If you know of one sure fire sleep teaching method we’d love to hear from you! In our experience it’s different strokes for different folks. Which method you choose has to sit comfortably with both parents. Parents need to agree to their LO’s “sleep teaching contract” and sign on the dotted line. It can take the slightest sabotage from one parent to undo all the good work the other parent has implemented.
Choosing a sleep teaching method for your LO will depend on many things. Here are a few important points to consider;
- The age and stage of your LO. Knowing your child’s cognitive abilities is key to how you implement sleep teaching.
- Your child’s personality. Are they wilful or full of separation anxiety?
- Choose a time when life is stable. Not when LO has just started nursery or you have moved home. Any life transition is more than enough for LO to cope with.
- Do you have anyone else to consider like neighbours who bang on the wall when LO cries. Or anyone else living with you who might not take kindly to broken night sleep.
- Do you as a parent feel able to commit yourself to sleep teaching. Are you in the right frame of mind? Are you too exhausted at present to follow the plan through?
- Does the thought of LO crying for more than a few seconds fill you with dread? Any sleep teaching will involve some crying – hopefully as little as possible. Think about how it will make you feel and prepare yourself.
OK – if you still feel this is the right time to teach LO sleep how do you choose which method?
The answer is follow your gut! The way you teach your child to sleep has to sit as comfortably as possible with you as parents.
Of course – it will go against everything your heart is telling you to do. But if you never give your child the opportunity to self settle they will never learn. You will have to tell yourself again and again you are doing this with all your love because you know it is in your child’s best interest. And saying, “No” in the middle of the night is really tough. You have to keep your goal in mind and “just know” that it will work.
Recently scientists found that babies as young as 6 months were beginning to understand key words. If you have used the same key words since birth, “It’s sleepy time” your baby of 6 months is beginning to understand those vital sleep cue words.
Bare in mind that children like to feel that you are in control. Telling them, “It’s time for sleep” will actually promote security and lay a positive sleep boundary.
Remember that night sleep and naps are guided by the social cues we give our babies and children. Daily routines and meals will help promote a sleep/wake pattern. If you’re not in any routine it will be a lot harder for LO to create these daily biological rhythms.
Remember to be sensitive to your baby/child’s developmental needs. It really isn’t suitable to try CIO (cry it out) on a baby who has separation anxiety.
If you stick to a sleep plan many parents report a huge improvement in their child’s sleep within 3 – 4 nights. Tweaks to nap schedules can take 3 – 4 weeks. But hang on there! You’ve all been suffering sleep deprivation for months and months – so what’s a few weeks?
ALWAYS get outside support. Granny, friends, neighbours can keep you focussed on the outcome when the going gets tough. If LO is older, nursery teachers or key workers can be invaluable in praising LO’s for being “clever” for sleeping in their own bed all night. Why oh why children take more notice of others than they do of their parents’ praises is a mystery but totally true. Watch your LO glow with pride when he/she is praised by their teacher!
Try as hard as you can to be TOTALLY CONSISTENT with your plan for at least a week. (Although most parents at our sleep clinic report blips – so don’t beat yourself up.)
Don’t expect miracles and a perfect night’s sleep every night. Being realistic about LO’s sleep is half the battle. Many children will naturally night wake until they are 4 or 5 years old. BUT this should involve no more than a quick, reassuring re-settling by a parent. Don’t you think we expect a lot from our children to be without parents/human contact for 11 – 12 hours at night?
If you are really defeated by LO’s sleep always get them checked over by a doctor or nurse. Minor ear infections can play havoc with sleep and seemingly cause no obvious symptoms during the day. Food intolerances, allergies, constipation and reflux to name but a few may all cause sleep difficulties.
Finally – stop watching the clock! You’ll feel so much better not knowing how little sleep you may have had! Take one day at a time and enjoy every waking moment with your child.