The topic of Sleep Training gets lots of people pretty riled up. I am a firm believer in you do what works for you. If you want to help your child learn how to sleep better, then find the best method for you and your family. If you are fine with the way things are, then that is okay too.
I believe that lots of people are afraid to talk about the fact their child does not sleep and they are just plain exhausted. Who wants to admit they feel like a failure? Babies are supposed to sleep wonderfully. I can say from personal experience that I did not talk about the struggles we had with getting our young man the sleep he required. I did not want others to think I was incompetent.
I would have stood on my head if that would have worked. I tried many different sleep environments. I always thought I would not want to co-sleep, but I tried. I would have done it if it worked for us.
We had 2 bassinets and a crib. I tried the swing and many other gadgets. Eventually, with practice and our assistance, he was able to sleep. This was a long process for us. We were able to teach him the skills to sleep with very minimal crying. I could not and still do not do well with him crying. That said, I clearly understood that when he cried, it was his way of expressing himself. He was very clear that he was not happy with any change. Once we had a consistent routine in place his sleep improved immensely.
It was my own personal experience that gave me the desire to become a Child Sleep Consultant. I had over 20 years of experience working with children and a Bachelor of Child Studies. My own child had me stumped! There I was pulling out all the tips I had given to others or used in the past and they were not working. What worked for me was finding a method that I was comfortable with and our son did well with. The method we used was to stay in the room with our son. We worked our way out of the room slowly.
After we had worked out our sleep issues, I was introduced to the Sleep Sense Program. This program was very similar to the strategies we used to teach our how to sleep. I decided to become a consultant so I could teach other parents this method.
To this day, there are times that I hear other Mom’s talking about sleep and I want to scream it does not have to be that way! What really gets me fired up is when I hear or read things like this:
You should just enjoy getting up to nurse/feed all night, someday he’ll be all grown up and you’ll miss it.
You were the one who decided to have children.
Well, you’d better learn to live with it!
Being overtired is not fun for anyone involved. When people state things like I previously mentioned, it makes the reality of being a parent that much harder to take. Then throw in the many myths about sleep training and sleep-deprived parents have nowhere to turn. Let’s debunk the myths:
Myth #1: Your baby will not love you in the morning.
Really? Do you think that after just one night of changing your baby’s sleep habits she won’t love you anymore? Is that all it would take?
Would all the cuddles you give her, all the food you provide, all the diapers and clean clothes she wears, all the playtimes and bath times, all the kisses and laughter be for nothing because of a few nights of protest?
The truth is that making changes to anyone’s sleep habits will always be met with some resistance. So yes, it is safe to assume that your baby is not going to happily accept the fact that you are no longer going to rock her on the exercise ball for an hour each and every night, but as long as you are a loving and attentive parent in the first place, the love will endure.
In fact, most people find that once their baby is sleeping well, she’s even happier and healthier than before.
Myth #2: Sleep training means leaving your baby to cry it out.
It does not have to be that way. I am not comfortable with babies crying. I do my best to teach families how to reduce the amount of crying. In fact, I usually recommend staying in the room. Sometimes your presence is enough to reduce your child’s resistance with sleep.
Children adapt SO quickly that she’ll soon figure out how to calmly get herself to sleep and then everyone is happier.
Myth #3: Sleep training is too stressful for babies.
Sleep training does not have to be stressful. There will be crying out of protest. It does get easier with consistency and persistence. The first few nights are usually the most difficult.
As for those who say that a few nights of crying are too stressful? You’ve really got two choices:
Make some changes. This usually involves a few nights of your child crying for 10 to 40 minutes at bedtime. After a few nights, most children start to learn how to fall asleep independently and the crying stops completely shortly thereafter. In this scenario, the total amount of stress felt by your child amounts to a few minutes of crying for a few nights.
Do nothing. In this scenario, the parent continues to nurse/rock/bounce their child to sleep every night. The child wakes up 1 to 10 times per night and needs to be nursed/rocked/bounced back to sleep each time. In this scenario, both parent and child are subjected to months (or even years) of systematic sleep deprivation where neither ever gets enough consolidated sleep to wake up and feel rested or refreshed.
So what sounds more harmful: A few night’s of crying or months/years of depriving your child of a good nights sleep?
If one or more of these three myths have been holding you back from taking the simple steps needed to create long-term, positive change for your child’s sleep, I really hope I’ve been able to change your mind.
You can stop laughing now!! I know lots of people begrudge bedtime if they have a child that struggles with the bedtime ritual. I have had people flat out laugh at me when I have suggested making bedtime fun. How can you do that if your child resists the whole idea of bedtime? It is possible.
A few months ago, our son went through a period where he tested every single “trick” and tool I have to encourage an increased night sleep. I was beginning to feel like the biggest hypocrite out there. I then discovered the magic combination that worked for us.
The first obstacle that I needed to overcome was the complete distaste I was getting for bedtime. I was not enjoying it at all. A few weeks after we transitioned our little man into his big boy bed he began refusing to stay in his bed. He would run around trying to get our attention. When that did not work then the tears and tantrums began. This made bedtime later than he could tolerate which meant several night wakings. Yikes, that was not in my personal sleep plan!
Let the brainstorming begin! We began a family hug ritual. After Daddy finished the bath routine they would hide on Mommy. I then go on the hunt for the boys and we end with an awesome family hug ritual. We were all happy and willing to participate in the bedtime routine.
The second obstacle I had to overcome was the adults being in control of the routine. Our son is like most 3-year-olds and he wants to be independent. “I do it myself!!” So we began the next change in our routine. After family hugs, Daddy reads 3 stories and then the little man climbs into bed and “reads” his own stories. Then he either drifts off to sleep on his own before picking up a book or he will look at a book until we turn off the light a few minutes later.
Now bedtime is a blissful time in our house and the night wakings have diminished immensely. Let’s be honest, the little guy is potty trained so there are times when he needs to make a trip to the “bathroom”. He waits in his bed until his clock goes off in the morning. He has a toddler clock that shines when he can get out of bed. He then comes into our room and says “Morning!” I actually wake up refreshed and ready to start my day.
You may still think that this is not possible in your home. I strongly believe it is. Here are a few things that may help improve bedtime at your house as well.
The actual bedtime is not negotiable but parts of the routine are negotiable. You can offer choices throughout the routine. For example: what pajamas they will wear; what books will be read; if they will walk or hop into the bed; or they can pick a special activity.
Bedtime should be clear and consistent. A visual chart can help remind your child of the steps that are involved without you having to nag about it. If the bedtime ritual is changing your child will be confused. The added bonus to a consistent bedtime routine is that it helps your child naturally increase the bodies natural production of melatonin which helps them sleep!!
Bedtime routines need to be long enough to prepare your child for sleep, but not too long or it will cause them to be overtired. The ideal length for bedtime is 20 to 45 minutes maximum.
Even Toddlers can understand some clocks. There are many toddler clocks on the market. Personally, we have a Gro-Clock and our little man loves it. We turn it to the lowest setting for brightness at night but when it turns on in the morning the sun is bright and he knows he can get out of bed.
Here’s hoping you can bring some enjoyment back to bedtime with your young child. Hang in there! With persistence and consistency, things will improve.
Do you have a child at home? Are you feeling Sleep Deprived? You are not alone.
How many times have you heard people say, “I want to sleep like a baby”? This is a statement I do not understand. What adult wants to sleep for two hours, wake up for 30 to 45 minutes, and then repeat the same cycle several times over the next 24 hours? No thank you.
Whenever I am out in public and see a new baby with their parents that look exhausted my heart aches! I wonder to myself how are they doing? Are they discouraged? Very few people talk about the fact babies can be exhausting. As a new parent, you receive a great deal of advice. I heard several times that all babies do is sleep. I wanted to scream, “Not mine!”
After a few months had passed, our sleep was improving. Our little man had some medical issues that made sleep difficult but not impossible. He had acid reflux and allergies. Once the medical issues were being treated we taught our little man how to sleep on his own. When he woke up it was to have a diaper change or to be fed. After his needs were met, he went back to sleep.
Once a child is taught how to sleep on their own, a whole new world opens up. The parents are well rested and the baby is able to respond effectively to stimuli.
Dr. Marc Weisbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child explains the importance of sleep:
“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time.”
There are several reasons that infants struggle with sleep. If a medical reason is suspected, I suggest getting that it should be ruled out first.
Remember you do not have to do this alone. I have spoken to many people that feel that they are not good parents or not “cut out to be a parent” because they struggle with getting their child to sleep effectively. Please know that those statements are not true. Societal pressure sometimes makes it hard to ask for help. If you or someone you know has a child that struggles with sleep please give them the gift of sleep. It is okay to ask for help.