Many parents come to me and ask me how early they can start sleep training their child. These parents are sleep deprived, wake up every couple of hours in the middle of the night to tend to their child and/or can’t function throughout the day.
As a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I have learned strategies and techniques to coach parents to teach their children independent sleep. I do not recommend sleep training your children before the 6 month mark, but that does not mean you cant teach your child good sleep habits right from the get go.
Here are some tips to help your child sleep independently before deciding to sleep train them:
1. Create a consistent bedtime routine
It is important to create a consistent bedtime routine as it can provide comfort to your child prior to putting them down to sleep. It does not need to be a complicated routine; something simple that will help your child learn what to expect each night. An example of a bedtime routine that you can use is a bath, massage, pajamas and storybook.
2. Eliminate the feed to sleep association
As a mother of two, I understand how difficult it is when your child is not sleeping. You will do anything to get them down to sleep, even if it means feeding them and allowing them to fall asleep. This is great for the couple of hours of sleep they give you at that time, but what happens is they continue to make that feed to sleep association. They will wake up and comfort feed even when they are not hungry and this will continue to happen unless you eliminate the sleep to feed association. A tip to eliminate this is to feed, change a diaper and then putting them down to sleep. It does take some work, but eventually your child won’t find it as fun waking up and getting their diaper changed.
3. Eliminate what some call “sleep props”
“Sleep props” is anything that your child is dependent on to fall asleep. I mentioned the feed to sleep association, but there is more. If your child is dependent on nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, the pacifier to sleep and will not go to sleep without help from the parent, that is a sleep prop. I am not saying to eliminate all of this from your child, I am saying that if they are using it to fall asleep or if they are waking up screaming or crying for it then you may need to take it away to help them learn to sleep without it.
4. Put your child down awake, but drowsy
By drowsy, I don’t mean when your child is struggling to keep their eyes open. By drowsy, I mean the point where they give you sleepy cues, such yawning or rubbing their eyes. Rather than using a “sleep prop” like rocking or swinging your baby to sleep, put them down in their crib and allows them to learn to self-sooth themselves. You can provide comfort by patting them or “shhing” them to sleep if you need, but eventually you will see them slowly learning the process of self-soothing .It takes some work and consistency, but it has many benefits such as longer naps and longer stretches at night.
5. Stay consistent
All the above points will help your child to sleep more independently, but you need to be consistent. Children love routine as they feel more comfort knowing what to expect. Don’t give up on the process of teaching your child independent sleep, whether it is eliminating the pacifier or creating a structured bedtime routine. Children learn fast and with hard work, dedication and consistency you will start to see a difference in your child’s sleep.
Sleep training is something that I advocate strongly about as it will help your child learn independent sleep. They will sleep longer; meet their age appropriate sleep requirements and it will provide you with routine. By sleep training, I do not mean letting your child cry until they fall asleep. I teach my clients methods and techniques that allow them to provide as much comfort as they wish throughout the sleep training process. You can even be in the same room as your child and sleep train them! It is definitely a process, but I will help you achieve your sleep goals and get you and your family sleeping better!
Contact me for a free consultation.
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant