There are a few things in life none of us wish to face but occasionally there comes a time when the benefits outweigh the risks and so we embark on the feared activity. Sleep training is just such a task.
I wish everyday that I had a magic wand that I could wave to help babies sleep. I wish I could teach parents a little rhyme and their babe would sleep through the night. The problem is that for most of the moms I see in my practice, I am the end of the line. They have tried everything but are so sleep deprived that they are grasping at anything to get a full night’s sleep.
Before even embarking on sleep training I insist we tick a few boxes:
- Is your baby well? Never sleep train your baby if you think she may be ill.
- Is your baby well fed and are all her nutritional needs met? Rule out hunger as a reason for waking at night.
- Does your baby have a good day sleep routine? Overtired babies simply won’t sleep well at night.
- Are you spending good quality time with your baby or toddler during daylight hours?
- Has your baby established an attachment to a doo doo blanky? All babies need to have a security object to be able to self sooth in the middle of the night.
In Sleep Sense we go through eight steps before we even think about sleep training a baby. If you have not gone through these steps, I suggest you do so before sleep training your baby.
Once you have ticked the boxes and are sure you have covered the bases, you can start to contemplate sleep coaching. I call gentle sleep training Sleep Coaching because it involves mom or dad coaching their little one. You literally coach your baby to self sooth at night and during the day.
- You do this by consistently offering your baby a self soothing object, such as a dummy or blanky.
- Coaching involves being with your baby while she learns the new skill. Do not leave the room and let your baby cry it out – this is tough on your little one as he may feel deserted and will fall asleep not because he learnt a new skill but out of exhaustion.
- Coaching is gentle because it is done in an attitude of love, not exasperation. If you feel anxious, angry or scared, don’t sleep train your baby.
- Use rescue remedy to help your baby settle to sleep quicker on the nights you sleep train.
Parenting is tough and this hurdle is often the hardest we face in the early days. The key to gentle sleep training is to be consistent, calm and caring as you coach your baby to find a new skill.