Based on my studies, research and first-hand experience with helping 100s of parents successfully sleep train their children, implementing the following 10 tips will aid parents in successfully sleep training their child.
Believe it or not, sometimes these 10 tips are all you need! But before you attempt to sleep train your children, you need to be prepared. First, you need to have the right mindset. You see, sleep training can be emotionally and physically tiring for both the parents and the child, so being in the right frame of mind is important. Second, by making some simple tweaks, you’ll make sleep training easier on both you and your little one and help your child sleep better in the end.
Tip #1 – Caregivers’ commitment
Your number one priority should be getting your child to become an amazing sleeper. This means, you need to be willing to put social activities “on-hold” for two weeks and dedicate that time to putting your child down to sleep when they are supposed to be sleeping. This includes day (naps) and night (bedtime) sleeping.
Tip #2 – Consistency/routine
Children strive on structure. They are very instinctive and pick up on our rhythms of life. That’s why routines are so important. When your child knows what to expect, they’re less likely to worry about what happens next. Routines benefit both you and your child, because there’s no second guessing. When you – as a parent – are unsure about what you are doing, you’re passing on that insecurity onto your children.
Next, you need to be consistent. When it comes down to being successful at sleep training, two things will matter most: location (where they sleep) and time (when the sleep). So once you create a routine, stick to it.
Tip #3 – Parent self care
Parents, you need a time out, or should I say, time off? It’s important that you make time to take care of yourself on a regular basis. It can be as simple as stepping outside for a walk, breathing in some fresh air and getting a boost of vitamin D. You’re not a bad parent for wanting some “me” time, so don’t be afraid to ask others for help or leave your child with a trusted sitter. There’s nothing wrong with getting a massage or running an errand without the baby in tow. And if you have a significant other, make time for date-night. A happy relationship makes for a calmer, more loving home environment.
Tip #4 – Your parenting style
It’s important for you to decide what style resonates with and works best for you. Once you’ve adapted a parenting style, it’s important to stick with it. You can’t be effective in sleep training your child when you are switching among various styles of parenting. Remember, children need consistency and routines. When you aren’t providing that, you’re sending mixed signals to your child. I am not here to judge or dictate your parenting style. My programs are designed to work with any type of parenting.
Tip # 5 – Stress
If you are under a high level of stress or are going through a stressful time in your household, this could be the reason why your child isn’t sleeping well. Children are very perceptive. While they do not understand the concept of a situation, they perceive feelings. Because they have an amazing connection to us as parents, they can take on our feelings quite readily. If a parent is under stress, they instinctively want to be there for us.
Tip #6 – Healthy child
If your child is not at their healthiest, this is not the time to set limitations or implement structure, so you definitely should not be attempting to sleep train. Think about the last time you had a cold or the flu. Your body is out of sync. Maybe you didn’t eat or drink properly or needed to sleep more or at different times of the day. When your child is sick, his or her little body is also out of sync. This is when they need us the most. It’s a time for providing security and helping them feel better.
Tip #7 – Child’s temperament
A child’s temperament can range from easy going to what Prueher likes to call “spicy.” When children are sleep deprived, their temperament may be out of whack. Before you start sleep training, you need to know your child’s true temperament by learning their limits. This will help guide you when you start sleep training. Some kids adapt to changes better than others. Please be more patient with the spicier ones; they are more likely spicy because they are sleep deprived.
Tip #8 – Mother and child nutrition
This has to be one of my favorite parts about my work. Good nutrition and sleep training go hand-in-hand. When your child eats well, he or she will more likely sleep well. It’s important to get enough of the right calories in their tummies during the day, in order for them to get complete periods of rest.
Depending on age, we can’t expect them not to wake up wanting to eat. Their weight should be in line with their age and development. You should not remove any feedings unless it’s been approved by your pediatrician.
As for my moms, you need to eat well and sleep well, especially when you are nursing, as this could affect the production of your milk. In general, when our bodies are not well-fed or well-rested, we lose energy and function poorly. In turn, you won’t be able to keep up with the demands of your child.
Nursing moms, pay attention to what you are eating. What you consume is passed through your milk to your baby. It could be affecting your baby’s tummy and impacting their sleep. It takes about 24 to 48 hours from the time you consume food for it to make it to your breast milk. Liquids, such as alcohol and caffeinated beverages, pass through much quicker.
Tip #9 – Your child’s sleep environment
You should create a safe sleeping environment, regardless if your child sleeps in a bed, crib or bassinet in their own room, co-sleeps (in same room with the parent but in a separate crib/bassinet) or co-beds (in the same room with the parent in the same bed). Please put your child down for all sleep in the same location, while you are sleep training. You want to maintain consistency.
Your child’s sleep environment should be kept at a comfortable 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, or 20 to 22 degrees Celsius. You want to darken the room by pulling down the shades or drawing the drapes. It doesn’t have to be pitch black, but a darkened room will help in setting sleep cues.
If your child sleeps in his or her own bed, there should be:
• No bumpers or covers to prevent smothering or SIDS
• No stuffed animals unless they are at least 6 months-old; at 6 months, allow one lovely/favorite stuffed toy
If you co-bed with your child:
• They should not sleep on water beds or have covers or pillows. These items could smother them or lead to SIDS.
• Take precautions to prevent them from rolling or falling off the bed. Consider putting your mattress on the floor.
Tip # 10 – White noise
If your child is under 1 year in age, run a white noise machine during all sleep times. You see, people often make the mistake of being overly quiet or putting on music, but neither of those tactics are helpful.
You want to stage the sleep environment by blocking outside noise and recreating your child’s time in the womb – which was dark, mildly temperate with a constant sound, much like volume of a running vacuum cleaner. So turn off cell phones, land lines and any alarm clocks/clock radios. The low and high tones created by music and the television are distracting and could wake your child up. Turn them off, too. If they should wake up, you want them to fall back to sleep in the same environment that they went to sleep in. Finally, don’t worry about the white noise machine becoming a crutch. It’s just noise.
Guest post by Ingrid Prueher – The Baby Sleep Whisperer
Ingrid Prueher is the founder of The Baby Sleep Whisperer, a bilingual coaching and consulting service that helps lessen expecting and new parents stress and helps them sleep better. Ingrid is a certified Family Sleep Institute Child Sleep Consultant, Certified Stress Management Coach, Certified educator for Dunstan Baby Language and Happiest Baby on the Block programs. Ingrid is the pioneer of stress management coaching programs and certifications: Prenatal and Postnatal Stress Management Coaching, Child and Family Stress Management Coaching. She is also the founder of Savvy Mami TV and Parent Prep Classes.
Ingrid resides in Fairfield, CT with her husband and two boys. She has a private practice where she meets with parents one-on-one, over the phone and through email consultations. Ingrid is a sought-after expert and has been featured in US News and World Report, NY Daily News, Hartford Courant, Examiner.com, Fox CT, The Better Connecticut show and Australia’s Triple M -The Cage Radio Show. Ingrid is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, National Sleep Foundation, American Sleep Association and The International Stress Management Association (UK).
Visit www.babysleepwhisperer.com for more information.
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