Welcome to Lullaby Sleep Consultant (1)! Our role as sleep consultants is to help your child develop lifelong healthy sleeping habits. Babies are not born with the capacity to fall asleep on their own. This is a skill they must learn. With patience, consistency, and perhaps a personalized sleep plan, you could soon be on your way to sleep heaven — flying there with unicorns on comfy pillows, falling into sweet dreams, and waking up with a rested body!
Where to Start?
There is a lot of information out there about sleep coaching and there are many different sleep training methods to choose from. With all the other challenges involved in parenthood, this can become just one more frustrating and overwhelming task for parents. That is where myself and my fellow sleep consultants (and my blog) come in. We can help!
Which sleep coaching method should you choose to help your baby learn to sleep through the night? Which approach best fits your child’s temperament and personality? Which sleep training methods are you comfortable implementing? These are all important questions to ask yourself before embarking on a new adventure.
If all of this sounds a bit daunting, know this: you don’t have to choose just one sleep coaching technique! Try to pick a sleep training method that you feel best fits your child’s needs and your parenting style. However, be prepared to change your sleep training method if necessary. Test out your chosen method for a few days and if you feel like it isn’t working, then switch to a different method. Change takes time! Contact me directly here.
What is Sleep Training?
Sleep training utilizes specific methods with the end goal of your baby being able to self-soothe and fall asleep, unassisted. Sometimes sleep crutches — eg. needing to be nursed, rocked, walked to sleep, or needing a pacifier (note that needing a pacifier is not always a sleep crutch!) — can get in the way of your child being able to self-soothe and go back to sleep on his own. Sleep training helps by eliminating the need for these crutches.
When your baby wakes up during a nap and needs assistance in falling back asleep (ie, he needs external aid via nursing, rocking, bouncing, etc), chances are he needs that same external support when he wakes up at night. He has not yet learned to fall asleep independently and therefore relies upon you to help him. By using an appropriate and gentle sleep training method, your child will eventually learn to overcome her sleep associations and will begin to sleep like a baby (pun intended!).
Should You Sleep Train Your Child?
Well… the choice is yours! It’s a decision that only you, as the parent, can make for your child. If you are ready, or are considering sleep training your little one, I recommend speaking with your pediatrician first. It is important to get an “all clear!” from your child’s doctor to rule out any possible medical conditions and to make sure your baby is growing and developing as she should be.
The majority of health care professionals support and recommend sleep coaching as it helps to build healthy sleep habits from an early age. As you likely know from personal experience, sleep is extremely important. We tend to think of children as being invincible but if anything, sleep is even more important for them then it is for us. It is while a child is asleep that her body produces necessary growth hormones, strengthens her immune system, retains and organizes memory, and so much more. But without adequate sleep, her body cannot accomplish all these tasks. This is why sleep training is essential to your baby’s health and development. And not only will proper sleep help your child, it will benefit your family as well! Having a baby that sleeps through the night allows others to sleep through the night too (this includes you!). Remember: Sleeping Babies = Happy Families!
When is the Best Time to Sleep Train Your Little One?
The ideal time to start sleep training is around 4-6 months of age. By this point, your child has most likely developed the ability to self-soothe (at least to a certain degree) and is able to sleep for longer periods at night. You can, of course, sleep coach your child at any age, but depending on the age of the child, certain sleep training methods may be more appropriate than others in honoring their development and temperament.
Before starting a sleep training method, I suggest that parents consider some important points
• Am I ready to focus and commit to a program?
• Is my baby healthy?
• What is the current family dynamic? Are we going through major life changes such as a change of residence, death, or divorce?
For more details on when is a good time to start sleep training, read my blog.
Now that you know what sleep training is, let’s go over some of the major sleep coaching methods to demystify what they are and to help you choose the one that best fits you and your baby (and your family!).
6 Sleep Coaching Methods
Here is an overview of the 6 most popular sleep training methods. I encourage you to choose one that fits both your child’s needs and your parenting style.
1. Cry It Out (also known as extinction or CIO)
There is a lot of controversy around the CIO method. It basically means letting your baby self-soothe himself to sleep by crying at bedtime or in the middle of the night. The idea behind this method is that by leaving the child to cry, he will eventually learn to fall asleep on his own. This sleep coaching method is not for everyone, is often criticized and, in truth, a lot of people simply don’t agree with it. Some experts claim that it can cause psychological damage, and yet, others swear by it.
2. Ferber Method
This method is often confused with the cry it out method. It is based on the 1985 best-selling book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem by Dr. Richard Ferber. His technique states that the parent should prepare their child for bedtime/nap time as per usual, place the child in her crib while she is still awake, and leave the room. The parent is then instructed to return to the room in specific time intervals (eg: every 2 minutes the first night, then every 5 minutes, then every 8 minutes, etc.) to comfort the child. The time intervals are gradually increased. This sleep coaching method is also known as the gradual extinction method.
3. Wake and Sleep Method
Dr. Harvey Karp is a pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. He believes in waking your baby up ever so slightly when she is in her crib in order to teach her how to fall asleep on her own. For example, if you are nursing, rocking, or bouncing your child to sleep, gently jiggle the crib as you put her down so that she begins to wake. From this in-between state of being awake and being asleep, she is more easily able to return to sleep on her own. The assumption is that she will then create an association with the feeling of falling asleep, and eventually she will be able to do it herself, without your help, at any time.
4. Pick Up Put Down
Tracy Hogg, in her book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, advocates using a gentle method to sleep train babies. Essentially, her sleep training method involves putting your child down in her crib while she is still awake. If she is crying and upset, pick her up for a minute or two and then settle her back down. This process is repeated until she falls asleep.
5. Chair Method
In this technique, the parent sits in a chair next to the crib while the child falls asleep. The parent then gradually moves the chair away from the crib every few days. Kim West, known as the Sleep Lady, is the pioneer of this technique. It is a very efficient, gentle, and caring sleep training method. You are reassuring your child by using your words or your touch to offer comfort. Every few nights you move the chair away from the crib until you are eventually out of the room with no need for the chair.
6. No-Cry Method
The last sleep coaching method I want to share with you is from Elizabeth Pantley, author of the book The No-Cry Solution. Pantley believes that the parent should identify what their baby’s needs are to fall asleep and to address those needs first. Does your child need to be nursed to sleep? Rocked to sleep? Once this has been figured out, the parent replaces this action with another one (eg. bounce or walk). One key thing to know about Pantley (3) is that she works with a child’s natural sleep patterns, not against them.
How Long Does Sleep Training Take?
Regardless of your child’s age or current sleeping habits, if you stay consistent with your chosen sleep training method, you should start to see some improvement after a few nights. I cannot stress enough that the success of sleep training is based on consistency. It can take a night or two, or it can take as long as a few weeks depending on your child’s response, your current sleep routine and of course… YOUR consistency with the program.
It is also very likely that you will encounter some bumps in the road, such as sickness, traveling, and development milestones. No worries! If your child has learned and mastered the skill to fall asleep on his own, he will go back to his sleeping routine in a few days or when the situation or trigger is back to normal. That being said, there are always exceptions and sometimes no matter how great of a sleeper your child might have been, you may need to re-coach him. You and your little one have been on this road before though so it will be a familiar process and perhaps even easier than the first time. No matter what happens, try not to get discouraged! It will get better. Have faith in your little one and get back on the horse. We have successfully helped many families. Please read our testimonial here and read our Google and Yelp reviews.
Tips To Successfully Sleep Train Your Child
1. Whichever method you use, I recommend asking yourself what kind of approach you would be most comfortable using. Keep in mind that following through and giving the training some time is key. If you are prepared and ready to be consistent with it, you will get results.
2. If you have been consistent for days and haven’t made any progress, it may be time to reassess the situation and opt for another sleep training method.
3. Create a short, predictable bedtime routine. A 20-30 minute ritual will set the stage for a great night of sleep! Use blackout curtains and a white noise machine to help your child sleep in a calm and cosy environment.
4. Have your child nap as much as possible during the day. The more sleep your baby gets, the more she will sleep!!! It sounds funny, doesn’t it? The more sleep deprived your little one is, the harder it will be to sleep for long stretches of time.
5. Get the whole family onboard. If you have older children, let them know that their little brother or sister is learning how to fall asleep on their own. They will take great pride in being part of the process and the solution. Also, let the caregivers, grandparents, or whomever else is interacting with your child know about the sleep program. Everyone needs to know about the steps and be consistent with it! The success of the sleep plan depends on…yes, you know it by now: CONSISTENCY!!!
6. Be patient! It might take time for your little one to change her sleep habits. Try to have realistic expectations when it comes to the length of time the training should take. Some families may achieve their goals within a few nights, while others may take weeks. Have faith in yourself and your baby! Sleep training is a team effort.
So There You Have It!
Choose a method you feel comfortable with and keep in mind that your baby is unique. Trust your intuition. Every child is different and what might have worked for a friend may not work for you.
Also, think about hiring a sleep coach! We, sleep coaches, are trained to help you design a personalized sleep training plan (2) and provide services that work for you and your baby. We are also there to help and support you when challenges occur.
In the end, whatever sleep coaching method you choose, and whether or not you choose to work with a sleep coach, the MOST important piece of advice I can give you is…be consistent!!
I wish you all the best in your sleep endeavors. I am always here to help.
PS: I get a lot of emails about How to wean baby off the Dockatot. Learn here how to do it.
Sleeping Babies = Happy Families!
Are you ready for you and your baby to sleep better tonight? Contact us today!
Phone: (702) 355-5082