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Sleep Training - Parents are Their Child’s Most Important Teacher

As parents, we tend to think it’s a given that we will be perpetually tired while our children are young. Unfortunately, our society has somewhat normalized parental sleep-deprivation. We wear it as a badge of honor... “How many hours of sleep did you get last night?” one parent will ask another. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

While it’s true that our little ones take priority during these early years, it’s also important to realize that sleep and, more importantly, the act of falling asleep is a learned behavior that you can teach your child. Constant soothing, being held while falling asleep, repeatedly popping the soother into your child’s mouth are all behaviors that parents resort to when exhausted.

Parents, I’ve been there, too. My husband and I didn’t know much about infant sleep. But by the time our first daughter turned six weeks old, we knew we had to do something. We did sleep training with our first and she started sleeping six to eight hours straight during the night. When I had my second and third child, I started off on the right foot right from the beginning. I knew sleep was very important for my overall health and well- being and that of my kids.

After working with thousands of families, I often hear parents say:

  • What do I do if the only way to get my baby to sleep is to hold them?

  • My baby is waking so many times during the night.

  • Why does it take hours to get my baby to sleep?

  • I want to sleep train, but I am afraid of the crying.

  • My baby isn’t sleeping well because he is teething, going through a sleep regression, or is gassy.

I am not a huge fan of technology around baby sleep. Fancy video, audio monitors, and sleep apps that are connected to your phone can make already anxious parents even more hyper-sensitive. Excessive technology can be expensive and lead parents to believe there’s a quick fix to the problem. I encourage all of my families I work with to adopt a ‘back to basics’ approach to sleep training, where they can tap into baby’s innate ability to fall asleep.

My top three tips for sleep training babies and toddlers are:

  1. Your child must go down 100 percent wide awake independently; no external props.

  2. Bedtime feed, if there is one, needs to be at the beginning of the bedtime routine.

  3. Consistency is key.

Sleep training doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping through the night, but it does mean teaching your baby to fall asleep independently. For young babies, nighttime feeds are still very important, but the sleep training will allow your baby to fall asleep quickly and easily on their own.

Now, let’s talk about crying. Sleep training doesn’t mean ‘crying it out.’ There are many different methods you can use such as ‘come and go’ or ‘sit and support.’

Some parents are much more comfortable with these methods which work just as well, if not better. Parents have to pick something they are comfortable with doing, so they stick with it; crying it out is usually not the first method of choice.

Many parents are quite surprised that it really only takes five nights to get things going on the right track. Some parents even notice an improvement on night two. Teaching a baby or an infant/toddler to sleep well will most likely involve some amount of protest on the child’s part. Change does not always come easy, but it will get better and parents can most definitely teach their children this important life skill.

If you can teach your baby to sleep well, you will set them up to be a good sleeper for life!

Shan is the founder of Jammy Time Sleep Solutions. She is a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants and a Baby Mozart Top Baby Sleep Consultant in Canada. She trains sleep consultants through her Jammy Time Mentorship Program. Learn more at jammytime.com.

 

 

 

 

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