That’s right….we are talking about SLEEP Training! It can be a touchy subject and there is no better person to clear up all the myths, than my dear friend, the Baby Guru herself, Desiree Cluff. As the owner of Rockababy, she brings to the table superb communication skills, warmth and empathy and over a decade of experience with newborns, infants and toddlers. With my baby girl set to arrive any day now, getting baby to sleep and getting enough sleep is on the forefront of my mind. I reached out to Desiree and asked her to share with us, her thoughts on sleep training. Here’s what she had to say!
With varying styles of attachment parenting on the rise, many questions and concerns are being discussed around the idea of traditional “Sleep Training”, thus raising the question, when should I sleep train my baby, if at all?
When it comes to parenting, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Books are great, advice is often helpful, but at the end of the day you need to find that special “something” that speaks to you as a parent, and your parenting style. Wait a sec, do you have a parenting style? Something to think about…
When should I sleep train my baby?
This is a question I get asked all the time by parents, and the answer is typically the same every time; never! My personal approach supports starting from day one by building healthy, age appropriate sleep habits. This doesn’t mean you are sleep training a 2 week old; quite the opposite! It’s a beautiful time that allows you to teach the skill of sleep, and, wait for it… this might mean rocking her to sleep; yup I said it, letting her fall asleep in your arms, and doing it often! By using gentle techniques that allow you to do this, and eventually has you transitioning to gently asking for more. The idea is never to get to the place where you have to sleep train. This is not easy and certainly comes with it’s own difficult obstacles, however, building a healthy, confident sleeper from day one allows you to avoid dealing with sleep problems, and traditional sleep training down the road. Sleep Training has it’s pluses, but trust me when I say that this is not the easiest road for anyone to go down.
Typically, by the time you are at the place you feel you NEED to sleep train, a few things are already too far gone. The distant memory of showering on a daily basis, not to mention actually doing your hair or makeup, the feeling of dread as the night slowly approaches and you know exactly what’s in store! The endless hours of bouncing, rocking, shushing, possibly an argument or two about just letting her cry it out, followed by a plan that makes almost no sense to you, but in the moment it’s all you’ve got. Yet somehow by the end of the night you feel so overwhelmed that you do that thing you judged all of your friends for doing; you swore that would never be you! But tonight you brought your baby to bed, gave her a nice cozy feed and finally fell asleep together for one precious hour before you had to start the day all over again. Or maybe, just maybe you decided to keep her in her bed, seeing you are so dead set on her never coming to your room; you did the unthinkable, you slept in her room, IN her crib, WITH her in it. Don’t get me wrong here, co-sleeping is great! If you want to co-sleep, this should be a choice and a style of parenting you are intentionally practicing. I think co-sleeping is wonderful, and I work with many clients who practice this, so long as it is chosen and it’s working for you!
I’m going to tell you a huge secret – you’re not alone! This is happening, people, and it’s happening a lot. So let’s stop pretending we’ve got it all together; we don’t, and that’s okay! The unrealistic pressure that Moms have on themselves today is coo-coo-ca-choo! Listen I’m all for making your own baby food, breast feeding until they go to college, pretending that the baby slept throughout the night, when really…it was only 2 hours, and you had the Miele vacuum cleaner running in her room the whole time, because that’s the only way she falls asleep – that’s cool! How about we give ourselves a break, realize what a crazy hard thing this is, and chill with the “Mompetition” for a minute. You’re amazing and you’re doing a super job just the way you are, and this is NORMAL!
> Now that we’ve started being a little kinder to ourselves let’s give you some tips to set you up for success! Here are my top ten general tips for setting up healthy sleep for your little one.
> 1. Once baby is about 6-8 weeks old, pay attention to the late nap and the 9-10pm witching hour. If your baby is napping around 6:30pm, this usually means they are ready for a bedtime routine to be put in place. Start aiming for a bedtime between 6:30-7:30pm and see how baby responds.
> 2. Is your baby overtired? If baby is overtired it will be difficult at nap time and bedtime. Try following the idea that anything over 1.5 hours of wakeful time for a baby under 4 months is plenty; they should be asleep by the 1.5 hour mark, or sooner if they are showing tired signs.
> 3. Create a calm soothing environment for sleep. Motion naps are also fine; the stroller is a great place to have a nap and it gets you out of the house. I would suggest aiming for one nap a day at home in the crib or bassinet, so baby is used to sleeping at home but you are also not feeling housebound.
> 4. Try to encourage independent playtime. It’s a great way to establish a happy, confident baby that doesn’t always need you for everything they do. The idea is as long as they are happy, let them be. Make sure you include intentional play often with baby, and lots of face time.
> 5. Try putting baby down awake, soothing until she is sleepy but not sleeping and gently put her in her crib. Stay with her, patting and shushing until she falls asleep, picking up and putting down if you feel she needs it. Encourage self-soothing!
> 6. Make the room as dark as possible, (Led Zeppelin light show not permitted). Try using a sound machine, make sure the sound stays on all night, and is no louder than the volume of a shower.
> 7. Be consistent creating smooth, calm transitions. Babies are creatures of habit and, like us, they like to know what’s coming next.
> 8. Go with your intuition; it’s usually right. You, and only you know what’s right for your family. Make sure whatever it is you decide to do, you feel it’s what YOU want. Everything written in books and even in this article, are generalized, it’s not speaking specifically to you and your unique situation, so if you feel something isn’t working perfectly, it’s not you. You may wish to consult someone for a more specific personalized plan.
> 9. There is no “How To” guide for your baby; you are doing a great job!
> 10. Be kind to yourself, this is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.