Hi there! I’m Chelsea and I am a Registered Nurse. My husband and I decided to sleep train our son at 11 weeks. There I said it. In all seriousness, sleep training can be such a sensitive topic. I refer to it as the “s” word- shhhhhh’d by many. SO let’s clear the air! Teaching your baby to sleep does NOT mean letting your baby cry it out. There is no “right” way to get your child to sleep through the night. In other words, whatever you chose for your child is the “right” way. Why? Because you are their world and they are yours.
Before I (hopefully) answer all your questions about infant & toddler sleep, allow me to introduce my philosophy on sleep training. As parents, we teach our babes how to breastfeed, crawl and walk- it is just as important, if not more so, to teach them healthy sleep habits. I’m not saying that if you have not sleep trained your baby, that it is unhealthy. I’m saying that it can take as much hard work and consistency as teaching your baby to crawl, how to stand, eat…all of it.
There are so many questions about infant and toddler sleep. Million dollar questions. You can drive yourself nutty with Dr. Google. They’re overtired…no under tired. Put them down to sleep awake? How? All of these questions are answered in a hundred different ways. So what I’m going to outline are some strong facts. So when you finish reading this, you will walk away with value, feel empowered, knowledgeable and more confident. The beautiful thing? If you still need help and support, I’m a phone call away. Ok…ready, set, go!
1. Why does my baby wake (and cry) as soon as I try to put them in their crib?
If your babe is always put to sleep (by rocking, feeding, rocking out with mommy to Mariah’s greatest hits (yes I love her- or Aerosmiths’ – no judgement here) etc. then they will be upset when placed in their crib (hello scary world). As tough as the process can be sometimes, it is important that your babe be placed in their crib awake so they can have opportunities to learn to fall asleep on their own. My suggestion is to try the first nap, it is often the easiest.
2. Why does my baby only nap for 45 minutes?
Mercy, that 45 minute nap – here is the lowdown: 45 minutes is exactly one sleep cycle for a baby (I get it, it doesn’t allow for a workout, shower and meal prep). Babes who are not comfortable falling asleep on their own (or don’t know how/haven’t had the opportunity etc.), will be WIDE awake at this point, looking for whatever (or whomever!) got them to sleep at the beginning of the nap, to get them back to sleep again (to their next cycle). “Ummm hello Mama? Where’s my soother? Start bouncing…”
3. How do I deal with the time change coming up (psssst it’s March 10)?
Time changes are hard on all of us (the fall back one is easy breezy without kiddos), but it seems the “spring forward” coming up is a tough one. Guess what? There are things you can start doing RIGHT NOW to help YOU, and your baby.
My suggestion: three days before the change, you can start pushing their naps later by 15-30 minutes (e.g., noon nap happens at 12:15/12:30, 7:00 bedtime moves to 7:15/7:30 etc.) so that when the time does change, you can move to the old schedule pretty easily.
If your babe wakes consistently at 6 a.m. no matter what you do…guess what? Do nothing. You are in for a treat when you hear your babe, up and at em’ and you look at the clock and it says 7 a.m. Celebrate that “extra hour” as it feels more reasonable and also like a sleep in (even if you went to bed at the same time). It can take us all approximately a week to adjust and babes are no different.
4. What’s the best sleep environment?
Comfy (insert sleepsack), cozy (babes prefer a room temp of 20-22), dark (hello, blackout curtains) and non-stimulating (insert the white noise here).
Unless you’re a gold medal napper, most of us need optimal conditions (above) to sleep, babes are no different (other than the fact their burps and toots are cute).
5. I’m interested (…still reading), when is the right time to sleep train?
Are you guzzling any type of caffeine in view? Is it hard to remember yesterday’s events? Did you get dressed? Is sleep deprivation robbing you of any joy? It’s time. YOU need rest to have the most important job in the world.
Got a pacifier-addict on your hands? Are you your babe’s soother? Are you essentially standing on your head to get your babe to sleep?
Are you singing welcome to the jungle (bedtime is a circus): one more sip of water, one more kiss for hop-hop, goodnight stars, goodnight moon (on repeat). Then it might be time for us to talk!
If your babe is cranky within less than an hour of waking for the day; if your toddler is a crankpot; if your little one is yawning and eye-rubbing constantly throughout the day…there’s a good chance they are missing out on some very important zzzzz’s (and so are you). This is often because a sleep “prop” is in place.
Sleep “props” are any external stimuli your babe relies on to fall asleep, which often keep our little ones from learning to fall asleep on their own, fall back to sleep to get uninterrupted rest at night, and/or take long naps. If your babe relies on feeding or rocking to sleep it is often a sleep ‘prop’ and it is a great time to think about sleep coaching (call me). When your babe falls asleep using a sleep prop, and then wakes during the night, they are thinking “Umm, what, hello, why am I here, where is my soother (breast or pacifier), I need you”. When I work with clients we use gentle, supportive, and positive methods to remove sleep props (you are a part of it, EVERY STEP of the way).
Most babes can sleep through the night (10-12 hours) around 3-4 months; however, it’s crucial that they are a healthy weight – nutrition is number one. Developmental milestones are important to consider; therefore, it is always best to discuss with a Sleep Consultant who can educate you. Is your babe younger than this and you still want support? No problem. We can always work on sleep shaping (this by no means they will be sleeping through the night, nor should be). Over time, with the right skills, they can transition to beautiful, full night sleepers within the blink of an eye (see what I did there?).
6. How do I choose a Sleep Consultant?
You are trusting us with your child, your heart, your everything. You should feel understood, acknowledged, validated and HEARD. You are leading this change for your little one and need to feel 100% supported. It is about choosing a professional who will be working 1:1 with you and your little one. Do your research, ask the questions (what is your education, how many families have you worked with, what is your philosophy, how will we problem solve TOGETHER, what support will I have afterwards, how do I handle a regression etc.) and be informed. Not all sleep coaching is equal. When choosing whom you are going to work with, whom you will trust to work with your entire WORLD, it is of utmost importance you feel safe and connected.
I want to thank you- for taking time out of your day, especially if are an exhausted parent or caregiver. I hope this information has reduced some anxiety in your heart or uncertainty in your mind. It can be a confusing time, especially if you are not well rested. If you still have questions, feel free to reach out (contact information below). I would love the opportunity to support you in this journey of parenting. It can be a lonesome ride and I am here to help. Ultimately, the choice you make for your family is always the right one.
Registered Nurse & Sleep Consultant