your thoughts about teething & sleep! Comment below
Well, It’s happening……the end of Summer is fast approaching and for many of us that means our kiddos are heading back to school and back to a routine. I know my family has enjoyed the more relaxed schedule of the Summer which has often meant a later bedtime for my boys. After all, what kid wants to go to bed at 7:30pm when they’re camping! It’s just about 2 weeks until my kids start school so I have plenty of time to get them back on a consistent bedtime schedule.
Don’t wait until the night before school to get bedtime consistent again. It takes time for their bodies to adjust and starting a week or two before school starts will help them so much.
Watch The Clock:
School aged children should go to bed NO later than 8pm. For those of you out there rolling your eyes and saying my child would never go to bed at 8pm, try it! These kiddos need at least 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in order to function at their best. My kids are 8 and 6 and this school year their bedtime will be 7:30pm. They have to get up by 6:30am so they get 11 hours of sleep EVERY night. If your school aged child isn’t getting at least 10 hours of sleep every night I would take a hard look at your schedule and make some changes in order to make their bedtime a priority.
Computers, iphones, ipads, and TVs all emit blue light which inhibits melatonin production in the brain. Melatonin is the hormone we make when we start to get sleepy after the sun goes down. Screens trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime which can wreak havoc on a child trying to fall asleep. A good rule of thumb is no screen time within an hour of lights out.
Keep The Room Cool & Dark:
We’ll still be having longer days and early morning sun way into September so be sure your kiddos rooms have blackout shades. I can’t stress enough how much this helps with children and sleep. Also, keep the room temperature between 60 and 70 degrees. A cool, dark room will help a child sleep their best.
Allow Some Reading Time:
The repetitive eye movement and low brain activity is a natural sedative. 30 minutes of you reading to your child or them reading to you will help them fall asleep faster. Try to take time to read with them every night.
Here's to a great school year & well rested children!
P.S. Need help getting your children on a consistent schedule? I can help. Contact me today! firstname.lastname@example.org
I'd love to hear your thoughts about kiddos going back to school. Comment below!
No. You can’t.
Sorry to be so concise, but that’s the straightforward answer. We can get into details as we move along, but for those of you who just wanted a “yes-or-no,” I thought I’d give it to you without a bunch of preamble.
So why do I think that sleep training and bed sharing are mutually exclusive?
When I meet a new client who’s been bed sharing, they fall into one of two groups.
1.Parents looking to get their kids out of their bed
2.Parents who want to keep their kids in their bed, but want them to sleep better
For those parents who are looking to move their little one out of their bed, I’ve got a variety of approaches which I personalize based on baby’s personality, temperament, and established sleep habits.
For those in group two, I’ve only got one approach. I’m happy to help, so call me when you’re ready to move your little one to their own bed.
It’s not because I’m a tyrant. In fact, the reason I don’t like to work with families who bed share is because I think it’s too confusing to the child.
In a bed sharing situation, baby usually has access to a breast whenever they want it, and that’s almost always their sleep prop. They wake up in the night, after completing a sleep cycle, and they instinctively go for the breast. Not necessarily because they’re hungry, but because that’s the way they know to get to sleep.
Grown ups do the same thing. (Well, obviously not the exact same thing. Otherwise your husband would be banished to the couch inside of a week.) But we have routines and strategies that we use to get to sleep when we wake in the night. They’re usually very brief and simple, like turning on our backs, taking a sip of water, flipping the pillow, or wrapping our blankets around us, but they’re sleep skills, just like nursing.
So if you’re going to break that association between nursing and falling asleep, which you have to do if you want your baby to sleep through the night without waking you up, then baby’s got to learn a new skill; one that doesn’t involve you. That’s not going to be easy when their favorite method of falling asleep is sitting right in front of their face.
If you’re determined to stay in close proximity to your baby when they’re sleeping, try using a sidecar or a crib in the room, but there’s just no good way to teach a baby not to nurse themselves to sleep if they’re sleeping right next to you.
One final thought on this topic before I sign off. I’ve seen a lot of people on Facebook and other social media channels, saying things like, “They’ll leave your room when they’re ready! Don’t rush them! This time is so short! Nobody sleeps in their parents’ bed when they’re 18!”
Again, if you’re happy with the arrangement you’ve got, I’m not here to change your approach. But I would like to point out that I’ve seen families with kids up to eight (!) years old who are still sleeping in their parents’ beds. Don’t assume that your little one will get finish brushing his teeth one night and say, “Actually, I think I’ll go sleep on my own tonight.”
Sleep habits die hard, especially with kids, so the day your child sleeps in their own bed, in their own room, is probably the day you tell them they have to.
The good news is that once your child has moved into their own bed and learned some independent sleep skills, they will typically sleep much better, more soundly, and for longer than they do in your bed. And so will you and your partner, which means the whole family will be rested and refreshed in the morning, which comes with a whole collection of mental and physical benefits
P.S. Are you ready for your little one to sleep in their own bed? Contact me today, email@example.com
I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on bed sharing in the comments.
“What should be done eventually, must be done immediately.”
This was a quote from a college athletics administrator about why he was firing a football coach, but I think it’s got a lot of appeal outside of the sports world. Especially when it comes to babies.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents tell me, “I just don’t think he’s ready for sleep training yet.” or, “I know it’s a bad habit, but it’s working for the time being. I’ll wean him off of it soon.”
Soon, meaning, “In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing things I know are short-term solutions which are going to cause us problems down the road.”
Don’t misunderstand my intentions here. I’m not trying to shame anyone for doing what they feel they have to in order to keep the peace in their family, however temporarily. I am just as guilty as anyone of putting band-aids on things in order to hold the fort until I could deal with the bigger issue. How could we ever cope as mothers if we had to deal with every issue the moment it came up?
1. Hello darkness, my old friend: Light, natural or artificial, sends a message to our brains that it’s daytime, and not time to sleep. Melatonin production is triggered by darkness, so start turning down the lights an hour before you plan to put baby down. (Especially electronic screens, which emit a blue light that is particularly inimical to baby’s shut-down process.)
For babies who wake up early, invest in some blackout blinds. You can get a decent set for under $30, and I’ve had many parents tell me it’s the best money they ever spent.
2. Turn down the heat: New parents can be obsessive over their babies’ comfort, and making sure they’re warm enough while Mom and Dad are out of the room for the night is such a basic instinct that people tend to overdo it.
Babies, like their grownup counterparts, sleep best when they’re warm and snuggly inside of a cool environment. A warm nighttime onesie and a cool nursery, somewhere around 65°F and 70°F (18°C – 21°C) is the best way to ensure that baby remains comfortable through the night.
3. Keep it boring: I know we all love the look of a cute, elegant mobile over the top of our baby’s crib, or the sounds of the little faux-aquarium with the little plastic light-up fish, but even though they may seem soothing to us, they can be a real source of fascination for your little one, which is great! Just not when they’re trying to sleep. To a baby, they can be the equivalent of a big budget action movie, so keep visual stimulation away from the crib.
A white noise machine can help to block out any outside noise that might jar baby into waking up, and a yellow night light can keep toddlers from getting spooked by the darkness, but other than that, the more boring your child’s bedroom is, the better they’ll sleep.
4. Be predictable: A well-planned, consistent bedtime routine is conducive to a good night’s sleep, no matter what your age, but particularly with babies. Once their bodies and brains start to recognize the signals that indicate an upcoming bedtime, they will start preparing to pack it in for the evening as soon as that first step begins.
Their energy levels will start to wind down, melatonin production will kick in, and muscles will start to relax, so by the time you’re giving them a goodnight kiss, their system should be all set for a long, restorative sleep.
Wrapping Up: Teaching your child great sleep skills isn’t a one-night operation. It takes some time, a lot of repetition, and plenty of discipline and diligence on the part of the parents, but for those of you who are desperate for just a little bit of relief, these tips should help you and your little one get a few more hours of shut-eye, starting tonight.
You can work on the rest of if once you’ve had a little rest.
If you’re like most parents, you probably can’t take more than a couple of steps in your house without tripping over a doll, a stuffed animal or a Tonka truck. You are most likely more than familiar with the sensation of getting those hard, tiny Lego pieces embedded in the bottom of your bare foot, or having to spend ten minutes scooping your child’s dripping army of rubber duckies and plastic fish out of the bathtub after he’s had his bath every night.
I often think toy companies must sit around brainstorming all the different places they should convince parents they need to stockpile toys in order to entertain their kids: the car, the living room, the bathtub and the crib, just to name a few.
Of course, toys are a fun and necessary part of any child’s life, but personally I don’t think there should be any toys in the crib at all. The crib is for sleeping. If it’s filled with brightly coloured plush toys or gadgets that strap onto the rails and make sounds or play songs when your child pushes buttons it is all far too distracting and stimulating for bedtime.
Even a mobile is off-limits if you want your child to learn to sleep properly. While the child may seem to be staring calmly and intently at the pretty floating butterflies above her head, the colours and movement are actually firing up her mind and keeping her awake.
If you put your child to bed in a crib-full of toys to amuse himself, he is far less likely to just close his eyes and go to sleep. Bedtime is obviously a time when you want to be helping your babies and toddlers wind down, but instead you may just be winding them up!
Any sleep specialist will tell an adult struggling with insomnia to limit all activities in the bed so that you send a clear message to your body and brain that when you are in this specific location you are meant to sleep. That means putting away phones, iPods, iPads and laptops and turning off the 10:00 news on your TV. The very same holds true for children. While the toys might not seem as stimulating as electronics, your child will play with them when she should be going to sleep, even if she’s tired. Kind of like you staying up later than you should just to check Facebook one more time…
Despite my general no-toys-in-the-bed philosophy, I do make an exception when it comes to that one special “security” toy, like your child’s favourite stuffed animal or plastic Spiderman or frog puppet… whatever it may be. I’m referring only to that one toy that they cart around all day, or stuff in their pocket, or can’t leave the house without. These beloved toys offer soothing comfort and help your child feel relaxed and safe.
Anything you can do to minimize distractions when it’s time for bed will really help as you are establishing good sleep habits and routines. The more simple and plain your child’s surroundings are, the easier it will be for him to drift into dreamland.
NOW TELL ME.....
Does your baby have a special lovey they sleep with?
I'd love to hear your comments!
I often hear from parents that they aren’t “into” sleep training their children. I’m a sleep consultant and to be perfectly honest, I’m not so much into sleep training either. It’s not the sleep training that I enjoy. It’s the end result which is a well rested, happier, healthier family!
We are a nation of chronically sleep deprived people that continue to miss our sleep cues daily. Our children are simply not getting the rest they need at night and it is an epidemic that needs to be seriously addressed. I know when I’m up multiple times a night for any reason, I feel terrible the next day. Why is it any different for a baby or child? Just because they can’t express themselves in the same way we can, trust me, they feel terrible!
Exhaustion in little ones often manifests itself as hyperactivity and is therefore, unfortunately, not attributed to sleep deprivation. Humans are designed to get consolidated sleep at night and need it in order to feel well rested during the day. Fragmented sleep doesn’t allow for proper brain development and has been linked to childhood obesity, hyperactivity, and an increased risk for diabetes in children.
Most people that question what I do assume that my method of sleep training is a “Cry it Out Method” which has gotten a lot of scrutiny due to the fact that you leave your baby unattended to cry until they go to sleep. My approach couldn’t be more different. My approach is much gentler and, I believe, more effective. It drives me crazy when parents tell me that their baby is a terrible sleeper. That’s because you haven’t taught them to be a good sleeper. EVERY baby can learn to be an amazing sleeper. Just by making some small changes to schedule and feeding times can make a huge difference in how well a baby sleeps.
For me there was absolutely no other way than to sleep train my children and here’s why:
I can always make it to 7pm:
Let’s face it, being a parent is hard work! It takes mental clarity, stamina and consistency that can often make a well rested person feel tired. Knowing every day that my children will be in bed at 7pm, go to sleep easily and not wake until 6:30am the next morning keeps me sane. If my children were up late every night, woke multiple times per night and were up early every day, I simply wouldn’t be as good a mother. And I guarantee I wouldn’t have happy, well adjusted children.
It saves my marriage:
Marriage is hard work and marriage combined with parenthood is extra hard work. Staying connected to your partner after the arrival of children can be challenging at times. My husband and I have gotten every night from 7pm on for the last 7 years (since we became parents) to ourselves. Even though we don’t sit down to a candle light dinner every night at 7pm, we know that time is just ours. 2 hours before we go to bed that is quiet, uninterrupted and blissful. We can actually have an adult conversation and really listen to each other. I am certain my marriage survives and thrives in large part due to our young children’s bedtime.
My children can sleep anywhere:
We have taken our children everywhere with us. We take their stuffed animals and maybe a familiar blanket and wherever we are in the world, they sleep and they sleep well. They can go to grandma’s house and grandma knows they will sleep ALL night long. They know when they are tired and very rarely protest at bedtime. People often say to me that they don’t look tired and can’t believe I am putting them to bed. To that, I say, you’re right, they don’t look tired because they are well rested and know to go to bed before they are overtired. My 5 & 7 year old will ask to go to bed if they have had a particularly long day. My children have gone to bed when we have had a party downstairs!.
I know we will get sleep at night:
My children go to sleep all night long and so do we. We have our own sacred sleep space and they have theirs. My children have never even asked to sleep in my bed and wouldn’t want to. They have their own sleep sanctuary that calls to them every night and it is completely separate from mine. There’s no musical beds or bed sharing in the middle of the night and because of this- we ALL sleep well. I don’t believe that as parents of young children we have to wear our fatigue as some sort of “badge of honor”. Being a rested parent is an amazing gift to give your child.
I thought I would do it differently:
Before our older son was born I definitely had preconceived ideas about how I would parent. He arrived in June of 2009, healthy and amazing! After 6 weeks of co-sleeping I found myself so exhausted that I wasn’t enjoying being a mother the way I imagined it to be. When I found someone to help me teach my baby how to sleep, it changed my life! By 8 weeks of age he was an amazing sleeper and I was able to get the rest I needed to be the best mom I could be.
Figure out a way that works to get your children sleeping:
I am certainly not here to tell you that you have to sleep train your children. 20% of babies become good sleepers on their own. So, if you have one of those babies then that is great! For the other 80% of babies they don’t “outgrow” being bad sleepers and statistics show that 3 years later they are often still struggling with sleep. I had a recent 4 year old client that had NEVER slept through the night in her entire life! The parents thought she would outgrow it. I am here to tell you there is help and I don’t believe it is ever too late to teach your young child to sleep well. I have worked with children up to 8 years old and had great success. Whether or not you agree with sleep training, your children should be getting adequate, consolidated sleep every night.
It’s not always convenient:
Let’s be honest- always being consistent and insisting on bedtimes and naptimes every day is far from glamorous. Life can seem like “Groundhog Day” and the routine can be boring. But, when I see how happy and healthy my children are the monotony of the schedule is TOTALLY worth it! We have missed many Birthday parties, dinners out with friends, and other social engagements that conflicted with our children’s bedtime and naptimes and I don’t care. My children’s health and well-being are more important than any social engagement. I don’t believe children have to fit into our busy schedules. I believe we should respect how much sleep our children need and rearrange our lives to make certain they get it.
How much sleep do babies and children need in a 24 hours?
If your child isn’t getting this much sleep, I would take a good look at your schedule and figure out how to make this a priority starting today. Good sleep hygiene is as important as good nutrition for your children. The priority of adequate sleep often takes a back seat to our busy lives.
If you are struggling with a baby or child that isn’t sleeping well don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you just need to make it a priority or be more consistent- do something about it. Don’t spend another day being exhausted because your children aren’t good sleepers. Parenthood is exhausting enough when we’re well rested!
Have questions? Contact me today, firstname.lastname@example.org
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NOW TELL ME......
Is sleep training for you? Why or why not?
I'd love to hear your comments!
Jo Anna Inks
I help tired, frustrated parents get their babies sleeping through the night and napping well so everyone in the family can get the rest they so desperately need!