If you are reading this, you most probably need sleep! As parents, we think we need to lose the ability to get a good night’s rest simply because we have children. And yes, in the beginning, when a baby physically needs to wake up to feed, this is the case. After that natural necessity falls away, what we (and I mean parent and child) are left with more likely resembles bad habits. This blog is going to steer clear of the co-sleeping subject – to each his own! However, if you would like to embark on ridding yourself and child of bad slumber habits in a gentle manner, this one’s for you.
Are they ready?
It is important to check that your child is ready to be sleep trained. Often, babies younger than 6 months are not physically able to go through the process, even a gentle one. Your best bet is to check with your pediatrician. They will be able to tell you if your child still has the need to wake up for a feed during the night, and can also rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your child not to sleep.
One size does not fit all
Unfortunately, not every sleep training method or tip will fit your child. It is important to follow your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right to you, if your child is responding to something with anxiety, re-look at what you are doing and consider moving on to another tip or method. Children are so vastly different. Some adjust quickly with hardly any qualms. Others are a bit more stubborn and hold onto what they know while kicking and screaming. Only you can judge what is right for your child.
Slow and steady
Gentle sleep training is focused on training in increments. If your child cannot fall asleep alone,start by removing yourself from the equation slowly. If you usually lie with them and tap their back, for the next few nights, lie with them with no back tapping. When they seem to adjust to this, instead of lying rather sit on the bed next to them. Then on the edge of the bed. Next, a chair in the room. Until you are out of the room completely. This applies to all sorts of sleep-hindering habits. If your baby wakes for a bottle (and is past the age that they physically need one) try diluting the liquid little by little. Then try reducing the amount in each bottle. This method helps your child adjust slowly without giving them a shock to their system.
Stick to your guns
Like with most things in life that are good for you, consistency is key! Your first few days may feel like you are getting less sleep than before. Stick to it. Ask your partner to help you, or a friend or family member. Know that while those first few days are tough, your reward is full night’s sleep going forward. Your child knows (depending on age – consciously or subconsciously) that you giving in or going back to the bad habit just once means the training is not serious. So try remain consistent in whatever method you choose.
There will be tears
Even though you are going through gentle sleep training, know that your child will more than likely shed a few tears. You are having them undergo change and no matter how slowly or subtlety you do this, children will often resist. While we are not condoning letting your child cry it out until they are blue in the face, a few tears may be inevitable. The difference between crying it out and gentle is that you can be there to comfort them. If your child is screaming to be picked up, do so. Just don’t rock them. Perhaps put them down sooner than you would have previously. Whatever you did in the past to help them sleep, ease off doing it now and slowly teach them to self-soothe.
This is a biggie. You need to make sure that your child has a relatively calm bedtime routine in order to get their brains and bodies ready to have a good sleep. This includes a similar bedtime every night. Eating dinner or having a feed a good hour before they go to sleep. A calming bath and gentle massage goes a long way. And the kicker? No screen time for 30 minutes before lights out. While we know flexibility is important for parents, if you can stick to the same routine as much as possible, it will go a long way in ensuring your child gets the rest that they need.
Toptots Early Learning SA