I’ve said it a lot; there is no one-size-fits-all solution to sleep, but this applies to parenting in general as well. Many parents will read about certain techniques, and even follow specific scripts with older children, but if they don’t work, parents feel like they have failed or there is something wrong with their kid. They try a technique that their friend used, or read a book, or hear about something that is really popular. What they aren’t considering is that it will work for some kids, and it won’t work for others. Or maybe it will work for a little while, until your child catches on, and then you need to change your approach again.
No matter what age, you need to tune in to who your unique child is.
Connection means different things to everyone. I’m not a ‘hug it out’ type of person when I’m upset. I need space. My daughter needs lots of hugs and lots of attention when she is sad. When she is upset, she needs space and then she needs to talk. My husband needs peace and quiet, time to think. Your child is a unique individual with different needs, desires, and fears than you, your partner, and your other children. Just as we wouldn’t expect one technique to work for all adults, we can’t expect that when dealing with children.
Sometimes, to connect with your child, you may need separation. Many parents don’t understand this idea. They think if they are not hugging or physically touching, or at least near their child when they are upset, they are abandoning them. But when a child is more upset, more frustrated, and the situation escalates when you are near them, separation may be what they need. How this is executed will make all the difference. The words you use, your tone of voice, and your body language all matter. This is how you connect.
“I love you. I am going to step outside the room and wait here.”
“I am also feeling frustrated so I am going to take some deep breaths in the hall until I calm down too.”
Obviously, what you say and how you separate will vary depending on the age of your child and their temperament. Connection and compassion are key. You are here to help them, not punish them. When they are acting out, throwing a tantrum, or won’t go to sleep, it is never helpful to make them feel bad about it. For most little ones, they are not doing this intentionally. They need your help to get through this sad or scary or frustrating moment. They need your help in dealing with these completely normal emotions. Notice I said the are normal. We can’t expect our kids to never feel anything other than happiness. This is unrealistic and extremely unfair. They are going to get angry, sad, frustrated, scared, and nervous. How will you help them cope with these feelings? Instead of ignoring them or disregarding them, allow your child to feel the emotion and then deal with it in a healthy manner.
Sometimes your child will have these emotions toward you. They will get angry with you about something, and that’s okay. You are the parent, and they are the child. Your role is not to make them happy all the time or be their best friend, Your role is to create a safe and loving environment in which they thrive and feel supported. And sometimes that means allowing them to feel all their emotions. We also shouldn’t label emotions as “good” or “bad”. You don’t want your child to feel guilty because they are experiencing sadness or anger. These are normal emotions. You want to teach your child how to acknowledge that emotion, and deal with it in a healthy way. Ignoring it is not helpful. Discrediting it is not helpful. Shaming it is not helpful.
Try telling yourself this:
I have a really good kid who just happens to be struggling in this moment. I am their helper, not their punisher. They need my support, not my anger or frustration. Acting in anger causes stress in them which makes them act out more. It creates guilt and shame.
When I relate this idea specifically to sleep, this is why an in-person consult, with one-on-one support, and a custom sleep plan are so important. When one technique doesn’t work, you have an expert to guide you through other options. It’s also important to note that some babies and children need space sometimes. Stepping outside the room when things get hard is often good for both of you. Children sense anxiety and stress in parents. It changes how we act and talk which can change the outcome of the entire situation.
When we model this behavior to our children, we are showing them how to deal with strong emotions in a healthy way. It’s great for our children to know that we also have bad days. We also get frustrated, angry, or scared. We can help them figure out how to handle these big emotions.
They are always watching. They are always listening. What will they learn from you?
This is probably the most commonly asked sleep question for parents, and unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer!
There are many factors involved when attempting to answer this question. It can depend on things like:
How old is your baby?
How much do they eat?
How often do they eat?
Were they premature?
Do they have any health concerns?
But first, it’s important to understand how much newborns are supposed to sleep, and how that changes across the first few months of life.
How much do newborns sleep?
If you have a newborn, the answer is you cannot get them to sleep through the night. If your newborn does sleep through the night, this is not a good thing! You need to talk to your child’s pediatrician immediately. If you are struggling with feeds, reach out to a Certified Lactation Consultant. A newborn needs to eat every 2-3 hours, so sleeping through the night is not conducive to your baby’s growth or your breastmilk production if breastfeeding. A typical newborn is not going to be awake very often, only to feed and then cuddle for a few minutes before falling asleep again. So this means, yes, a typical newborn sleeps most of the day and night, but not several hours in a row. Like I mentioned, they need to be eating frequently, so after they feed (typically every 2-3 hours), they will sleep until they wake up hungry again. This means they may sleep for 1-2 hours at a time, then wake to feed.
How much does a 3 – 4 month old sleep? If your baby is 3-4 months old, it’s possible they may sleep through the night, but most do not quite yet. A 3-4 month old baby that is at least 12 pounds and eating well throughout the day, could give parents a 6-8 hour stretch at night. A baby’s ability to sleep this long at night is also dependent on their daytime feeding, activity, and nap schedule. At this age a baby’s circadian rhythm is ready to be set and they will thrive on a routine. This is the perfect time to reach out to a sleep consultant. Sleep training at this age involves very little crying and most babies are ready and willing to jump right into a sleep routine without much fuss! How much do older babies sleep? Some babies, even at 9 months, may not sleep a full 12 hours overnight without a feed. This is normal. Babies come in all shapes and sizes so we cannot expect them all to have the same needs or patterns. A smaller baby that eats less during the day is going to need more feeds in the night for a longer period of time. A larger baby that has big feeds during the day may start sleeping through the night much sooner than most.
Do I have to use Cry It Out?
Many parents, exhausted after months of sleepless nights, will resort to cry it out at this point. Please note, this is not necessary! No amount of crying will help a baby fall asleep if they are hungry and/or do not have a good daytime nap routine. Small amounts of crying are normal and necessary, but attempting CIO on your own with no other change to feeds or naps usually ends in frustration.
The problem with a question like this (How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?) is parents are often searching for a one-size-fits-all answer and there just isn’t one. That’s why a sleep consultant is so beneficial. They can assess your individual baby’s needs and your sleep goals to create the perfect sleep plan for your family. A sleep consultant that does not ask questions about your baby, your goals, or your parenting style and then doesn’t offer different methods to try based on your answers, is not going to be the most successful option.
As a sleep consultant, you can see why it’s so hard for me to answer this question with a blanket statement. I don’t know you or your baby to give you the best answer for your family. But I know you clicked on this link looking for help, so I’ll give you some very basic tips by age that will hopefully get you on the right path. You can also check out this blog post that lists my favorite sleep products!
Newborn Sleep Tips From day 1 there are some things you can do to get into some healthy sleep habits early. That way, when your baby’s rhythm is ready to be set, it will happen easily because you’ve already been working on these habits.
Put your baby to bed on a hard, flat surface (a crib or basinet). This is not only the safest place for them to sleep, but it gets them used to sleeping in the space where you ultimately want them sleeping later. They can sleep in your room near your bed for as long as you like, but this creates an easy transition when they are ready to be moved to a nursery. They just move along with the crib they are already familiar with.
When you put your newborn down for a nap, make sure the room is dark, cool, and use a sound machine.
When you wake your baby up, make sure to give them light. You’re unknowingly helping to set their natural circadian rhythm. High five!
With newborns, focus on feeds. Don’t worry too much about how much sleep they’re getting and when, just make sure they are getting enough to eat and growing well!
As your baby gets more efficient with feeds and can stay awake longer, see if you can separate feeding from sleeping. Make them two separate activities instead of always happing together. Eat, awake, sleep, repeat!
One way to help soothe your baby to sleep without feeding is Shush Pat.
In these critical newborn weeks, the support of an overnight postpartum doula can be so beneficial for parents. Mothers can heal, bond with baby, rest, and focus on feeding. Fathers or partners can get extra rest, learn newborn care tips, and ways to be supportive and helpful to a new mother. Postpartum doulas are there to offer judgment-free support to every family, day and night.
3-6 Month Sleep Tips Like I mentioned above, around 3-4 months, your baby is ready for a more structured routine. Babies thrive on routine and even if you’re not a schedule-oriented person, you can figure out ways to have a routine instead of a schedule. The easiest way to do this is have a set wake time every morning, a set bed time every night, and try to get 3 naps in per day at around the same time.
You still want to have your baby sleep in the dark and wake up to light.
Feeds are still very important. A hungry baby doesn’t sleep for long.
At this age your baby’s cries should be sounding different to you. Learning to listen to your child and understand what they are communicating to you is key to building a trusting relationship and is critical for sleep success.
6-12 Month Sleep Tips If you’re still struggling with sleep at this point, don’t wait any longer to seek help from a professional and experienced sleep consultant. I promise you, the right sleep consultant will offer your family life-changing results and it won’t be scary! Find someone that listens to you!
This is often when solids are introduced. As your baby eats more solids, milk feeds will decrease. This is normal.
Don’t offer food at dinner first as this disrupts night time sleep while food digests.
Routines are especially important at this age. Babies are really observant and knowing what to expect and when will help with nap time and bedtime.
12 months + Sleep Tips For toddlers, sleep can become even more difficult if they never slept well as a baby. They are now walking and talking and can put up a fight for naps and night time.
Routines are still crucial, if not more so now than ever! A toddler expects things to be the same each night.
Set boundaries and stick to them. It’s important that all caregivers are on the same page.
During sleep consultations I am often asked what my favorite products are. While I have many, parents must realize that my favorite sleep sack or swaddle may not be their child’s favorite!
I will list several products in this blog and tell you why I like them, but you know your baby or child best. Use your judgment to decide which might work best for them, but unfortunately it sometimes means buying a few products to find the right one.
Most parents choose to use a baby monitor, but there are so many options! Function is definitely a factor, but what about safety? Did you know wireless monitors emit radiation? Some of them emit as much as a microwave! There is one monitor brand that stands out above the rest, Bebcare. They have three great options. Check them out and do some comparison shopping of your own!
White noise is important for sleep. In utero, it’s actually pretty noisy! Think back to the sound you heard during your ultrasound. All that loud swishing is what your baby heard 24/7; the sound of your blood flowing and your heart beating. Recreate that level of white noise for your baby when you put them to sleep. Keep it fairly loud so they don’t hear a door slam, a dog bark, or the doorbell ring.
My favorite is the Homedics sound machine. It’s inexpensive, has a couple great sounds (rain and ocean…stay away from the jungle sounds!), and can be used with batteries.
Swaddles and Sleep Sacks
Love to dream
This sleep sack is great for babies who love to suck on their hands. It’s snug enough to help with the Moro Reflex but allows baby’s arms to move so they reach their hands to their mouths.
This soft and stretchy swaddle is made locally here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has great compression around the chest to make baby feel snug and safe, while allowing the legs room for movement and the arm tubes hold baby’s arms down by their side. Here is a tutorial on how the Swaddelini works!
Muslin wraps for swaddling are the most common way to swaddle a newborn. They are inexpensive and effective. For some tutorials on different swaddling methods with a muslin wrap, check out a basic swaddle and a houdini swaddle.
The Miracle Blanket is a great option for babies that can bust out of a normal swaddle. I reference this swaddle above in my houdini swaddle method.
Wake up clock
The LittleHippo Mella clock is great for older kids who tend to get out of bed too early. It uses gentle colors to let kids know when it’s time to wake and a different color when they can get out of bed. There is a face on the front of the clock that tells them if it’s time to sleep (eyes closed). You can choose to use the alarm clock or not, and it has a couple sounds to choose from for a sound machine.
My friend Mitch Shooks, Owner of GRIP Center, recommends magnesium lotion as part of your bedtime routine. Here’s what he has to say:
“One of my favorite tricks to help parents get better sleep is to help them get their kids to sleep better. Magnesium supplementation is one of my favorites to help children fall and stay asleep. When my children were very small, finding a supplement to boost their magnesium intake was impossible until I came across a topical magnesium lotion. It’s the same form of magnesium we get from epsom salts but with much better absorption through the skin. While epsom salts were practical to put in baths for the babies, as they got older it got more difficult to keep up a daily dose.
I have used topical magnesium lotion for years with our kids and almost every client with small children. We make it part of our nightly bedtime routine. When we would change the last diaper and put on PJs we would use half a pump for our littles under 6 months and massage it into their legs and feet. As they got older we would use 1-2 pumps and give them a little back massage with the lotion right before bed. For kids that have a hard time staying asleep and often get out of bed, we found that after a few weeks of regular use they could sleep through the night. It’s completely safe, has zero downsides, and is often the most deficient mineral in our diets. If your littles have a hard time staying asleep, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend using the topical magnesium cream as part of a healthy bedtime regime.”
You can contact Mitch directly to inquire about the lotion.
I get asked alot about the SNOO. I think about half of the clients I work with have used or are using the SNOO for their baby. In theory, it’s amazing! It does all the things a baby needs to fall back to sleep. It gently rocks them and uses sound to soothe. It’s usually the best thing a parent has ever purchased for the first 4-6 weeks. After that, parents say that “it just stopped working for my baby!”. Well…yes and no. At that age a baby is beginning to produce their own melatonin (the hormone that makes us feel sleepy). When a baby begins to produce their own melatonin, they begin to show us some signs of early sleep patterns. This means they are in the beginning stages of setting their circadian rhythm – knowing when it’s time to eat and sleep and be awake.
The biggest downfall with using the SNOO (which isn’t a problem with the SNOO itself) is that parents think because they are using it, their baby is just going to magically sleep all night. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. A baby still needs to have a feeding and sleeping routine or the SNOO does you no good after a while. If a baby’s circadian rhythm isn’t set, no amount of rocking and shushing will get them to sleep. Healthy sleep habits in addition to the SNOO can be a winning combo to help your baby achieve great sleep for several months instead of weeks!
My recommendation for a crib or basinet would be to find one that makes the most sense for your family. If you only have one bedroom and you will be room sharing, a small basinet that can go near your bed would probably work best. (FYI: Most parents tend to do this for the first several weeks or months regardless of how many bedrooms they have.) Whether your baby is in a crib or basinet, in your room or in the nursery, my one and only concern is your baby’s safety. They must sleep on their back on a flat surface with no blankets, stuffed animals, or crib bumpers (unless mesh). Do not let your baby sleep in a swing or bouncy seat that is inclined.
Although a baby isn’t ready to sleep long stretches yet by 6 weeks, there are some really simple things parents can do at this age when they notice sleep going awry.
Some very basic sleep hygiene rules for a newborn can be extremely helpful in setting yourself up for sleep success down the road.
Follow your baby’s cues for sleep. Don’t try to keep them awake for too long. A newborn might only be able to stay awake for 1 hour at a time. Don’t listen to those who tell you that you need to keep a newborn awake for long periods of time during the day so they sleep at night. Sleep does not work that way for a newborn! Let them sleep when they are tired and don’t try to keep them awake for longer than they are able. This causes overtiredness.
Focus on full feeds. The first few weeks with a newborn will be all about establishing feeding habits and bonding. Don’t even think about a schedule at this point. Once you start to notice healthy feeding habits are formed, you can begin to focus on full feeds vs. all day snacking. If your baby can only go 1 hour between feeds, it’s usually a good indication that they are not filling their tummy during a feed. What does this have to do with sleep? Everything! If your baby needs to eat every hour, they will never get more than a 30-45 minute stretch of sleep at a time. If you can make sure every feed is a full feed, your baby will be full and that allows them to sleep longer without a wake up.
Try not to feed to sleep. If you can separate feeding from sleeping and make them two completely separate activities, you won’t ever get to the point where your baby requires a feed to fall asleep. Please note that the first few weeks, there will be no stopping your baby from falling asleep while feeding. This is normal and completely fine! But as your baby can eat more efficiently and stay awake a bit longer, feed in a well lit room to make sure they get a full feed while awake. Then move them to their dimly lit sleeping area to start the bedtime routine. Put them into the crib or basinet drowsy but awake.
Most babies who are around 12-16 weeks and/or 12 pounds are ready for a sleep consultation. Please reach out if you’re struggling to get your baby on a good nap routine or struggling with overnight sleep.
Keep in mind that a sleep consultation does not mean your baby will sleep 12 hours through the night! Some 5 month old babies are able to while some 9 month old babies still need a feed in the night. Our consultations are customized to your baby; there is never one right answer for all.
Together, as a team, we work to find the best solution for your baby and your family as a whole. We work based on your sleep goals and follow your baby’s cues to determine what they need.
To learn more about our sleep consultations, contact us for a free phone call to see if our plans are right for you. We work with clients locally and nationally as our sleep plans are done via phone, email, and text. Once stay at home restrictions are lifted, we will be offering in-person consultations again locally which can also be combined with overnight doula support to allow parents optimal sleep.
Our custom plans give you my full support for up to 2 weeks! I believe this is the only way for parents to be successful. We are there the entire way to offer guidance, assurance, answer questions, and tweak plans when needed based on how your baby is responding. We are a team!
Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Megan Kretz, one of Alyssa’s sleep clients, tells us about her sleep training journey with her daughter at 9 months and again at 19 months. She says that as a working mom, it meant spending a little less time with her daughter, but that it was all worth it because the quality of the time spent together improved drastically. Everyone was happier and healthier! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa, and today I’m excited to be talking to Megan Kretz. You were one of my past sleep clients, and then again recently.
Megan: Yeah, thanks for having me on!
Alyssa: Yes, we’re going to talk about sleep today. So remind me of how this journey began and what was happening before you called me.
Megan: So we reached out to you about when my daughter was nine months old with just all sorts of life problems as a result of my daughter’s sleep habits and our sleep habits, as well. A lot of it was definitely a struggle because we almost created the environment, the problem, that we found ourselves in.
Megan: Yes, unknowingly.
Alyssa: I mean, you don’t realize it when you’re doing it. You’re in survival mode.
Megan: Right. Before the age of eight months, my daughter had had five ear infections, and so we were in and out of doctors’ offices, on and off antibiotics, and because of that, she was in a lot of pain. She was seeking comfort because we could never get her comfortable. So in doing so, we just ended up creating all these really bad sleep habits. Falling asleep with us, on us, whatever we could do to allow mom and dad and baby to get some sort of rest. Up probably eleven times at night breastfeeding, and then wouldn’t take naps during the day; was up all day except for two 45-minute naps at the age of six, seven months old. Where our thoughts were going at that point was that she wasn’t developing properly without proper sleep. We couldn’t go on date nights. Nobody else could put my daughter down to sleep except me, not even her dad. We couldn’t go two hours for a movie on the couch without my daughter waking up, and it was getting to a point where, looking into the future, I don’t know how we would have gone much longer with the way that things were. And I had heard about you guys before, and finally I ended up going on the website, and I saw that you guys offer the sleep consultations. I was hesitant at first, but oh my gosh…
Alyssa: Didn’t she take to it, like, the first night?
Megan: Oh, yeah! The first night when we went through all of that — but I felt super needy with you.
Alyssa: No, you weren’t at all!
Megan: Texting you all the time! The first night, we had to go in and out, in and out a lot, but by the second night — she was almost there on the first night, and the second night, she was like, bam, done. She was like, I got this, Mom! I’m going to be your sleep champ from now on!
Alyssa: And kids always surprise parents. They want to sleep so bad, and once we just get them on a schedule, it just happens so much more quickly and easily than a lot of parents expect.
Megan: A lot of other working parents might find themselves in the same situation or scared on what they’re going to end up doing. I learned that so much of her night sleep is dependent on her daytime sleep and her nap schedule. She went to a daycare facility, and they had also used the same crutches we had to get her to sleep, and I was just nervous about that whole transition and really needing her to take proper naps in order to accomplish what we needed to at night. And in the end, we sorted out some schedules. We had some people that came and helped us and pulled her out of daycare for a week.
Alyssa: Yeah, I remember that. You had somebody stay at the house, because that first week is pretty critical, and when you have two parents working full time, you can’t just take a week off.
Megan: No, you can’t!
Alyssa: To have your baby sleep. That’s not feasible. But yeah, you had a trusted babysitter come over, right?
Megan: Yeah, and I don’t remember how many days it was.
Alyssa: Oh, you had a doula come, too, for a couple days, didn’t you?
Megan: No. Well, you…
Alyssa: Must have been another client. Sometimes they’ll hire a doula to come stay either during the day overnight.
Megan: I remember you said there are so many days that it takes of consistent behavior development to actually –
Alyssa: Until it becomes a habit.
Megan: Yeah, until it becomes normal for them. So we just had to get through that, and we did.
Alyssa: Well, and especially because she was going to daycare. Daycare can totally muck things up, especially if it’s a large one and not an in-home daycare but a large one where they have 20 kids and maybe 15 of them are in the nursery, and they’re just, like, this is naptime, and if they’re not sleeping, we get them up, because we don’t want them waking the other babies up.
Megan: Well, that’s what part of the problem was is that she was in the nursery, and there’s 12 other babies in that room, and they all share a crib room together. And they couldn’t get her to sleep, and then she was waking up other babies. It was all downhill from there.
Alyssa: So they just say, all right, nap’s done.
Alyssa: But after that five days of a consistent pattern, then she’s going to go back to daycare, and her body’s already on the schedule and already has a rhythm set, and it’s much easier to go back into that daycare environment and tell them, now she sleeps from this time to this time, and if she wakes up early, here’s what you have to do.
Megan: And daycare, you know, they made their own adjustments for what worked for them, too, so I gave them our schedule, but then they actually removed her from a crib and put her on a toddler sleep mat. They’re raised little beds, and I had to get a doctor’s note, but at the age of ten months, nine months, she was actually the only child in the room for months that slept on a cot.
Alyssa: Oh, so she was in her own room?
Megan: She wasn’t. She was blocked off from the other kids. So yeah, she was in a room by herself, but she was kind of blocked off with some shelving units so the other kids didn’t get all up in her business when she was sleeping. But she was on a cot, and that worked best for her because they found that she was anxious in the room with all the other kids in the cribs because all of her past memories were coming up, so changing her sleep environment was also to let them work according to the sleep plan, as well. So it ended up working well that way, and she ended up moving up into the next toddler room already on the cot where most babies have to go through this learning period for that.
Alyssa: So I remember in the beginning, you kind of struggled. You had this tug-of-war within yourself of, gosh, she’s sleeping amazing now, but now I miss these cuddles that I get at night.
Megan: Yeah, I remember that!
Alyssa: It was like, we have to find a balance here. It’s hard to go from being used to her there all the time, but that’s part of the problem is that she’s there all the time and nobody can sleep.
Megan: And at night when I’m giving her cuddles, she’s giving me cuddles, too.
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s hard to just let that go.
Megan: And then don’t forget about the readjustment to milk supply. That was a big thing, as well.
Alyssa: Yeah, breastfeeding changes. Your body eventually fixes itself…
Megan: But it takes a little while and some uncomfortable days.
Alyssa: Yeah, you’ll wake up leaking everywhere. I’ve told moms to sleep on towels for a couple nights if needed!
Megan: Oh, yeah, been there, done that!
Alyssa: Yeah, so we talked about, early in the morning when she wakes up, get some cuddles in, and then spend the weekends, like Saturday and Sunday mornings, just make that cuddle time in bed to get all that oxytocin, all these great hormones that you guys are sharing when you get these cuddles.
Megan: It’s funny that you say that because it’s almost a tradition now that she’s older. She calls her pacifier her “oh, no” because when she can’t find it and she’s upset, it’s an oh, no situation. So she has to leave her “oh, no” in her crib, and then we go and get a bottle of milk, and I ask her if she wants to snuggle. Sometimes I get her out of the crib and she’s like, “Snuggle!” because that’s our time together. So we do that when we’re reading books before bedtime now, because we no longer breastfeed or give her a bottle before bed, so we just read books and snuggle for five, ten minutes, and then in the crib she goes. And then in the morning it’s a good cuddle time, and I wake up a little bit early and get ready before she’s up so that I’m not rushed for time to get ready. Either my husband or I will devote that time to her.
Alyssa: That’s really smart. I was just talking to somebody earlier about the fact that sometimes kids are just waking up because they want to see you, so especially as a parent who works full time, you already have this guilt of, I haven’t seen my child all day, and now they’re sleeping all night by themselves, which is great, but when do I get to see them? When do I get to cuddle them? So when you do a nighttime routine and then in the morning, put that phone away. Don’t make the TV part of this process. Put that kid on your lap; cuddle; kiss. Read the book, whatever. Just get all the snuggles in you can. They get 30 minutes of your undivided attention, and they don’t know if it’s any different than eight hours. To them it’s just that mom and dad are here and loving on me, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Megan: I agree, and it was hard being a working mom when we were going through all of this because the time with her became less because the night wakings weren’t there. But the quality increased. Her behavior got a lot better. And I am a better mom by being a working mom because I can devote my attention better if I have some things that I do on my own, if I have a work life, as well. So I didn’t want to give that up, but readjusting and figuring out the quality time was a lot better when she was rested and herself.
Alyssa: That’s the key, yeah.
Megan: And it really shines this whole idea even more when we recently went on vacation, and it was a struggle because we were in a new environment. She was in her own bed, but we had to share a room with her, and although all that went fine, her behavior was like she was truly in the terrible twos. She’s only 21 months old now, but everything changed because we tried to stick to the schedule, but you’re on vacation, so there’s only so much that you can do. So immediately on the day that we returned from this week-long vacation, and she’s sleeping in her own environment and we’re right back to the same routine, it was immediate behavior change, and it just solidifies even more how important a sleep plan is and how important it is to make sure that they get the sleep that they need.
Alyssa: They thrive on it, and we think that we’re doing them a favor by letting them stay up late to play with their friends. Or the 4th of July; it’s not even dark for fireworks until 10:00; what am I going to do? We’re not doing them or ourselves any favors by letting them stay up because usually they’re a wreck for two days after that. They’re not going to sleep in the next day. More than likely. They’re going to be up early the next morning. It affects them so opposite of the logical thinking. But yeah, that’s the key. You’ve hit the nail on the head; you have to readjust and understand that you have less time together, but it’s more quality time, and her entire world has changed. She’s happier, healthier, developing at a better rate because we all need sleep for that to happen.
Megan: It’s funny that you brought up the whole fact that readjusting and going to parties and not keeping them up late and whatnot — it’s funny because it’s easy for my husband and I to say sorry, we’re leaving at 7:30 or 7:00 or 6:30, whatever we have to do, to get home and start the bedtime routine. The hardest part about all of that is not leaving early; it’s convincing your family members and your friends that this is what you’re going to do and that this is important to you and your family, because it’s almost like they’re the ones pressuring you to alter your child’s sleep schedule. So that’s come up a few times, especially around the holidays when your family members do holiday parties or gift openings starting at 6:00, and bedtime routine starts at 6:30. You’re like, sorry, guys, we can’t come.
Alyssa: Right, unless you want to bring a pack and play and put her to bed there.
Megan: Which we’ve done. When she was young enough, we did that, and that was fine. We do that sometimes with friends where we go over and put her to sleep in the pack and play. We try to avoid that as much as possible, and now that our friends have kids or are having kids, we schedule things at 2:00 in the afternoon instead. Dinner parties go from 3:00 to 7:00; they don’t go from 7:00 to 11:00.
Alyssa: Yeah, that is the hardest part, because you have to be so consistent, and when you get those dirty looks or the weird looks from your friends, like why do they always have to leave so early, it makes you kind of feel bad, but you know it’s worth it. You’re doing this because it’s worth it.
Megan: Yep, it is.
Alyssa: So then you called me again recently…
Megan: I did!
Alyssa: She was sleeping great, and then you made a pretty big transition. Tell me about that.
Megan: Yeah. She was always a little bit ahead of the other kids as far as walking and crawling and climbing and running, so she eventually started climbing out of her crib, and we started getting very nervous about possible injuries. Quite a few times, on the video in her room, we’d see her sitting on the edge of the crib, just teetering there. My husband really pushed for a change because we can’t be doing this. So we actually ended up moving her into a big kid bed at the age of 19 months. And I’m trying to take what I learned with you from when she was nine months and trying to apply it to a child that’s now a toddler. And it wasn’t working. And that’s when we contacted you and learned about how kids don’t learn about delay of gratification until they’re three years old. So she doesn’t understand what it means when we tell that if you stay in bed all night, we get special time together in the morning.
Alyssa: It makes no sense. She doesn’t understand that concept whatsoever.
Megan: No. And she can get in and out of the toddler bed. Yeah, she may not be falling out of it now, but my husband and I went back to doing whatever we’ve got to do to get this child to sleep. So her nighttimes got shorter because we ended up staying in bed and laying with her until she fell asleep. Our bedtime routine went to two hours; from twenty minutes to two hours. And then she wouldn’t sleep a full eleven hours at night, and then her nap became elongated to three hours. We were on a waitlist for a daycare at the time, so we had to hire a nanny for a couple months. And it was funny because we were paying her for an eight-hour day when our daughter is sleeping for three of them! Just kind of a funny fact. But we went right back to, oh my gosh, what do we do? A year later, I’m finding your email address and saying help! Is there anything that you can help us with? And then when you sent us our new sleep plan and we saw that there are clear ways to help a child stay in the bed and to go right back into a routine for this next stage of a child’s life, and that babies aren’t the same as toddlers. It was eye-opening again when we saw the second plan, and you had so much good information in there!
Alyssa: I always wonder if it’s too much.
Alyssa: I geek out on sleep information, so I give my clients so much information. I think it’s imperative!
Megan: My husband even brought up later on about something else in the sleep plan that wasn’t related to sleep. Oh, it was snacking! You had said — and it’s so true. A lot of times, we were just allowing her to snack a lot, and we didn’t have set meals, necessarily. Yeah, she ate meals with us, but we allowed her to snack more than we snacked, not even thinking about how that might be tied into sleep or protein intake at certain times of the day and how that aids in sleep patterns. We had no idea. I was giving her a snack, and my husband actually said to me, don’t you remember reading that on Alyssa’s sleep plan?
Alyssa: That’s great! That’s what it’s there for!
Megan: Yeah, it was a lot of great information. And there’s just something special about receiving this information from a local person, from you, a person, and not a book I just pulled off the shelf at the library that might be outdated. You really cater our sleep plans to us, to the client and to the child, and having come in to our home, you knew us. You looked for things that might be distractions for quality sleep and taught us how to do a proper nighttime routine. Although it was a lot of information at one time, it was well-received, and we felt very — I don’t know if qualified is the right word, but we got the information we needed to then make good, informed decisions.
Alyssa: And be confident.
Megan: Yes, we got the confidence.
Alyssa: Even though I’m with you — you’re texting me all the time; I’m responding back; I’m there for guidance — but I’m not there forever. So that’s why I want you to have enough information that you can say, oh, okay, she’s twelve months now. Oh, yeah, she told me that this would probably happen around 12 months. Because I learned this when she was nine months, that’s what this means at 12 months. You have to be able to troubleshoot yourself or you’re just going to keep calling me every three months at every developmental milestone, saying what do I do? Help!
Megan: And it’s funny because we went back to your sleep plan multiple times between 9 months and 15 months to just look and what did she say when she reaches this age group; how much sleep will she need; what are her naps supposed to look like? So we definitely referenced it. But being in a new bed, when all that came up… And the plans themselves were very different.
Alyssa: Yeah, sleep is very different for a two-year-old versus a nine-month-old.
Megan: Yeah. But now, after day one of the new sleep plan, we got her back in the crib. It was like she never forgot it. She was in the big girl bed for probably four weeks.
Alyssa: So you’re thinking, oh, great, even if we try this plan, she’s ruined. We’re going to have to start all over.
Megan: Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought, but no, her sleep habits came right back. We were able to get her nap back down to a normal, respectable time, and she’s back to sleeping eleven, twelve hours at night with no interruptions. We can go back to watching movies and having quality time together with my husband.
Alyssa: And for date nights, babysitters are easy?
Megan: Oh, babysitters can put her sleep again. I’m not asking a babysitter to sleep with her for two hours.
Alyssa: “You’re going to have to lay in this bed with her, sorry!”
Megan: And then ever so slightly, quietly creep out as quiet as possible!
Alyssa: It’s like the ninja role. Like, you kind of slowly roll of the bed, and you keep a hand there for pressure and you slowly lift your hand up.
Megan: Make sure the dog is quiet when you’re moving around so its nail don’t click-clack on the hardwood floors and wake her up! Oh, I better put some WD40 on that door! Yeah, those were all things that were happening and going through our head. I’m laughing and I’m making a joke about it, but those were legitimate concerns of mine when we had her in the big girl bed and all of this was going on. Call me crazy, but that’s how you feel when you and your child aren’t getting sleep.
Alyssa: Well, you are a bit crazy. I mean, sleep deprivation does not make for a sound mental state!
Megan: And now I just can’t believe how much you guys have been able to help us. Maybe my experience can help other people. I’ve referred quite a few people over your way.
Alyssa: Thank you!
Megan: I just can’t reiterate enough how much you guys helped us and how worth it it is.
Alyssa: it’s definitely a service that I could literally call life changing.
Megan: Yes! I would call it that, as well! In fact, I think I’ve left reviews stating that!
Alyssa: Well, if you had one thing that anyone who has pushed off sleep training would need to hear, what do you think it would be?
Megan: It’s worth it. It is what’s best for baby. It’s what best for you and your family unit.
Alyssa: And what if they’re scared? Sleep training just causes anxiety. Those two words; people just think oh, this just sounds like it’s going to be a miserable experience. My child is going to be left alone; they’re going to have anxiety.
Megan: But she wasn’t left alone. The plan you gave us; that wasn’t the case, and you told me right from the beginning, before I even paid for anything, that we will do a plan according to what is comfortable for you. And I was totally okay with the plan. And what’s the worst that could happen? She wakes up 12 times at night versus 11? No, that’s not even going to be a possibility. We were so far down the rabbit hole that there was no getting deeper. We were hitting bedrock. So it could only get better at this point, and it did. It was a complete 180.
Alyssa: Well, I loved working with your family both times. You probably won’t need me again because she’s great. Don’t put her in that toddler bed until she’s three.
Megan: We won’t!
Alyssa: You’ll know when she’s ready!
Megan: We will definitely wait. Now we have just over a year before we have to make any new changes to sleep, but now I have the tools, too, to be able to transfer her to a big girl bed
Alyssa: Yeah, did I give some info to plan for?
Megan: You did, yeah!
Alyssa: Oh, good. I figured I did, but…
Megan: But this isn’t the end, Alyssa! I’m sure that we will see each other again and talk to each other again!
Alyssa: Well, on that note — because you might be adopting?
Alyssa: So I’m going to talk to you again at a later time about what an adoption process looks like because I don’t know, and a lot of our listeners and parents probably don’t know and maybe are even thinking about it but might be scared. SO we’ll talk about that next time.
Megan: I’d love to help you with some insight on there.
Alyssa: Thanks for joining us!
Megan: Yeah, thank you for having me!
Alyssa: If you have any questions for us, you can email as at email@example.com. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks, and remember, these moments are golden.
Chris Emmer, a former client, talks about her sleep journey with daughter, Sam, and working with Alyssa. She started when Sam was six months old and cannot believe she waited so long to seek help. In a sleep-deprived fog, she finally called in “the big guns” for help! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa, and I am so excited to be talking with Chris Emmer today. Hello, Chris!
Alyssa: You were a client of ours. You did birth, postpartum, and then sleep with me. So we’re going to focus in on sleep today.
Chris: Let’s talk about sleep, the most important thing!
Alyssa: So when did you realize that you needed help with sleep? How old was Sam, and how did the beginning weeks or months go with sleep? Were you like, “Oh, yeah, this is great, no problem”?
Chris: Okay, definitely wasn’t, “Oh, yeah, this is great.” It’s hard to say because honestly, those first couple of months – I call them the blackout period. I kind of don’t remember what happened. I know I wasn’t sleeping. I know I cried a bunch, and I was breastfeeding, like, 24/7. But I don’t know; it’s all such a blur in those first couple months, and I remember doing a lot of research on everything. So before I had her, I did a lot of research on car seats and cribs and diapers and all the things you buy, but I did zero research on sleep and breastfeeding – the two most important things! So after she was born, I felt like I was doing a crash course in how to have a kid. And after doing a lot of internet searches and downloading ebooks and taking webinars, all these things, I was feeling so overwhelmed with information. My baby’s not sleeping. I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Like, I just need to talk to a person! And that was when I reached out to you.
Alyssa: And how old was she? Six months?
Chris: I think she might have been six months, yeah.
Alyssa: That’s what comes to my mind.
Chris: I think so.
Alyssa: So do you feel like you had six months of just pure sleep deprivation? You were just gone?
Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. There was no day and no night. And I remember very vividly sitting in my chair in the corner of the nursery breastfeeding, and when I got out of the bed and went to the chair, watching my husband just sprawl out and take up the entire bed, and just shooting daggers out of my eyes at him. And sometimes coughing loudly. “How was your night?” I would say to him in the morning. But yeah, we just had no strategy was the thing, and there was a ton of crying on her part, as well. She wasn’t just having a fly by the seat of her pants good time. She was not a happy camper, either, so we were like, okay, let’s step this up a level. We’ve got to do something here.
Alyssa: Right. I think the crying part is a big part of sleep deprivation for the child that the parents don’t think about, because they’ll call me and say, “I don’t want to do cry it out.” I’m like, “Good, I don’t do cry it out. But you have to understand that crying is just a healthy part of how a baby communicates, and in these sleep-deprived kids, your baby has done a heck of a lot more crying than they’re going to do while we get them on a schedule, and then there will be no crying.” So if you think about, cumulatively, how many hours of crying she did over those past six months because she was sleep deprived, and maybe you have to deal with a little bit of it during sleep training. I want to kind of hear about the journey from six months until now because we had some ups and downs with sleep. We’d get her on track, and then a new developmental milestone would happen and you would be like, “Help! What’s going on?”
Chris: That’s me, frantically texting Alyssa! So around six months – I honestly think before that, she wasn’t taking a single nap during the day, and when I talked to you, you were like, okay, psycho, you should be doing actually three naps a day. Here’s what time they are; here’s how they go. And then in the beginning, you gave us the shush-pat technique, which was what we did for a while there. And it ended up working super well. I think before we decided to call in the big shots, which is you, we were like, oh, sleep training; what a scary word. We better stock up on wine for the weekend we do that! You know, we thought it was going to be this traumatic thing, and we would both be scarred, and our child would be emotionally scarred. But she cried less the first weekend we did sleep training than she did any normal weekend when we weren’t doing it. Like, significantly less. I think she only cried for 15 minutes the first time, and then she fell asleep. Like, what??
Alyssa: I remember you saying, “How is this possible? What did you do to my child? Whose baby is this?”
Chris: Yeah, what’s happening? Did you possess my child? So yeah, we were just shocked that it worked almost right away, and it was not traumatizing whatsoever. What we were doing before was much more traumatizing, and we were doing that every single day! So once we had a few successes, it became much easier to stick to a more planned-out schedule, so that was around six months.
Alyssa: I remember the best was the photo you sent of me – I think she was now taking regular naps. It was the third or fourth day in a row, and you were like, oh, my God, she’s an hour through this two-hour nap. We’re going to hit the hot tub. And you sent me a picture of two champagne glasses on the edge of the hot tub, and you were like, yes! We did it!
Chris: That’s one of my favorite parenting memories! It was the greatest success because really, I feel like sleep is probably the most important thing.
Alyssa: I think it is!
Chris: Yeah, especially in terms of sanity for mom and dad. My emotional state was not stable when I was super sleep deprived. I was just forgetting everything, crying at the drop of a hat. It really affects you.
Alyssa: On so many levels. Your relationship; your child’s not happy, so you can’t even bond with your child effectively because you’re both sleep deprived and unhappy, and then you’re like, why are you crying? I don’t know what to do, and you just want to sleep, and we end up getting in these really bad cycles of, well, I just want to sleep, so let’s just do this, whatever “this” ends up being, whether it’s cosleeping or breastfeeding or holding or rocking or driving in the car. You just kind of get into survival mode.
Chris: Yeah. And I would just nurse her to sleep. I think I spent – oh, my God. I feel like I spent the entire summer sitting in my nursing chair trying to breastfeed her to sleep and then slow motion trying to drop her into the crib, and then she would just wake up one second later, and I’d be like, ugh, that was an hour and a half of work, and now she’s wide awake! So yeah, that was the beginning.
Alyssa: And then I didn’t hear from you for a little while, and then probably maybe eight or nine months, you think, she had another development milestone where she was sitting up or something?
Chris: Yeah, she started sitting up and then she started crawling. I remember when she first started crawling, that was a huge change because she would just do laps around her crib. She was running a marathon in there, and I would just watch her on the monitor and be like, oh, my God, I can’t shush-pat her anymore. She hates that!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s way too stimulating.
Chris: Yes, which I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t text you again! I was still in there trying to shush-pat her for hours.
Alyssa: She’s, like, get away from me, lady!
Chris: She’s like, all right, chill, Mom; stop! So at that point – what did we do at that point? We stopped shush-pat. Oh, we started the timed-out interventions.
Alyssa: Yeah, just going in after a certain amount of time, increasing intervals. Yeah, and I think that worked the first day.
Chris: The first day, yeah. I think the longest that I went was 15 minutes, and again, it’s like – I previously had thought 15 minutes of my baby crying – sounds like hell! But once it was happening, I was like, oh, wait, I do this all the time. Like, I’ve done this a million times. I’ll actually just put away the dishes and make a snack and then, oh, look at the monitor – she’s asleep! It was super easy, and she got the hang of it almost immediately. So once I stopped trying to shush-pat her and wake her up from her ability to put herself to sleep, it was not a big deal anymore. But yeah, same thing; that milestone came up and totally changed the sleep game.
Alyssa: So where is she at now?
Chris: Oh, my God, she sleeps through the night!
Chris: I’m so happy!
Alyssa: And how many months is she?
Chris: She’s going to be 11 months next week, yeah, and she’s been sleeping through the night every night for, I don’t know, a couple weeks at least.
Chris: Yeah, it’s amazing. And she goes down super easy for her morning nap. It’s not even an issue anymore. I remember I used to, in the beginning of the week, I would count how many times I would have to put her down for naps that week, so there were, like, 3 per day, 5 days in the week – the week where I’m home alone – so that would be 15 nap put-downs, and I would be, like, okay I’m at 6 out of 15. I can do this! And now it’s like, it doesn’t matter who puts her down for a nap because I just set her in the crib.
Alyssa: Yeah, her body just knows it’s time. She doesn’t fight it. Incredible! Yay!
Chris: I know, it’s a game changer!
Alyssa: And you’re feeling good?
Chris: I’m feeling good!
Alyssa: Your husband’s feeling good?
Chris: Yeah, well, he got to sleep through the night for a long time.
Alyssa: Yeah, not that it affected him too much, right?
Chris: I was just watching him. But I wondered this: how long do you think it takes after your baby sleeps through the night for you to feel well rested again?
Alyssa: That’s funny because a lot of times we’ll do sleep consultations, and we’ll say, how did you sleep? And I had one dad tell me that he heard phantom crying all night and couldn’t sleep because he was just so used to waking up. I think their babies were 9 or 11 weeks or something. So two months straight, you know; it’s not six months, but it’s two months. It took them a good week or so to get back into their own groove. So you just need to figure out your groove again. So maybe you’re trying to stay up too late.
Chris: I don’t know. I do still wake up to any little noise on the monitor. I’m like, oh, is she okay?
Alyssa: So turn the monitor off.
Chris: What? You can do that?
Alyssa: Yeah! As soon as my daughter started sleeping through the night and was old enough that I was like, she’s so fine – monitor off. Actually, monitor not even in my room anymore, and earplugs in. She’s just down the hall. If she starts crying, I’m going to hear her, but I don’t want to hear every little wakeup. I don’t want to hear every little peep, and I still do that. Earplugs in.
Chris: Oh, my God. That’s genius. Because if she’s really crying, we can absolutely hear her.
Alyssa: You’re going to hear her, absolutely.
Chris: But yeah, the little rumbles in the night wake me up, and then I’m like, oh, is she okay? And then I just watch the monitor like it’s a TV show.
Alyssa: No, she’s good. She’s good. Yeah, you’re causing yourself more anxiety than you need by checking that monitor.
Chris: Yeah. Okay!
Alyssa: They’re lifesavers in the beginning and especially during training because then you don’t have to get out of bed. You can go, oh, she’s just rustling around; okay, she’s calming down; okay, she’s back asleep. And you didn’t have to get out of bed. But now that she’s steady and she’s got a nap schedule and she’s sleeping through the night – she’s good.
Chris: You’re going to change my world!
Alyssa: Go buy some earplugs when we leave!
Alyssa: Yeah, because you don’t want to wake up at every little peep. And as a mom, it’s just that we’re always going to do that now. Every single little noise: oh, are they okay? Are they okay? They’re okay.
Chris: I love that.
Alyssa: And my daughter is six now. I always check in on her. I’ll put her to bed or my husband will put her to bed, and I still, before bed, check in on her once or twice before I go to sleep because I just like that peace of mind. I’m going to sleep now. I’m putting my earplugs in. I want to get a good night’s rest. She’s okay.
Chris: Wow. When do you think they started making video baby monitors?
Alyssa: I don’t know. Good question!
Chris: Because I often wonder, like, what did my mom do?
Alyssa: Not that long ago.
Chris: Not that long ago?
Alyssa: I think it’s kind of new, like within the past decade. Yeah, because they just had the sound ones when we were little.
Chris: We survived!
Alyssa: Yeah! So what’s one tip you would give somebody about sleep training?
Chris: Oh, my God. Get a plan ASAP!
Alyssa: Don’t wait?
Chris: Don’t wait! I honestly sometimes want to have a second kid just so I can nail it on certain things that I really struggled with this time, and one of them is sleep. First of all, I would have gotten out of her room. We slept in her room, a couple feet away from her, until January 1st. She was born in June!
Alyssa: That’s eight months!
Chris: We slept in the same room as her for eight months! Is that crazy?
Alyssa: Yeah. Well, the AAP says that you should room share for twelve months. That’s their safe sleep guideline. For most parents, that’s not conducive to their lifestyle. You have to get up early for work; you have older kids. But some people do room share for six to twelve months. It does make sleep training a little bit more difficult because you’re hearing them and they’re hearing you. So it’s really up to the parent. It’s not crazy that you did it, but I think it definitely didn’t help your situation.
Chris: Right. Yeah, I found that we were doing exactly that. We were both keeping each other up all night. So when we got out of the room, that was a huge game changer, but just getting even more consistency for naps and just having a game plan instead of just all the crying for nothing. You know, all the crying for just a hot mess and no nap. It just feels like a waste, so then when it was, like, a few minutes of crying for a reason, it was so much easier to do because I knew it was for her good, and for my good, as well.
Alyssa: Well, and crying just to cry does you no good. I have clients come to me and say that they’ve tried cry it out; they’ve let her cry for two hours. I’m like, that was for nothing. That’s absolutely for nothing. And that is doing your child harm and giving her unnecessary stress. You have to have a plan, and you have to have somebody, an expert, telling you: here is the plan. Here’s how it’s going to work. Here’s how we execute it to get good results, because if you just try it on your own, it is all for nothing. And it’s so hard because people give up. Parents just want to give up. “I tried it; didn’t work. I give up. I throw in the towel. I’m just going to give in and do X, Y, and Z.” So it’s really hard. Or people will say, oh, I did this online course. I’m like, well, that online course doesn’t know you. They don’t know your baby. They don’t know your parenting style. They don’t know what you’ve tried. They don’t know what works and what didn’t work. So it’s really hard.
Chris: I downloaded, like I said, a million ebooks; did all these online courses; like, everything. And it just, like you said, it wasn’t my baby. I read it, and I was like, yeah, it sounds awesome to be able to do that, but my baby would never in a million years do that. So I read all the things that I was supposed to be doing, and honestly, those just made me more anxiety because it made me feel like more of a failure.
Alyssa: Right. “I did it, and I’m still failing, so what is wrong?” Or maybe that method would have worked, but they didn’t tell you how to execute it for your baby.
Chris: Yes, or how to troubleshoot. Like, okay, I went in and did this, and now I’m out of the room and she’s doing this – what’s next? And when you just have a book, for me, what would be nice is to go in and grab her and breastfeed her. Let’s get a boob in her mouth and see what happens!
Alyssa: Well, that’s why having my one-on-one support is great because when that happens, you can text me and say, oh no! This is not supposed to happen; what do I do? And I can say, yes, this is supposed to happen; you did totally find; you did exactly what you needed to do. Let’s just wait it out for five minutes.
Chris: Yep. The text message support over the weekend – we did that twice, right?
Chris: That was the 1000% game changer. Like, I cannot even recommend that enough because those minutes when you’re feeling like you’re going to break, you know? You’re like, oh, I don’t know what to do; I’ve got to go in there! Instead, I would text you, and you would say, you got this! One more minute! Or you’d say give it ten more, and if it doesn’t work out, then go get her. And I’d be like, okay.
Alyssa: Or let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work again tomorrow, we’re going to think of a plan B.
Chris: Yeah. The text message support was the absolute game changer, and just having a human also holds you really accountable because I knew that you were going to –
Alyssa: Yeah, I was going to text you and say, hey, what’d you do last night? How did it go?
Chris: Exactly, yeah.
Alyssa: Did you move out of that room?
Chris: Yeah, so the accountability to actually implement the things that you’re learning makes it so that you can’t back out without being a liar!
Alyssa: Right. I’ll know! I’ll be checking your Instagram feed! Make sure you’re not lying to me about this!
Chris: But yeah, that was the biggest and best thing that we did in parenting, I think, was to figure out sleep.
Alyssa: It’s huge. That’s why I love it so much. I mean, it can be detrimental to your health and your relationships to have bad sleep. Anything else you want to say?
Chris: Definitely don’t wait to do sleep training would be what I would say! Next time around – well, if I do a next time around – I’m going to start sleep training immediately!
Alyssa: There are ways to start healthy sleep habits from the beginning! It’s not sleep training; a six-week old baby can’t sleep through the night, but just helping to develop good habits.
Chris: Yep. Because we had no clue. I mean, I look back at the beginning when we first got home from the hospital, and I would have her in her bassinet in the middle of the living room, middle of the day, music blaring, and I’d be like, why aren’t you going to sleep? Just go to sleep!
Alyssa: And now to you that seems like common sense, but when you’re in a fog and you’re sleep deprived and all you’re worried about is breastfeeding this baby and trying to get sleep, you’re not even thinking clearly enough to realize that this baby is in the middle of the room in daylight with music blaring; why won’t they sleep? Like, it doesn’t even cross your mind that it could be an unhealthy sleep habit.
Chris: Exactly, yeah. So my advice is, when you are in your sleep deprived brain fog, don’t rely on your own brain! Rely on someone else’s brain!
Alyssa: Right. “I’m going to do this myself, because sleep deprivation is a good place to start.” It’s not! Statistically, one and a half hours of lost sleep in one night, you are as impaired as a drunk driver.
Chris: Is that for real? One and a half hours of sleep lost in one night and you’re as impaired as a drunk driver?
Alyssa: Mm-hmm, and we drive around our kids like this. Yeah.
Chris: So then what is considered a full night’s sleep for an adult?
Alyssa: Probably eight hours. I mean, some of us need nine; some need seven. But for you and what your body needs, if you lose an hour to two of sleep…
Chris: Wow, that’s crazy!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s like buzzed driving.
Chris: Scary. I believe it, though!
Alyssa: I feel it. Yeah, if I’m sleep deprived, you can feel almost your head just kind of goes into a different space. That’s like when you’re driving and you miss your exit because you weren’t paying attention.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve missed my own road! Seriously, multiple times! Or you get home and you’re like, how did I get here?
Alyssa: Yeah, you’re in a fog!
Chris: Good thing she’s sleeping through the night now!
Alyssa: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining me today! We’ll have you on again another time to talk about your business!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening. Remember, these moments are golden!
Many of the tips I give parents during a sleep consult for their child apply to them as well. Although a baby’s sleep cycle is different from a toddler’s, and both are different than an adult’s, let’s talk about a few tips that apply to everyone and some that definitely do not!
Sleep tips for babies that transfer to adults:
A consistent schedule. This is #1 for ensuring proper rest at any age. If you have a job that you wake up for every week day at a specific time, you may notice that on the weekends you wake up at that time anyway, without an alarm. Some people may be able to fall back asleep, but if your body is used to a very structured schedule, more than likely you’re up for the day. This can be frustrating when you’ve stayed up late on a weekend and really want to sleep in, but your circadian rhythm is at work here! No matter what age, try to keep a consistent bed time and wake time.
Your sleep environment is important. With children we look at darkness, temperature, sound, and safety. Your room should be dark and cool. Crack a window or turn on a fan to circulate the air and cool you down. It’s better to have a cool room and get cozy in bed with the covers; if your room is too hot you are more likely to wake up. If you are a light sleeper, think about having a sound machine on or wearing ear plugs at night. A sound machine is also great for babies! Crank it up! We don’t want to put covers on a baby though (keep that crib safe!) so think about a sleep sack, or if your baby is small enough to be swaddled, use one!
A good bedtime routine is critical. With children we want this to be calm and soothing. We do things like read a book or sing a lullaby. We do not jump on the bed, wrestle, or play video games. This would stimulate the brain and make it harder for the child to fall asleep. As adults, we need to think about turning off electronics 30-60 minutes before we want to fall asleep. Stop working, put your phone away, and do something that calms you. Read a book, listen to a podcast or meditation, or watch some Netflix (as long as that isn’t too stimulating).
Be active and get sunshine during the day. This helps set our natural circadian rhythm. Our bodies need light and darkness to produce serotonin and melatonin. No matter what age, getting enough activity, exercise, sunshine, and fresh air during the day will improve night time sleep.
Sleep tips that don’t transfer:
Many parents think that if they keep their baby awake all day, they will sleep better at night. This is not true! This works for us as adults, but a baby’s body and brain cannot cope with this. They actually become overly tired which makes them fight sleep more!
Parents also tend to think that keeping a baby up later will help them sleep in later. This is also not true! Remember what I just said about being overly tired? If you let your baby stay up later, they will definitely become overly tired. This means they wake more in the night and it usually makes their morning wake up time even earlier. Eek!
Night time cravings can wreak havoc on adult sleep. If you need a snack after dinner, try to do it 1-2 hours before your bedtime, no later. For babies though, they do need to eat right before bed. We want them to go to sleep with a fully tummy so they can maximize the amount of time they can sleep at night before another feeding.
Some people can do all the “right” things and still not sleep well. There could be a number of factors, including physical and mental health, that play a part in how well you sleep. Reach out to your health care provider if you are struggling with chronic sleep problems.
You can find more tips for healthier adult sleep habits on the Pine Rest blog.
If you’re seeking help for your child’s sleep, you can find more info on the Gold Coast Doulas website. No matter where you live, our Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant can help you with phone and text consultations. If you live in West Michigan, we can also combine a customized sleep plan with overnight postpartum doula support to help parents get the rest they need while the doula sleep trains overnight.
One of Alyssa’s past sleep clients tells us her story about hiring an expert to solve her daughter’s sleep issues. She is honest about the fears she had going into it, the misconceptions and myths about sleep training that were dispelled while working with Alyssa, and how on the first day they saw improvement! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello! Welcome to Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase, and today, I’m super excited to be meeting for the first time and talking with Dominique. She was one of my past sleep clients. Welcome!
Dominique: Thank you for the welcome! I’m excited to be here!
Alyssa: Yeah! So I want to hear a little bit about what was happening at home and with sleep before you reached out to me.
Dominique: Yeah. So she is 11 months now, and before we reached out, it was getting to a point where she wasn’t taking naps, and if she was taking naps, it was, like, 15 minutes at a time. She was fussy all day. We were having to rock her to sleep for every single nap and bedtime, and that took 20 minutes.
Alyssa: So you would spend 20 minutes to get a 15-minute nap?
Dominique: Yes. Yes! So it was getting to a point where she didn’t seem like she was getting good sleep, and then we were just getting so frustrated. And I know you can’t expect a brand-new baby to sleep amazingly and to sleep through the night all the time, but she was not getting enough sleep, so it was just…
Alyssa: And she was nine months when you reach out? Does that sound about right?
Dominique: I think she was seven months when we reached out, yeah, just because I had read that if you were doing some sleep training, to kind of wait until about six months, so we decided to reach out around seven months, yeah.
Alyssa: I have different opinions about when to reach out!
Dominique: We may have waited a little too long!
Alyssa: Well, even by six months, that’s six months of forming some really bad sleep habits. And so before then, it’s really more of healthy sleep habits. You can’t really train a nine-week old baby. They’re not ready to sleep through the night, but there are some really healthy things that you can start incorporating during the day and at night to set yourself up for success at six months. So, yeah, it would have been a lot easier if you’d reached out earlier, but I’m glad you didn’t wait until 18 months!
Dominique: Yeah, I’m glad too, and I think if we have more kids in the future, we probably will incorporate some of the stuff that we learned, yeah.
Alyssa: Start a little earlier, yeah. So were you hesitant to start? What kind of fears or maybe even misconceptions did you have about sleep training before I worked with you?
Dominique: So I guess the biggest thing was that doing research and reading, I read a lot about crying it out and how it increases cortisol levels in babies, so they’re stressed out, and then they are learning how to cope on their own and they stay elevated, so they’re not learning how to be comforted, and instead they’re just crying themselves to sleep. So I was like, well, I don’t want to do that! I don’t want to set her up for not wanting to reach out to us for comfort, but then it also seemed like she was not happy because she was fussy and irritable all the time because she wasn’t sleeping.
Alyssa: So she was still crying all day, anyway.
Dominique: Yeah! So I was like, okay, there’s got to be some other ways to do this.
Alyssa: It blows my mind that people can still find information about cry-it-out online because I don’t know any sleep consultant who — I mean, letting a baby cry themselves to sleep just doesn’t even make sense to me. They don’t cry themselves to sleep. They might fuss themselves to sleep because they’re hearing themselves chatter, but yeah, those elevated cortisol levels for crying for two hours? No baby should sit in the crib alone and cry for two hours. I can’t stress that enough. I don’t even know who recommends that.
Dominique: And people say, well, oh, so you just let her cry in her crib? Well, no, we don’t just let her cry in her crib, but she had no self-soothing methods. She wasn’t self-soothing at all, so it was just like she doesn’t know how to go to bed unless we rock her.
Alyssa: So from what you remember, how long — well, I’ll go back. When you got my plan, was there anything that you were like, oooh, I don’t know about this? Or did it make sense?
Dominique: I think it made sense, all the different methods that you had mentioned to us. They all seemed pretty reasonable. The method where you sit in the room and kind of back out —
Alyssa: Oh, a gradual withdrawal?
Dominique: Yeah, gradual withdrawal, yeah. It seemed worse. When we were in the room, it was like she — it wasn’t — she wanted to lay down and know that we were right there. It was like, why are you in the room and you’re not picking me up? So that did not work for her.
Alyssa: Yep, you have to figure out and know your baby’s temperament. It’s first and foremost what drives the sleep method you use, because oftentimes these ones where the parents are in the room with the child, it’s way too stimulating. Baby is either like, you’re here; why aren’t you touching me? Why aren’t you holding me? Or, hey, it’s party time. I’m going to get up and I’m going to sing and dance in the crib because you’re here. So I’m glad you noticed that.
Dominique: Yeah, we kind of figured out that it was better for her that we didn’t sit in the room, but it did help for us to go back in periodically and soothe her.
Alyssa: So how long, do you remember, until you started to see results?
Dominique: Oh, man. The first night! So I think we started with bedtime, not her naps, because we got your plan, and I was going to be off work for a few days, so that first night, instead of rocking her for 20 minutes, we did her bedtime routine, which was another thing that we incorporated. Instead of nursing her to sleep, I was nursing her and then we would change into pajamas, wash her face, read her a book, and then put her to bed. And so that very first night, we laid her down, and she cried. We did three minutes, and then went in for 30 seconds, and then three minutes. And I think it was two rounds. So she cried for three minutes; I went in; she cried for another three minutes; I went in; and then it was quiet in her room.
Dominique: And I looked over at my husband, and I was like, this can’t be real!
Alyssa: Are you kidding me, right?!
Dominique: So it was amazing. She went to sleep, and I think that first night, she slept for about six hours, and then she got up to nurse, and then she went back to sleep fine. So yeah, the first night!
Alyssa: Yeah, so a lot of times, it’s just allowing them the opportunity to fall asleep on their own. I can’t tell you how many parents are like, oh, my baby has to be nursed; my baby has to be rocked; I don’t let my baby cry. Well, three minutes of crying — it’s not a lot, right?
Dominique: No, no.
Alyssa: If you consider all the crying she’s done because of lack of sleep and overtiredness, three minutes is nothing.
Alyssa: And that’s all she needed to literally soothe herself to sleep. That’s what she did!
Dominique: Yeah, and we felt good about it. It wasn’t like we felt like we were neglecting her by letting her cry in her crib. It was just like she put herself to sleep, and now she’s getting a good chunk of sleep. So we were really happy with it!
Alyssa: Yeah, sometimes it’s just kind of looking at sleep a different way and realizing that cry-it-out means you put your crying baby in a crib; you shut the door; you walk away, and you don’t go back in. And nobody wants to do that! I don’t want to do that! But, you know, talking about cortisol levels, it’s a natural response to anything. You know, your baby goes to the doctor; you go to the dentist. Our cortisol — it’s a flight or fight thing. The thing with a baby that helps bring that back down is a loving caregiver, so she has you and Dad right there. You’re the buffer in this situation, so even crying for three minutes, her cortisol levels might rise a little bit, but then you came in after three minutes, and she saw you were there. And I talk about sleep cues sometimes, like saying goodnight, I love you. You know, you have these sleep cues that you repeat, and then their cortisol levels go back down. And then they might fuss for a few more minutes, and then they’re out. It just happens!
Dominique: It was amazing!
Alyssa: Is there anything else that you had maybe thought that I would have told you — I guess were there any other surprises from those misconceptions? Anything that you felt like, oh, I can’t believe she’s telling me to do this, or I can’t believe she’s not telling me to do that?
Dominique: I guess in the first email we got with the plan, I think you had said her first nap should be 60 to 90 minutes, and then her second nap should be 90 to 120 minutes, and I was, like, there’s no way she’s going to sleep! Up until that point, her naps had been maybe a half an hour during the day, and she was getting maybe two naps a day. So then we tried it with her naps, and she did sleep an hour that first nap, and then we got a couple of longer hour and a half naps. We’ve only gotten a few two-hour naps out of her, but that was a big shock because I was, like, man, she really hasn’t been getting as much sleep as she should have been getting.
Alyssa: Well, and it’s funny because we think she’s so tired during the day; she’s not napping; she just has to be tired enough to sleep all night. And it’s counterintuitive. They need sleep during the day so they don’t get overly tired, and then they don’t fight sleep at night. So right now, at 11 months, though, that morning nap should only be 30 minutes, FYI. I don’t know what you’re doing right now.
Dominique: So her naps have still been a little bit of a battle, and we’ve kind of gotten to a point where we’re letting her sleep for that first nap because that seems to be her best nap of the day, and if we cut it short, sometimes she doesn’t take a good nap the rest of the day. So we’re still kind of tweaking that a little bit because —
Alyssa: Is she sleeping through the night with one feed, then?
Dominique: Yes, and we’ve cut out her nighttime feed now.
Alyssa: So she can go all night, like a full twelve hours?
Dominique: Not a full twelve. She will sleep from about 6:30 and then she’s still waking up around 4:30, 5:00, so then we put her back to sleep. So it’s not perfect, but we haven’t quite figured out how to make those little switches. So shortening her first nap, lengthening her second nap, and then putting her to bed closer to 7:00.
Alyssa: Yeah, so having a really long morning nap encourages that early morning wakeup. So I would try for a later bedtime; 7:00, 7:30. And don’t let her sleep longer than a half an hour in the morning.
Dominique: Okay! All right!
Alyssa: A little added tip there!
Dominique: I trust you! I’ll try it!
Alyssa: Yeah, we want her to sleep from — I mean, not every baby will sleep the full twelve hours, but if she’s going to bed at 7:30, I would think no earlier than 6:30. That’s eleven-ish hours depending on when she falls asleep.
Dominique: And that would be nice because getting up at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning is not ideal.
Alyssa: And then remember that 2-3-4 rule. So after she wakes up, she’ll be tired after about two hours, and then three hours after that wakeup. So let’s say you have an ideal — let’s say she wakes up at 7:00 in the morning. She should go down for that first nap at 9:00 and sleep from 9:00 to 9:30, and then three hours after that, which would be 12:30, she should have a two-hour nap. An hour and a half is fine; not all babies sleep two hours. But at her age, she should want to sleep about an hour and a half.
Dominique: Okay, and we have been doing that, the 2-3-4. It’s just she’s been getting up so early, so if she gets up at 6:00, we’re putting her down for her first nap at 8:00 in the morning, which does seem really early to us.
Alyssa: But she’s also going to bed really early. 6:30 is pretty early.
Dominique: Yeah, and sometimes by 6:00.
Alyssa: And you can’t just put her to bed at 7:00 tonight if she’s been up since 5:30. It’s a slow, 15 to 30-minute increments. But you have the added fun of daylight savings time, which messes everybody up. And probably by the time this episode airs, it will be past daylight savings, but we can still talk about it. And it might actually help you. So let’s see: spring forward. 7:00 is really going to 8:00, so her 6:00, 6:30 bedtime is going to be 7:30. So you might not want to push it too far.
Dominique: Yeeha, I think our situation is a little unique for that because we need to adjust her bedtime, whereas some people, they want to keep their kid on their 7:00 schedule, so they have to adjust backwards.
Alyssa: Yeah, you have to do it slowly. Like, with my daughter, I’ve been putting her to bed early; every night, a little bit earlier, to get her to that point. But yeah, I would try for a later bedtime, and that morning nap is what’s screwing up your morning wakeup. It’s just too long.
Dominique: Yeah, unfortunately! I’m like, okay, her morning nap — I’ve got to get stuff done!
Alyssa: Well, make it in the afternoons, instead, because that’s the nap she’s going to have until she’s two, three, maybe even four, that afternoon nap. And think about when you go to childcare; you know, naps at 12:30 or 1:00.
Dominique: All right, we’ll make some adjustments!
Alyssa: Anything else? What would you tell people about sleep consults that you think people need to know?
Dominique: I would say it’s worth it, and I’ve had a lot of people say, you know, what did you do for sleep, and then I explain what we did, and I say, “But we needed some help.” Like, it was just getting too frustrating, and I would just say it’s not cry-it-out like you think it is, just shutting the door and letting them cry, because I do think that’s a big misconception. So I would just say, look in to a sleep consultant, or just don’t take everything you read on the internet and apply it!
Alyssa: Well, and there’s so much information, but again, adjusting it to your specific family and your specific child, because I could have just given you, hey, my method is gradual withdrawal, and there you go. And then you’re doing this with your child and she’s like, this is not working. Yeah, it’s way too stimulating for her. So you can’t just give an end-all, one-fix method for every family. So that’s the hard part. You could read a hundred books, but you would need to have the ability to discern which method works for your family, and then have somebody there coaching you and holding your hand. And a big part of what I do is holding you accountable. Did you do this? How is it going? So that nap… We’re not working together anymore, but I can’t help myself; I have to tell you that nap is too long in the morning!
Dominique: But no, it was definitely worth it, and it was nice that you kind of explained the different methods and we could figure out which one would work best.
Alyssa: Sometimes, I know that there’s one that’s going to work, and that’s the one I suggest. Sometimes, I’m like, okay, based on your personality and your parenting style, I’m going to give you a few options. Here’s what I would recommend, but I want the parents to feel comfortable moving forward, and oftentimes, I still know which one I would recommend. Like you, you need to go through and say, oh, well, gradual withdrawal seems really more my parenting style, and I understand that it’s going to be a slower process. But you’re like, nope, didn’t work. So let’s move on to this one; let’s try that. Nope, didn’t work. But oftentimes what happens is a parent tries that one; it fails, and they give up and they’re done. They think sleep training didn’t work and it’s junk. So I get it.
Dominique: No! Keep going!
Alyssa: I get why parents feel frustrated. And how is she doing now?
Dominique: She’s doing really well. She’s starting to walk. Well, she is walking, so she’s very busy, so we’re keeping up with her now. But yeah, she’s doing really good!
Alyssa: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I love hearing stories from clients! Did I ever get a picture of her? I love getting pictures of babies. You’ll have to show me before you go.
Right when you get your child on a good schedule something inevitably comes up that makes it difficult to stay on track. We just went through the dreaded daylight savings (the worst for adults too!). Right now we are in the midst of the holidays. Here are some sleep tips for keeping your children’s sleep schedules on track.
If you’re traveling and driving, try to time the car rides over nap times. For instance, if you have a three hour drive and you know little Johnny takes his afternoon nap from 12:30 – 2:30, hit the road at noon and do some singing or stimulate him for a while until he gets drowsy and falls asleep. Then when you are almost there, he should wake up!
If you are flying, naps can be tricky. If you have a baby, holding the baby to sleep usually works. But if you have an 18 month old, you might have to prepare yourself for a no nap situation that day. In this instance, be sure to get them down to bed a bit early that night.
What if you’re traveling somewhere with a time change? Ugh..every parent dreads this no matter the age of your child. If you’re only going for a couple days, keep the child on their normal schedule. That means if they go to bed at 7pm and there’s a 2 hour difference, you put them to bed at 5pm. I know this messes up party plans but you’ll have to think ahead. Bring a pack and play for your baby or a blow up mattress for your older child and put them to bed in a dark room with a sound machine at their normal bed time.
If you’re traveling and staying for an extended period of time, slowly move their bedtime back in 30 minute increments until they’re at a more reasonable bedtime. Then before you leave to go back home, move that bedtime back to the normal time slowly. If you wait to move the bedtime back until you’re home, just know that you’ll have 2-3 days of adjusting to deal with.
If you’re hosting a party in the afternoon during a normal nap time, let everyone know that your child will be sleeping. Don’t let them stay up just because Grandma wants to cuddle. They will have to wait until your child wakes up. During a party, that sound machine may need to be turned up a bit louder than normal.
Remember that sleep is a priority and stand firm when a friend or relative says, “Oh, just let him stay up.” Easy for them to say!
As a sleep consultant, I get asked often how early you can sleep train a baby. My answer is this – Most babies are ready around 12 weeks, but it’s never too early to start introducing heathy habits to make the sleep training go smoothy when baby is ready.
Why 12 weeks? Most babies are developmentally ready around this time. They’ve also established a healthy eating routine (whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding), and they’ve gained substantial weight.
At 12 weeks most babies are ready to sleep through the night. Many breastfeeding mothers will actually wake their babies to nurse them, even though the baby would sleep through on their own. Some mothers pump once in the night and let baby sleep. Other mothers can make it through the night just fine sleeping 8 hours straight, but they will more than likely need to nurse or pump right when they wake up!
Please note that at 12 weeks sleeping through the night does not mean a 12 hour stretch. Very few babies at this age are ready for that. But some babies may be ready for a 6 or 8 hour stretch. If you’ve only been getting sleep in 2 hour chunks, this sounds fantastic!
When I put a plan together with a family, I first talk with them to find out what their values and goals are. If nursing in the night is a priority, we create a plan around that. If their main objective is for baby to get a full nights rest, uninterrupted, then we create a plan around that. There’s no one right answer to sleep training; it has to fit each individual family.
So what kinds of things can you do with your newborn before that 12 week mark? You need to realize that babies thrive on routine. A chaotic schedule is not the ideal environment for a newborn. From day one, you can start to create a sense of consistency.
Wake up around the same time in the morning and go to bed around the same time at night. Do this for you and your baby.
Talk to your baby. Narrate life to them. Tell them what you’re doing (changing their diaper, feeding, nap time, wake time, play time, etc). They are listening!
As your baby establishes feeding patterns, try to stick to a schedule for feedings. Remember you must always be flexible. Babies are not always hungry every three hours on the dot. If your baby typically eats every three hours, be aware that sometimes it will be 2 hours, sometimes 2 1/2, but usually 3. Don’t ever let your baby cry for food just to wait until the right time on the clock. Always watch for their cues and respond accordingly before letting them get too upset.
Speaking of cues, watch for them! Your baby is constantly communicating with you. From day one, they are communicating. As they grow, if you’re paying attention, you will begin to distinguish what different cries mean. This is important to create a relationship of trust between you and your baby. You cannot assume every cry means food. Just as if you stubbed your toe, it would not help if someone offered you a hamburger. You would want to sit down and maybe have someone give you some ice or even a band aid.
By assuming all of your babies cries mean hunger, you are telling them you’re not listening to what they are saying. Pay attention to what was happening to and around the baby when they started crying. Some babies are more introverted and like staring peacefully at a wall. They may begin to cry if there is a loud noise, a bright flash of light, or someone gets in their personal space too quickly. Others want to be in the room with all the action. Those babies may cry when you leave the room, or if they can’t see out the window. They do not want to stare at a blank wall, they want colors, noise, and lights.
Your baby might cry because they are too hot, too cold, sitting in an uncomfortable position, have a dirty diaper, are tired, are hungry, have an upset stomach. By paying attention to how they react to what you offer, you start to establish that trust relationship that says,”I’m paying attention to you. I’m listening to what you’re telling me, and I will react accordingly.” Your baby will know that when something is too stimulating, you will pick them up and put them somewhere they feel more comfortable. Your baby will know that when they are tired, you will put them to bed.
A good example of this the well meaning visitor – or the “Space Invader” as I like to call them. They rush over to the baby and get right in their face. When the baby starts to cry, the visitor thinks the baby does not like them, when in fact they just invaded their personal space too abruptly. If a baby is content and then suddenly starts crying, it usually isn’t too hard to figure out why if you’re paying attention.
What does this have to do with sleep training? Everything! By establishing routines and a trust relationship from the beginning, you are eliminating unknowns for your baby. They trust you to do what’s best for them. When you talk them through what’s happening, they know what to expect. They know when it’s time to change a diaper, put on clothes, or take a nap because you’ve been narrating their story to them and you’ve created consistency. This level of routine, consistency, and trust is your foundation to healthy sleep habits.
Then, when you call me around 12 weeks to start gently guiding your child through a full night’s sleep, the ground work is already laid. A child that gets enough sleep is a healthier and happier child, and so are their parents.
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Sleep Training. Those two words can stir up some pretty aggressive emotions for some parents. I guess it’s because there are so many methodologies, many of which are controversial, and there are so many different thoughts on parenting and what is right and wrong.
My answer is there’s no one way to do this! If there was, it would be simple.
Whether a family wants to co-sleep or have baby in his own crib, it’s not my job to judge their decisions. My job is to figure out a solution that works well for them.
Sleep training shouldn’t be a controversial topic. Everyone needs and wants a full night’s rest. I don’t know many (actually any) people who would argue with that, but how you get there is where it becomes tricky. We don’t want to let our child cry for hours or make them feel neglected, which many methodologies tend to do.
Sleep training, at it’s most basic level, is a plan to help the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of both parents and baby. Without sleep, parents are exhausted, mentally drained, and overly-emotional. A sleep-deprived baby can find it hard to nap during the day, be too exhausted to nurse, cry all the time, or just zone out because daily activities are too stimulating.
A good sleep consultant will take all factors into account. They will listen to your story, your history, your values, and your end goal. They will come up with a solution that works for everyone, not a method that works for “most”.
As parents, I think we need to give up on this idea that there is only one certain way to do things. It’s great to have a plan, but they must always be flexible. I see parents beat themselves up over plans that aren’t working, especially feeding and sleeping patterns. They see their friend’s baby sleeping through the night or their niece on a perfect feeding and nap schedule. They’re given all sorts of advice that doesn’t work for them, they read all the books and each one gives them conflicting ideas, so they end up more confused.
I had one client tell me this, “I read all the books but none of them ever told me what to do in the night when my baby wouldn’t stop crying. We did the consistent night time routine, we did the ‘shuffle’ slowly out of the room, we tried to soothe him back to sleep, but nothing ever worked. We felt defeated.”
Books and articles on sleep can only help to a certain extent. You need a physical presence that can ask questions, assess your individual situation, and come up with an individualized plan. Most of the time there are other factors at play that the books aren’t going to mention.