IF YOU CAN, START YOUNG! Day one young, if you’re reading this as an expectant parent or planning on adding another little one down the road. Even though formal sleep is appropriate beginning when baby is 4 months old (give or take depending on who you talk to), healthy habits can start right away! If you do it right, you can actually prevent the need for sleep training, or sleep learning as I like to call it. What are some ways to achieve this? Start by practicing putting your baby down on a blanket while he or she is awake from the very beginning. This allows your baby to feel comfortable being awake while not always being held or confined in some way. Teach the difference between day and night (sometimes called day/night confusion) or sleep all day party all night as some parents have learned! You can achieve this by creating a cozy, dark environment for night time sleep and keeping things bright with natural sunlight exposure throughout the day. These tips are setting your baby up for a successful age appropriate sleep schedule down the road!
SOMETIMES IT GETS WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER: Have you ever tried a new workout routine to get in shape after not exercising for a while? It is HARD to take the plunge and get started, HARD to set the alarm an hour earlier and HARD to drag yourself to the gym before the light of day! You may be sore beyond belief for a few days- but then then feeling of accomplishment that starts to take place feels oh so rewarding! Teaching your child new sleep habits and changing his or her routine can be similar- difficult and exhausting at first with some rough, sleepless nights in the beginning as everyone is getting used to the new routine. Yet, afterwards, the amazing feeling (of a restful night!) you get when your baby begins to sleep longer stretches and put him or herself down independently without assistance from you is priceless!
I BELIEVE IN YOU, PARENTS! Teaching your baby the beauty of independent sleep is an empowering and confidence boosting skill for BOTH you as a parent and your child as a little human learning more about the world everyday! From the moment your baby is placed in your arms for the first time, and every second afterwards- he is she is slowly but surely growing, changing and becoming more independent, whether you want to admit it or not! It is your responsibility as a parent to foster independence- through allowing your baby the time and space to practice new skills (rolling over, crawling, eating solids, walking, developing social skills and sleeping independently!) Does this mean you can’t ever rock your baby or allow them to sleep in your arms- of course not. Are gentle sleep learning methods okay? Yes! My role as a sleep consultant is to help you tweak schedules, implement age appropriate bedtime routines and allow your baby the time, space and practice to fall asleep independently which are all essential skills for healthy sleep habits!
STICK TO THE PLAN: For sleep learning to be successful, consistency is key. However, if you have an off night- a vacation- sick or teething babe or change in routine- it is okay! Simply get back to your established routine as soon as possible and start again! Often, parents try a sleep training skill or method and if they are not satisfied with the results after a night or two, they give up and revert back to old habits. Too easily! The key to successful sleep training is remaining calm and consistent. Most (not all, but most) adults thrive on routine. Adults often have their own bedtime routines to help them get settled for the night and do the same activities during the day over and over again. It helps us create structure and predictability which allows us to more easily reach personal and professional aspirations. Babies and toddlers are the same way. Even if it doesn’t always seem like it, they actually WANT you to guide them, to set boundaries and structure in their lives. It helps them to feel more secure and even at a young age, babies understand routine and what is to come next, if you are consistent. Start with a bedtime routine that is predictable. Do the exact same thing, every single night! Over time, your baby will learn the routine and will settle more easily. Following these sleep tips as well as the customized sleep plan I will create for your family will allow your baby to thrive on getting the sleep he or she needs and, as a result, uninterrupted sleep for parents, too!