There are two things I can pretty much guarantee you when it comes to teaching your baby to sleep through the night.
It’s going to be a challenge.
It’s going to be worth it.
I’ve never worked with a family whose baby went right down perfectly on the first night and magically slept through the night from then on. Some sleep through the night on night two, most of them start seeing results on night three or four, but honestly, night one can be a trial!
I’ve also never worked with a family who wasn’t happy with their decision to sleep train once their baby became a good sleeper! The benefits to the whole family are almost indescribable.
First I need to ask you an important question. Do you wish things were different? Some of you may answer, “no”. You enjoy the sweet moments feeding your baby throughout the night. You prefer to co-sleep and have no desire to do anything different. You know what? That’s great! Seriously. If you are happy with how your little one sleeps, I’m not going to tell you to do anything differently.
I'm speaking to those of you who are NOT happy. Families who want something to change. If that’s you, keep reading…
Now that we've established that you know you want to make a change, there is still the question of "is this the right time?" Like all big decisions, the timing is always an important consideration. Here are some tips for deciding whether or not it’s the right time to take on the journey of sleep training your little one.
Are you going to be around?
I’m not at all downplaying the severity of COVID-19, but it does present a unique opportunity. Many parents have found themselves home more than they were pre-COVID. Travel has reduced significantly. This is a unique opportunity that would allow you to be at home while you teach your little one how to sleep independently. I usually recommend that at least one parent is home for two weeks while you’re sleep training, so this might be a great opportunity to take the plunge.
Is the time right for baby?
The best chance for a quick and effective solution to your baby’s sleep issues is to implement changes when they’re healthy and thriving. If your child is dealing with reflux or colic, you’ll want to get that remedied before you start sleep training. Your baby is going to put up some level of protest to the change you are making and you want to make sure it’s only due to the change in their routine, not because of actual discomfort.
Is your partner on board?
If you’re raising your baby with a partner, it’s important that both of you are committed to the process. Support is an essential part of the journey. Without both partners on board, it’s more likely that you might “give in” to a former sleep prop when things get tough. Before you get started, make sure you have the support you need.
Can you stand a couple of nights without a lot of sleep?
I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Changing up someone’s sleep habits is never welcomed. Would you like a forced change to your sleep habits? Me neither. Needless to say, nobody’s likely to get a lot of rest for the first 48 hours of sleep training. If you have an important meeting or a major event coming up in the next few days that you need to be in peak condition for, you might want to wait to begin.
Are the symptoms of sleep deprivation starting to show?
How are you doing? Are you starting to feel depressed, unmotivated, moody, forgetful, clumsy, or unfocused? Have you noticed an increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings?
Believe it or not, these are all symptoms of sleep deprivation and they are VERY real. Having just walked through the newborn stage again myself, let me tell you (as if you need to be told!), sleep deprivation is HARD.
Society tends to make light of the whole “new parent exhaustion”, but the more we learn about the health effects of sleep deprivation, the less of a joke it becomes. If sleep deprivation is affecting you in some significant ways, now IS the time to take some action.
Is the room ready?
There are certainly exceptions, but I do find that putting baby into their own room is the best way to help them learn to sleep independently. A baby’s room should be as dark as you can possibly get it. Put up some blackout blinds or even tape up some garbage bags over the windows. It’s not pretty but 100% darkness will really help with daytime naps and go far in preventing morning wake ups.
Get rid of any mobiles, crib aquariums, or anything with light that claims to help baby sleep. They don’t help. What you want to aim for is a boring room. Baby should see it as a place to sleep, that’s it.
Don’t wait for the “perfect” moment
Now might not be the ideal time to take the initiative to help your baby sleep through the night but remember, there will always be something that isn’t exactly ideal.
Teething, crawling, rolling over, and other developmental milestones shouldn’t impede your baby’s ability to sleep through the night. And you won’t stop seeing advances like this…ever! Our children are constantly growing, changing and learning. Teaching them to sleep well early will only help equip them for these developmental milestones.
If you do feel like the time is right and you’re ready to get started, feel free to reach out! I always offer free evaluation calls and never pressure you to move forward if you don't feel like it's the right thing for your family.
I'd love to get to know you and your family and work together on getting your baby or toddler sleeping well!
It certainly is a big decision and as I said before, it’s not a walk in the park. But once you are on the other side of it, your baby will reap the benefits of good sleep for a lifetime!