After reading the first post in this attachment series, How Cry It Out Strengthened My Attachment with My Baby, you know that I believe sleep training can in fact improve our attachment with our child. And then you read, Four Secrets to Help Your Attachment while Sleep Training. Now just like there are techniques to try to do, there are also mistakes to avoid when sleep training. Today we are going to discuss what to avoid so that your attachment doesn't suffer while sleep training.
Don't Start Too Early
When a baby isn't sleeping like we want or sometimes how we need him to sleep, life can get pretty hard. I don't think I remember the first 3 months after my twins were born because it turns out that sleep and the ability to make memories are connected. Therefore, if you are not sleeping, you are also probably not able to form memories. We were exhausted and we were willing to try anything to help them sleep longer as newborns. But we weren't willing to start sleep training, and especially, not try cry it out. Why you may ask, especially when I am so adamant about it working when done correctly?
One of the necessary factors for sleep training to be effective is for the child to be able to learn how to self-soothe to sleep. Babies younger than 16 weeks may not have developed the skills necessary to self-soothe adequately. Without the ability to self-soothe it is likely that sleep training can cause extreme stress that can be difficult for the baby to manage. Another reason to wait until 16 weeks is to allow sufficient time for melatonin to regulate which takes place by 16 weeks, and finally around 16 weeks your milk supply will also regulate if you are breastfeeding. Many babies, at 4 months, will respond well to a gently method of sleep training. However there is also no reason to assume that your baby needs a gently method. There are so many factors to take into consideration. Check out this article to help you decide which method to use for your family.
Don't Wing It
When I was a new mother, I thought I had done my research about baby sleep. I read one of the most popular books, Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Baby, but I still didn't understand how to properly sleep train. When I was desperate enough for sleep and had exhausted all other possible solutions, I decided it was time to Cry It Out (CIO). Everyone talks about CIO. Everyone says to do it. Everyone tells you it works. But I learned the hard way that it only works if you are doing it correctly! Without the proper steps it will be harder or impossible for your child to self-soothe and learn to sleep independently.
If you are interested in doing CIO, or any sleep training with your child, you have two options. 1. Do your research! Learn exactly what you need to know to implement CIO effectively. 2. Hire me to tell you exactly how to do it! There are multiple packages ranging in price from $70-$399 that will give you all the information, tools, and support you need to do this. You are not only paying for the right information to avoid damaging mistakes, but you are also paying for the moral support that comes from not doing this alone. I am here to help you navigate all the side effects that come from not only a lack of sleep but also the worry and guilt that moms feel when we sleep train.
Part of being prepared, also means picking a sleep training method (CIO, check and console, and the chair method) and knowing before hand exactly how you will respond in every possible situation. What will you do if your baby wakes up after 15 minutes of sleeping? What will you do if he is still awake after one hour? What should you do if he is acting tired way sooner than his nap is planned? Know before you start so you have a plan to get through the tough times!
Don't Be Flexible
In other words, be consistent. I totally understand the desire to run in and rescue your baby when she is struggling! Unfortunately, this won't actually help her long-term. Life is about struggling, and I believe parents are there to support our children and help them learn how to navigate hard times rather than to rescue them from hard times. So once you have created your sleep training plan, stick to it! If you are doing extinction, stay out of the nursery! If you have chosen gradual extinction, use a timer to help you stay on schedule! Even though your mommy heart is aching, I can promise you that if you don't follow your plan you will only cause your baby more tears. Consistency will help her learn this new routine faster than anything else.
Don't Do It Alone
I have said it before, and I will say it again: Sleep training is hard! It's hard for the mom, for the dad, and for the baby. And it doesn't matter what method you choose, it will still be hard! Why? Because learning new skills is hard. It is hard for the one learning them. And it is hard for the one supporting. You will be there to support your baby in this process, but have you thought about who will be there to support you? Get a team of supporters for YOU! Make sure they are on the same page as you and that they understand and know your plan. When you want to break your plan, go to them. Let them talk you through it. Allow them to help you stick with your plan.
As a sleep consultant, this is one of the most important parts of my job. Yes, I do give you all the information you need to know how to sleep train your child, and, yes, I can answer any and all questions you have while sleep training. But more importantly I am there to support YOU! I help you work through your anxieties around your baby crying and letting him figure it out on his own.