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 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 just not getting the rest they need at night, and it is an epidemic that needs our attention. 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 to feel well rested during the day. Fragmented sleep doesn’t allow for proper brain development and has been proven to contribute 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 because you leave your baby unattended to cry until they go to sleep. My approach couldn’t be more different. My sleep plans are 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 7 pm, go to sleep quickly and not wake until 6:30 am 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 just 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 combined with parenthood is a lot of 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 7 pm on for the last eight years (since we became parents) to ourselves. Even though we don’t sit down to a candlelight dinner every night at 7 pm, we know that time is ours. 2 hours before we go to bed that is quiet, uninterrupted and blissful. We can have an adult conversation and listen to each other. I am confident 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 bring 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 6 & 8-year-olds 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'll get sleep at night:
My children go to sleep all night long, and so do we. We have our 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 sleep sanctuary that calls to them every night, and it is entirely 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 “badge of honor.” Being a rested parent is a fantastic gift to give your child.
I thought I would do it differently:
Before our older son was born, I had preconceived ideas about how I would parent. He arrived in June of 2009, healthy and beautiful! After six 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 eight weeks of age, he was a fantastic 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 three to five 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 tedious. 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 nap times 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. We should respect how much sleep our children need and rearrange our lives to make sure they get it.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need In 24 Hours?
NB – 3 months: 16 – 18 hours
3 – 6 months: about 15 hours
6 – 9 months: about 14 hours
9 – 12 months: about 13 – 14 hours
12 – 24 months: 12 – 13 hours
3-8 years: 11-13 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 proper nutrition for your children. The priority of adequate sleep often takes a back seat to our busy lives.
If you’re struggling with a baby or child that isn’t sleeping well don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you 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!
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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!