Shan Roth and her husband knew they had hit rock bottom.
In the wee hours of the morning, two am to be exact, the new parents had packed up their little baby girl who wouldn’t stop crying, into the car and were driving around the Wal-Mart parking lot trying to get her to sleep. And to make matters worse, an RCMP officer started tailing them. Shan started practicing what she would say if the officer pulled her over. In fact she welcomed it, for the simple fact that perhaps he could take the baby and show her how to get her to sleep.
They got lucky. The RCMP officer didn’t pull them over. But it did set off alarm bells for them that something wasn’t right.
Fast forward eight years later, Roth now has three children ages 4, 6 and 8. All are fantastic sleepers. Shan knew there had to be a better way when it came to sleep, and was fascinated about the subject. She is now a Certified Sleep Consultant, and has been coaching families to better sleep for the past two years after opening her own business, Jammy Time Sleep Solutions.
With the start of our Mom & Baby programs in less than a week, and plenty of babies signed up for the program, we caught up with Shan to discuss when the best time is to start sleep training a baby. She will be speaking to our Mom & Baby groups on tips to better sleep. Here is my conversation with Shan:
When should you start sleep training your baby?
I prefer to call it sleep coaching, rather than sleep training because you are really working with the parents and helping them coach their baby to become an independent sleeper.
You can start sleep coaching your baby from the day they are born. Lots of people think that sleep coaching means going without a night feed and that’s not what it means. Some babies CAN go through the night without a night feed but it’s always case-by-case for each baby. Depending on weight, medical conditions, or if mom had difficulty nursing. It’s always different based on the child and situation.
But many parents see that between 3-4 months is a turning point. Babies are not sleeping all the time anymore. Their sleep patterns change and become more adult like. Three months seems to be a common turning point, so it’s a good time to start sleep coaching.
Okay so when you start sleep coaching a three month old – what is the MOST IMPORTANT factor to helping them sleep?
The biggest thing I always advise my clients and especially new parents, is you need to put baby down awake. Not half asleep, not drowsy, fully awake. If you put your baby down and they are already sleeping, they will wake frequently and will look for whatever helped them get to sleep (i.e. feeding, rocking, patting – also known as props). Whatever external prop helped them GET to sleep, they will look for to help them fall back asleep again.
Sometimes parents can get away with using props until they hit the 3-4 month range. But as their sleep patterns evolve at this time, they can start waking every 45 minutes to every hour. All night long. This is when I often hear of families starting to co-sleep, not because they want to, but because they’re so exhausted they don’t know what else to do. Consequently their situation doesn’t improve.
You are a mother of three children. What worked for your kids?
We didn’t know a lot back with my first daughter, and struggled in the beginning. The Internet wasn’t as readily used as it is now, so we read a lot and did the best we could. We put her down awake, let her do some fussing, picked her up and put her down and we also got counseling from our doctor. We had a goal and it took three nights before she was sleeping eight hours. It was giving her the chance to learn how to self soothe that made a difference.
With our second daughter who arrived 22 months later, I learned about the sleep sense program and with more confidence and knowledge we followed it and by three months she was sleeping 8-10 hours a night. By the time we had our third child, he had no choice. And now they are all good sleepers.
So how much sleep should a 3 month old be getting?
At 3 months of age, babies should be getting approximately 15 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period. Most will be having 3-4 naps during the day, and I always remind my clients that daytime sleep is important. Don’t try to keep your baby up all day in hopes of them sleeping through the night. The opposite is true. The less they sleep during the day, the worse they will sleep at night.
The same is true about going to bed at night. At this age they should be going to bed NO LATER than 8pm. A newborn typically should go to bed around 9 or 10pm but at three months it should be at 8 AT THE LATEST. You want them to have between 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep, keeping in mind they may be up for a feed or two in the middle of the night, then back to sleep.
It’s also important to have this sleep time so that you have down time for yourself, to reconnect to your partner and to recharge your batteries.
What method of sleep coaching do you use?
Firstly in the initial consultation, I take into consideration the parenting style. I do have some bottom lines within the Sleep Sense program that I discuss with the parents. I won’t work with a family if they are not comfortable with the methods I use, as I don’t want to set anyone up for failure. I guarantee our program if you follow the plan as out-lined, as you will find great success.
As for methods sometimes the pick up, put down method drags things out. I typically advise parents to stay in the room to start out with. The parent’s job is to comfort but not to put to sleep. But the method depends on each parent and baby. Some babies do better without mom and dad intervening, while other parents are comfortable to stay in the room. Together we find out what method the parents and child will respond to best.
With 3 month olds, I say give it 4 days and you will see progress. The first 2 nights you MAY NOT see a lot of progress. I often hear parents saying we tried this for a night and it didn’t work. You may not see improvement until night 3 or 4. It takes consistency on the part of the parents and if you are consistent you will see improvement.
What about all the potential crying? For a lot of parents the thought of letting their child cry for any length of time can be very disconcerting.
Nobody wants to hear their baby cry, but parents must remember that crying is a form of communication for your baby. It’s because they are experiencing something different then they are normally used to. I caution parents about what they read on the Internet about the long-term effects of letting your baby cry at night. A lot of it is guilt based, and not scientific. It can be very confusing as to what to do.
Bottom line: sleep is a very basic need. Don’t diminish the need for sleep. It’s a necessity to be a healthy family. A little crying is worth it for a lifetime of great sleep. And the effects of good sleep are proven. All three of my children had their share of tears, and they are all healthy, well-adjusted, intelligent kids.
What happens if I contact you for a consultation?
If you live in Calgary, I do the initial consultations at your home and if you don’t live in the city we do it over the phone. During the consultation, we will review the customized sleep plan and all your questions will be answered so you are completely comfortable and confident moving forward. You can also contact me for a free fifteen-minute consultation. Or for further information you can check out our website at:
Thank you Shan for all the helpful tips! I look forward to your presentation to our Mom & Baby program starting next week.
Next month we will tackle infant/toddler sleep habits! Happy sleeping!