You don’t have to stumble into the kitchen every morning, one eye open, sleepily making your coffee, wishing the caffeine was a cure-all(and knowing it’s not).
You don’t have to constantly cancel plans, rearrange your schedule, or put off doing laundry and dishes because you can’t put the baby down for more than a few minutes.
Starting a new sleep training plan can be challenging but reaps such valuable rewards. You will now have the time to relax, get things done, and REST while your baby is napping and because he will be going to bed somewhere between 6-8 pm you will be able to unwind for the night after your baby is in bed.
There are several ways to get your baby sleeping soundly through the night and while there are differences between how babies respond there are also some commonalities and sleep strategies that work with almost EVERY baby…
Start with naps
I’m a huge believer in starting with the first nap of the day on day One of sleep training and proceeding through the day with the same routines and responses. This gives your baby the practice that he needs putting himself to sleep and the familiarity of going down for naps drowsy but awake. He needs to be able to practice this skill for his naps throughout the day before he gets to the bedtime routine. There are sleep coaches that will advocate for starting training at night. While you can certainly do this, and there are some good reasons to do it this way, I generally find that this results in much more crying than if you had started with the first nap of the day. Most parents cannot endure a night of on-again, off-again crying and may end the night feeling defeated and exhausted by morning. If you start with the first nap of the day by the time your baby gets to bedtime he will have some familiarity with the new routine and the feeling of putting himself to sleep. He will not yet LIKE the new routine, BUT it will be starting to feel familiar to him. This is Progress!
I like starting with naps because it gives parents a manageable amount of time to work on sleep. I typically advocate for 1 hr in the crib and if baby hasn’t slept then we “call the nap”, and get baby up using a dramatic wake-up, we feed and then have some playtime while we wait for sleepy signs to show up again. The only time a baby wouldn’t sleep in the 1 hr time frame given for the nap is if the baby is roughly 8 months or older. Babies younger than 8 months always ( or almost always) put themselves to sleep in the 1 hr time frame. Most parents can manage working on sleep in 1 hour bits of time throughout the day. Depending on how many naps your baby takes this is how many times he will have to practice this skill of putting himself to sleep. Naps also give you a quick win and you get to see that your baby is actually capable of putting himself to sleep! This is super exciting!
Consistency across the board helps babies learn quickly, so by sleep training both days and nights together progress is made more rapidly because your routines and responses around sleep are the same whether it’s day or night. Your baby understands this is the new routine that is attached to all sleep times and understands that the expectation is that he stays in his crib and sleeps. Once his expectation changes, everything changes for the better!
Focus on the first 6-7 hours
For babies 4 months or older, after working our way through the day with naps, I like to focus on the first part of the night first. Babies can make a lot of progress with relative ease in the first 6-7 hours after bedtime.
What you do or don’t do during this time of the night sets the tone for the remainder of the night. It can make it or break it. This is the time of the night that you are setting the expectation for your baby as to what happens for the remainder of the night. A baby 4 months or older doesn’t need to be fed early in the night if they’ve had 5-6 full feeds during their 12 hr day. They are waking out of habit and by feeding them you are setting yourself up for more wake-ups and more feedings. When your baby takes in this many nighttime calories from 1 or more night feeds, he will naturally DECREASE his daytime calories, which is the exact OPPOSITE of what we want him to do!
The first 6-7 hours is also the easiest time of night for your baby to put himself back to sleep. This is when he is in his deepest sleep ( or should be!) and sleep pressure and melatonin are both high and cortisol is low. All of these things working together in his body make the first part of the night the easiest time to drop feeds and set an expectation of sleep for the night. A baby that is allowed to put himself back to sleep will typically then sleep VERY long for the next stretch.They may even sleep through or mostly through the night on night one! This is the first step in dropping feeds and helping a baby begin to understand that when he wakes at night he can simply put himself back to sleep. Keeping the room extremely dark is also key in making sure when he wakes he can’t look around his room. All we want him to see is dark 🙂
Focus on dropping feedings at the beginning of the night so babies can learn to sleep solidly through that first portion with ease. Success or failure is mostly determined in the first half of the night. If baby needs to eat during the night then working towards a feed closer to 3-5 am is going to make it easiest to get through the night with one feed. Baby’s lightest sleep is 4-6 am so having a full tummy going into this stretch of the night is going to make it easy for baby to make it to morning with a fair amount of ease. If they do come to a partial awakening they will be able to go back to sleep easily because they have food in their belly. By following this method you can many times take a baby who is waking and feeding multiple times per night and get them down to one feed in one to two nights. This naturally increases daytime hunger and baby will take in more calories during the daytime hours. Then those daytime calories will sustain longer night time stretches of sleep. This cycle perpetuates sleeping through the night.
If you want more information on the exact steps for how to do this for YOUR baby, then booking a consultation is the RIGHT call! I will walk you through everything you need to know so that you are educated, equipped, confident and successful!
Quality sleep is just a phone call away. Let’s schedule a call today and find a sleep solution perfect for your family.
What is a Dramatic Wake-up and how do you use it for Sleep Training?
What is a dramatic wake-up, you ask? The dramatic wake-up is a tool that i use to help a baby or toddler to understand that sleep time is over and its time to get up. I use the dramatic wake-up anytime mom has to go into her baby’s room when her baby is crying. It can be used to end the nap or start the day. It’s called a dramatic wake-up because well, you’re going to be DRAMATIC! The Drama is meant to send a clear message and create a clear line in the sand that sleep time is over and it’s time to get up. The main reason I use it is to send the message to your child that you are getting them up, NOT because they are crying, but because naptime is over or morning is here. It provides a visual and audible way for them to gain understanding.
Here’s how it works…Baby has woken from a nap early or woken in the morning earlier than normal. You want to see if they will put themselves back to sleep. So you wait….Unfortunately after 15-20 minutes you can see that it’s not happening. Now what?? If you go in and scoop baby out of crib they are learning that all the protesting has worked. You will then be compounding a behavior that you would ideally like to extinguish. Here’s what to do instead:
This is how you would enter the room…
- Walk in with a happy voice and face. Your overall energy is upbeat and happy
- Do not immediately go to the crib. Busy yourself in the room for 15-20 seconds or so before you even pay any attention to your baby. (this looks very different from a mom who is coming in to scoop up a crying baby) You can be talking to him saying something like “Goodmorning” or “rise and shine, it’s time to get up!”. If it’s nap time you can announce “Naptime is over, it’s time to get up!”. Open the curtains, turn off the sound machine and turn on the lights. We want baby to pick up on your upbeat energy and not the other way around. We want your baby or toddler to understand that it is not his wake-up that determines when nap time ends or when morning begins. This simple act is one way that we can help create boundaries around sleep. We can’t MAKE our kids sleep but we CAN keep age-appropriate sleep boundaries in place.
- Know that if a nap has been short or morning wake up has been earlier than normal, that will affect baby’s next wake window. Expect that the wake window will be shorter and watch for sleepy cues sooner than normal depending on the age of your baby.