So you’ve decided you’re ready to begin sleep training—now what? One of the first mistakes sleep-deprived parents make in baby sleep training is not having prepared enough ahead of time. You will greatly increase your chances of success by following these easy steps before beginning with your little one.
1. Check with your pediatrician. Be sure to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could cause sleep issues, such as GERD, allergies, ear infections, asthma, or sleep apnea. Also, be sure to check with your pediatrician if nighttime feedings are still necessary given your child’s age, weight, and overall health.
2. Keep a sleep log. Sleep deprivation can affect your memory and accuracy, so be sure to keep written track of your baby’s sleeping and feeding. This will help you create a clearer picture of what’s actually happening so you can help to solve their sleep troubles. Be sure to note waking times, nursing, signs of sleepiness, and how you respond. The more details, the better for you later!
3. Figure out your child’s ideal bedtime. Pay special attention between 6-8 p.m. for your child’s sleep cues, such as eye-rubbing, yawning, or fussing. As soon as your child begins acting drowsy, you’ll know that is his or her natural bedtime.
4. Set the stage. To help prepare your little one from being separated from you for the night, find calm, predictable rituals before bedtime such as:
- Putting on pajamas
- Massage or baby yoga
- Reading books
- Lullabies or storytelling
- Playing white noise or nature music
- Bottle or nursing
- Prayers, blessings, or sending kisses and love to others
5. Decide about the pacifier. To avoid having to make unnecessary trips to the crib to re-plug a pacifier into your child’s mouth, encourage them to learn to put it in themselves. Discuss what is best with your pediatrician depending on your child’s age and development.
6. Get your child used to waking up at the same time. To help regulate your baby’s internal clock, start waking them up between 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Be sure they’ve done this consistently for at least five days before you start sleep training.
7. Make sure everyone’s on board. It’s vital that anyone who cares for your child understands the sleep-coaching plan and, most importantly, is willing to follow through. Consistency is key.
8. Mark your calendars with a start date (and make sure it’s realistic). Choose a block of about three weeks during which you don’t expect any major disruptions or changes in your household. Work to keep your child’s sleep schedule consistent, even if yours is not!
- Kim West, LCSW-C
- The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight.
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