Sleep training is stressful. It doesn’t matter what method you choose, what kind of support you have, or how much chocolate you eat, it’s just plain old going to be stressful. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways we can reduce the stress we experience when sleep training. Today I am sharing my all time top six tips to help you sleep train your child with the minimal number of tears possible, from both you and your child.
Start at night; continue with naps.
I am not really sure why there is so much variation out there about when to start sleep training (naps vs. bedtime), but let me assure you the time to start is at bedtime. The need to sleep is far greater at night! Melatonin is found in high quantities in your baby’s body at night. The stage is set for success. Exhaustion is on your side and will help your baby learn to give up the fight and succumb to good old fashioned sleep! Click here to learn more about nap training.
Get on an appropriate schedule!
Even though we are starting at night, we want to make sure the baby has been well rested throughout the day. We want to avoid too much sleep and not enough during the day because both of these situations can prolong fussiness at night while trying to sleep. I frequently see parents putting their baby to bed too late; this creates a baby who has a hard time falling asleep and who will wake more frequently at night. Obviously, the exact nap schedule and daytime sleep amounts can vary from child to child, but here are some guidelines to help:
Daytime sleep shouldn’t exceed 3-3.5 hours.
Night- time sleep should fall between 10-13 hours of sleep.
Five- to eight-month olds should be taking three naps a day.
Six- to fourteen-month olds should be taking two naps a day.
Morning wake time should happen between 6-8 a.m.
At bedtime your baby should fall asleep between 6-8 p.m.
Lay your baby down 15 minutes before you want them to fall asleep.
Sleep training is all about babies gently falling asleep. In order to make this process as gentle as possible, I want you to lay your baby down 15 minutes before you want your baby to be asleep. Your baby should be happy and alert when you lay him down. If your baby is fussing, yawning, or crying you may be putting your baby down too late, which will make falling asleep harder. Try putting your baby to bed earlier or adjust the daytime schedule.
Stay home! No sleeping on the go!
It is vital to your overall success that while sleep training you stay homebound. You want to make sure your baby is only falling asleep in the crib. Any catnaps in the car, stroller, or carrier will make the next sleep time that much more difficult. Once your baby begins to get the hang of it, you can resume your normal activities. The amount of time I recommend staying home depends on your chosen method. If you are doing Cry It Out (this means no checks!), then I recommend 72 hours. If you are opting to perform checks, then I recommend one week. And if you are doing a more gentle method, often called the Chair Method, I would recommend at least two weeks.
I say this ALL the time. I really need to write an entire post on exactly what being consistent means. When it’s time to sleep train your baby or toddler, tell him exactly what your “plan” is and then do exactly as you said you would no matter how your child responds. Plan for the first night to be pretty rough. After all, your child is trying to understand what the new normal will be. This will take some time. In my experience, the rate at which babies and toddlers figure stuff out correlates pretty closely to how consistent and straightforward we are with them. Every action you make sends them a message; be aware of the messages you are sending and make sure they align with your desired results.
Having the right environment for your baby will make a huge difference in sleep experience. It’s not complicated to create exactly what your child needs. It’s only three things. Dark, white noise, and safe. You can find my favorite items and hacks to create the perfect sleep environment here.
Sleep training can be tricky and stressful. If you are thinking of sleep training soon, schedule a free 15 minute consultation where we can discuss various packages for any budget in order to get you the help, answers, and support you need to succeed.