If you have ever or will ever talk to me about the sleep troubles your 16 week old all the way up to four year old might be experiencing, I will always ask the questions, "How is your child falling asleep at the beginning of the night?"
You see this question is so important. It doesn't matter what your sleep concern is this is always the first question I will ask. This is the foundation of good sleep. Good sleep starts at the beginning of the night. How your child falls asleep at the beginning of the night tells me what your child is capable of doing in the middle of the night or early morning or at naptime. When a baby can be put in the crib happy, alert, and awake and is able to then get drowsy independently and fall asleep independently then I know that baby or toddler also has the ability to accomplish that in the middle of the night or for nap times. On flip side if your baby is falling asleep with, perhaps a binky in her mouth she will likely need that binky (or even a bottle or boob) in order to transition between sleep cycles. Sometimes this could mean waking as frequent as every 45 minutes at night, or maybe only 3 times at night. It could make early mornings inevitable and naps as short as 30 minutes! See this baby who needs binky to fall asleep will struggle to keep the same sleep conditions throughout the entire sleeping time and wake. The same can be said for us as adults. We fall asleep in our dark rooms, on our beds. Imagine if when you went through a sleep transition something was different. It's normal for us to stir in these transitions, but often we are doing just that and then falling right back asleep with no remembrance of even waking. But if something were different, like say you tried to transition from one sleep cycle to the next but you were no longer in your bed but instead in your tub do you think you would wake completely? Of course you would! You would wake up because that is not how you remember going to sleep. Those are not the conditions you are use to sleeping in and you would get up and go find your bed. Your little dreamer is doing the same thing! She is falling asleep one way and waking completely in the middle of the night to find the same conditions she had at the beginning of the night, whether that is a binky, bottle, rocking, hand-holding, song playing, or any other condition that is not staying present throughout the night.
Essentially, sleep training is allowing your baby or toddler more control over his own sleep. It's letting go of this false notion that we could somehow force our child to sleep by assisting him enough to finally fall asleep. Instead, you can stop assisting and give the control, independence, and development of your child's sleep over to him, much like you would when it is time for your child to begin walking. We've probably all assisted our babies in walking by letting the baby hold onto our fingers as we walk them around the house. Can you imagine what would happen if we kept trying to force our baby to hold onto our fingers when he was ready to walk independently? There would be a lot of resisting, pushing away, whining, crying, and probably lots of falling which might even lead us to believe that our child does in fact need us to help him walk...even though that couldn't be further from the truth.
The same is true for sleep. When your child is developmentally ready to sleep independent, but as parents we keep trying to assist or help, we end up with a baby or toddler who may struggle to fall asleep, or fall into a deep enough sleep to transfer to her bed. Or perhaps your child is waking frequently throughout the night or even waking extra early in the morning. You might even see your little one fighting naps, or taking crap naps of only 30 minutes or less. These can all be signs that your child is ready to be more independent in meeting her sleep needs. She wants to do it herself, but we are preventing her from learning by holding her hand or continuing to assist her.
When you sleep train your number one goal is to allow your child enough space to figure out his own way of falling asleep at the beginning of the night and to initiate sleep for all naps. This is all about developing the skill of being able to transition from completely awake to completely asleep. When your child is being assisted for these steps your child literally doesn't know how to get drowsy or just lay down and sleep. This can take practice, and as your little dreamer practices he will gain the confidence in his ability to fall asleep and do so quickly and without tears or resistance. Secondary goals while sleep training include working through nighttime wakeups or lengthening out naps or sleeping in longer in the mornings. But the only way I can move onto those secondary goals is when I first know the child has the ability to fall asleep independent. First a baby will learn how to roll over and then he can learn to crawl. The same can be said for sleep development. We must first fall asleep at the beginning of the night and then we work on other milestones.
Now that you know how important sleep training is too good sleep it is time to get your fully detailed sleep plan! When I was struggling to get my twins to sleep I was reading everything I could get my hands on about sleep. But it wasn't good enough! Every book I read and guide I saw still left so much for me to determine. I just wanted someone to tell me how to do this so I could do it right! Each of my sleep training plans are designed to help the specific age of your child to take the guesswork out of sleep training. You get to choose the age and sleep training method and I will tell you exactly how to do it. You can check out the guides that have already been released and learn more about these guides here.