When you're struggling to help your little one at bedtime, there is nothing more valuable than sleep training tips, and it's even better if they come straight from sleep coaches. These are the experts who help families figure out the best way for everyone in the house (especially the smallest ones) to grab some quality Zs each night. Sleep coaches are a wealth of knowledge, and I recently had the pleasure of getting all manner of useful information from some of the leaders in the field. Thankfully, they were more than willing to share what works, what doesn't, and how to keep your sanity while sleep training.
Just like every parent has their own way of doing things, each sleep coach has a unique approach to working with families and which practices they have found to be most effective. Overall, their job is to empower and educate parents on implementing a sleep plan that works for everyone. The process is a group effort, but in the end, the parents are tasked with the long term goal of making sleep training a success.
With these 13 tips and ideas straight from professional sleep coaches, you will be on your way to helping your little one get the sleep they need, and the peace of mind your deserve.
2. Agree On A Method
Jumping into sleep training without any planning can lead to poor results. According to Joanna Clark of Blissful Baby Sleep Coaching, parents should research and choose a sleep training method they agree on in order to have positive results. "Parents succeed in sleep coaching when they find a methodology that their parental values as well as matches the temperament of their child," Clark says. So do your research and devise a plan that works for both of you.
2. Pick The Right Date
Timing can be everything when starting a new sleep plan for your baby. Take some advice from Brooke Nalle of Sleepy On Hudson, who advises not to start sleep training right before a vacation or other family obligation.
3. Don't Let Baby Get Too Drowsy
A big mistake that Pam Edwards of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting sees is putting the baby to sleep too drowsy, when she's almost asleep. "We want baby to be fully alert and aware of what's going and where they are when we set them down in that crib," Edwards says.
4. Look For The Signs Of Being Overtired
When adults are overtired, they may become cranky, moody, and barely able to keep their eyes open. But the opposite is true of babies. As the pros at Dream Team Baby point out, babies and small children become wound-up and more alert when overtired, which leads parents to believe they aren't tired. This is a snowball effect, since overtired children often stay up too late and don't get the sleep they need.
5. Consistency Is Key
"Any sleep training method will work, from the gentlest of the gentle to the most direct, if families are consistent," Edwards says. Sticking with the plan, night after night, is what is going to help you make it to the finish line.
6. Set Some Limits
If your baby's bedtime routine is becoming longer and more involved, it's time to make a plan. "When you have to do more and more each night and before each nap to soothe your baby, this is the baby's way of telling his/her parent that she is ready to figure it out on her own with some support," Nalle says.
7. Avoid Sleep Crutches
Do you have 100 tricks up your sleeve to get your little one to bed? External stimuli at bedtime are known as "sleep crutches," and Clark says children as young as six months can become dependent on these crutches. Try avoid using these, but if you've started, it's never too late to make a change.
8. Don't Get Overwhelmed
With so much information and opinions on sleep training, it's easy to feel like a magic solution is right around the corner, but changing things may do more harm than good. "Many people are overwhelmed by the deluge of information, and they try one thing, and then another, and nothing works," Dream Team Baby says.
9. It's Never Too Late To Start
Think the window's closed on your chance to sleep train? Scratch that idea. Edwards reminds parents that healthy sleep habits are for all ages, and it's never too late to make a plan.
10. Be Kind
Sleep training can be one of the most difficult things parents will do, but it's important to remain supportive of each other. To avoid backsliding and second guessing your plan, Nalle suggests you "iron out your plan, discuss each other's roles, bring in help if needed, and be nice to each other in this tough situation."
11. Make Sure Sleep Time Is Long Enough
Small children and babies require more sleep than you may realize. Most little ones need between 11 to 12 hours of sleep each night, as Baby Dream Team points out. Your baby may need to have an earlier bed time than she currently has, to make sure she's getting enough sleep,
12. You May Need To Bring In An Expert
If you're at the end of your rope with no successful outcomes, it may be time to bring in the big guns. As suggests, it's time to call in a coach when parents can't agree on a plan, you're exhausted, or experiencing lifestyle changes that could effect your child's sleep.
13. Give It Time
There was one things all the experts agreed on, and that was that sleep training takes time. Giving up too soon can sabotage a solid sleep plan — but how long do you need to wait to see results? Most everyone suggested to look for progress over a week's time. It may not be perfect yet, but you should see signs that things are getting better within three days to a week.