There are two things I can pretty much guarantee you when it comes to teaching your child to sleep through the night.
It’s going to be a challenge
It’s going to be eminently worth it.
I’ve never worked with a family whose baby went right down on the first night and just magically slept through from then on. Some have slept through the night on night two, most of them start seeing results on night three or four, but I won’t kid you, night one can be a trial.
I’ve also never worked with a family who didn’t feel like they had made a tremendous decision once their baby had learned to sleep through the night. The benefits to the whole family are almost indescribable.
Like many big decisions though, there are times that are ideal and times that are less so. Today, I’d like to offer some tips for deciding whether or not it’s the right time to take this challenging, but oh-so-rewarding journey.
Are you going to be around?
I’m not attempting to find a silver lining in this Covid-19 situation, but many parents are currently either continuing to work from home or not work at all, which does present the opportunity to be at home while you show your little one how to sleep independently. I usually recommend that you're able to prioritize sleep for two weeks while you’re sleep training (ie home for naps and bedtime and only sleep away from home is if your child regularly attends daycare), so this might be a great opportunity to take the plunge.
I don’t advise parents to start sleep training within two weeks of traveling, but I’m guessing that’s not a concern for most of us at the moment since we’re all sticking pretty close to our home base still.
Is the time right for baby?
The best chance for a quick and effective solution to your baby’s sleep issues is to implement the changes when they’re healthy and thriving. If baby’s dealing with (unmanaged) reflux or colic, you’ll want to get that remedied before you start sleep training. There’s going to be some fussing and protest in the first few nights, and we want to make sure it’s only due to the change in their routine, not because of actual discomfort, and if they’re healthy, it’s much easier to pinpoint the reasons for their fussing.
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. This can be a trying ordeal for the first couple of nights and if your partner thinks it’s not a good idea, there’s likely going to be a point where they manage to convince you to give in and resort to whatever “sleep prop” you usually use to get your baby to sleep. So before you get started, make sure you and your partner have both signed on and can rely on one another for support. I'm more than happy to answer questions that come up for the partner before getting started and do ask that both parents (when applicable) be on our consultation call.
Can you stand a couple of nights without a lot of sleep?
I won’t sugar-coat it. Changing up someone’s sleep habits is almost never met with a lot of enthusiasm for the first night or two, so nobody’s likely to get a lot of rest for the first 48 hours. 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 until next weekend to get things underway.
Are the symptoms of sleep deprivation starting to show?
Are you starting to feel depressed, moody, forgetful, unmotivated, clumsy, or unfocused? Is your sex drive starting to wane? Have you noticed an increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings?
These are all symptoms of sleep deprivation and they’re no laughing matter. Society tends to make light of the whole, “exhausted new parent” persona, but the more we learn about the health effects of sleep deprivation, the less of a joke it becomes. If you’re sleep-deprived or feel like you’re on the verge, now’s the time to take some action.
The same is true for your child. Are they fussy or grumpy most of the day? Not eating well, because they fall asleep every time they are fed? Do they catch colds more than other children at daycare? These are also all signs of sleep deprivation to pay attention to in your little one.
Lack of sleep = not good for anyone in the family.
Are their accommodations ready?
Exceptions can be made in certain situations (particularly age), but I really do find that putting baby into their own room is the best way to help them learn to sleep independently, and there are a few decorating guidelines to help baby get the hang of this thing as quickly as possible.
Their room should be as dark as you can possibly get it. Put up some blackout blinds or, barring that, tape up some garbage bags over the windows. It’s not pretty but 100% darkness will really help with daytime naps, falling asleep at bedtime while the sun is still up, and to help prevent early morning wakings.
Get rid of any mobiles, crib aquariums, or light-emitting devices that claim to help baby sleep. (I can assure you, they don’t.) An ideal nursery is flat-out boring. Baby should recognize it as a place to do nothing but sleep, so keep their toys and stuffies in another room.
Don’t wait for the “perfect” moment
Like I said earlier, now might not be the ideal time to take the initiative to help your baby sleep through the night. Getting started and having to stop because of some bad planning is likely going to cause some confusion and minimize your chances for success. But remember, there’s always going to be something that isn’t exactly ideal. Teething, crawling, rolling over, and other developmental milestones, shouldn’t impede baby’s ability to sleep through the night, and they’re not going to stop popping up until your little one’s about ready to graduate from high school.
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! Email me at Hilliary@tranquil-beginnnings.com and we can start putting together a plan for your baby 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.