There are a couple of guarantees that I can share with you when it comes to helping your baby or child develop their independent sleep skills. It is going to be challenging! And it is going to be totally worth it!
Just so you know, my clients don’t go right to sleep on the very first night and magically sleep through the night from that point on. There are a few kiddos who will start to pull it together on night two, but most of them are showing results and making progress starting on night three. This also means that the first night (or up to three nights) can be a struggle.
Another thing to note, the families I work with look back (after everyone is getting better sleep) and think that their decision to do this was a fabulous idea. Even with all the hard work that they have to put in, they find that the benefits for EVERYONE are almost beyond words.
Like many big decisions though, there are times that seem perfect to act and there are times that seem destined for failure. Here are some of my tips for helping discern between the two and see if NOW is the right time to start this tough but also indescribably worthwhile journey.
Are you going to be home?
I guess this could be considered one positive in this unfortunate Covid-19 situation. Instead of our days being full of social obligations and working out of the house, many parents are spending their days at home with their little ones. This can present an optimal chance to show your little one how to sleep independently and practice those new skills. I usually require clients to have their baby or child at home for all nap and bedtimes for a full two week (or more) period during this process to create the best foundation. And that is likely what is already happening in your situation. I also recommend to not start sleep training within two weeks of traveling – but I’m guessing that is not going to be a big issue right now.
Is the time right for baby?
What I mean is baby healthy and flourishing right now as opposed to feeling under the weather or dealing with symptoms of sickness. If there is some severe influence of reflux or chronic ear infections or something else affecting your child’s overall demeanor, then it stands to reason that it will be affecting their sleep behavior as well. You will want to get those situations remedied, or at least treated as well as possible, before setting up a sleep plan. Since we know there will be some whimpering and protesting (and even a few tears shed) during the beginning of this process, it is best to try and ensure that these are due to the change in their sleep expectations and not due to aches and pains. So if you know that your baby is healthy, you can be much more confident in the cause of their fussing – and how to address it.
Are their accommodations ready?
Weather your baby is sharing your room or in their own, it is important to ensure that they have some independent sleep space of their own. For some families, it is more ideal to have baby in a whole separate room (especially if you are both poorly impacting each other’s sleep), but even in a shared room you can put baby in a corner or spot not right on top of you and your bed. There are a few sleep environment guidelines that I have in place to make the whole process a bit easier for baby … which will make it a bit easier for you. Make sure you baby has a safe sleep space in whatever room they are in; this excludes any kind of inclined positioners or swings and should be a flat bare surface like a crib or bassinet. Also, get that room as dark as you can mange; while blackout shades are great and highly recommended, the same effect may be achieved with trash bags or heavy towels. Last, get rid of any mobiles, crib aquariums, or light-emitting devices that claim to help baby sleep; because I can assure you, they don’t. An ideal sleep environment is actually quite boring.
Are the symptoms of sleep deprivation starting to show?
You may be feeling depressed, grumpy, neglectful, lazy, inept, or distracted lately. You could be experiencing an increase in your appetite and your craving for junk foods. There could even be a negative effect on your sex drive. This is just a sampling of the indications of sleep deprivation and they absolutely should not be taken lightly! Just because society has made “exhausted parents” into a cliché that should be just accepted, there is no need to put your rest and health and well-being to the bottom of the pile. We are learning more and more about the negative effects of chronic poor sleep every day. And if you fall into that category, then the time to take action is sooner rather than later.
Is your partner on board?
Like I said, this is a challenging process. That stress can directly affect interaction with your partner and it is a good idea to be on the same page. There needs to be a level of commitment from both of you for support to be there; being able to rely on each other for it as well as provide it. If that is not present, then the parent who is less committed may get to a point that they try and convince the other to give up on the sleep plan, or even sabotage (purposely or accidentally) the efforts. Having an honest conversation about WHY a change in sleep habits is needed is a great first step.
Can you stand a couple of nights without a lot of sleep?
I mean, it’s not easy to imagine things getting much worse than they are already are (especially if you have been dealing with sleep deprivation for many months or even years). But I want to prepare you for a rough first few nights. In order to stick to your plan, you may find that nobody gets a whole lot of rest to begin with. That’s when your old ways of relying on external sleep props are going to look like a better option to get some rest, when they actually will just delay progress. It there is an important meeting or performance or major even coming up in the next few days, you will want to consider that in your timing decision. You can always delay to next weekend and rally all your efforts to the process then.
Don’t wait for the “perfect” moment
While it is beneficial to weigh these factor when making a big decision like this, there is probably never going to be a perfect time to take on the task of getting your baby to learn to sleep independently. Bad planning for these factors, leading to pausing your sleep plan, will almost certainly cause confusion for you and your child. And the lack of consistency will definitely have a negative effect on the chance of success throughout. However, there is always going to be something that isn’t exactly ideal. Developmental milestones, schedule changes, noisy neighborhoods, and more are going to be present at any given time. They are not going to magically disappear in the near future; and, to be honest, they are not going to necessarily inhibit your baby’s ability to develop and practice independent sleep skills.
So now that you know all that, if you feel like the time is right and you’re ready to get started, let’s get going! Get in touch and we can start putting together a plan for your child right away. I know it’s a big decision, (It certainly was for me when I first made it with my little one) but the outcome is almost indescribably wonderful for the whole family. I’m ready when you are.