Preparing for Sleep Coaching Success
Are you struggling to get your child to sleep every night? Have you been trying everything and they still are struggling to fall asleep on their own and have multiple wakings a night?
Sleep coaching can help you to guide and support your child to build the skills of independent sleep. Before you get started with a sleep coaching program (mine or any other), doing these 10 things will prepare you for success!!
Speak to your child’s doctor to make sure they give you the okay to move forward with sleep coaching. It is important that your pediatrician rules out any underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to your child’s sleep issues, like reflux, asthma, allergies, ear infections, or obstructive sleep apnea. If you are still feeding your child at night, you will need to ask the doctor if, given your child’s age, weight, general health, and amount they are eating during waking hours, they still need nighttime feedings.
Create a sleep and feeding log. In order to solve your child’s sleep issues, you need to get a clear picture of what is happening at bedtime and during the night, what is working, what’s not, and how your child is responding. You will do this by keeping the log for a few days or a week, tracking bedtime, the time and frequency of naps and night wakings, how long it takes to get them back to sleep and how you get them back to sleep (rocking, walking, nursing, feeding, singing, rubbing back, or taking to your bed.) This will give you an accurate picture of your child’s nighttime and daytime sleep and eating patterns as well as their natural bedtime window which you can compare to the typical daily schedule and see where changes need to occur. Once you start sleep coaching you will continue to log, using the sleep log that I will provide you and tracking the same information.
Get your child used to waking up between 600am-730am. This applies to babies over 5 months old who are waking at later times like 830am-930am, which throws off the entire day and confuses their internal clocks. Start waking your child by 730am at the latest for about 5 days before you plan to start sleep coaching.
Figure out your child’s ideal bedtime. The ideal bedtime is the period of time in which your child shows signs they are ready to sleep. These include yawning, rubbing their eyes and getting fussy. You should start to pay close attention to how your child is acting between 600pm- 800pm. When you notice sleepy signs - that will clue you that it is their natural bedtime - and when you should be putting them to sleep each night. Usually it works best to make bedtime adjustments by 15-30 minutes at a time. However, sometimes kids under 3 can adjust quickly. An example is if your child is going to bed at 10pm but you see they are sleepy at 730pm, you can just put them to bed at 730pm and make sure you start to put them to sleep consistently at that time.
**If you are struggling to figure out their natural bedtime or pick up on their sleep cues, you can identify it by looking at when they normally wake up and factor how much sleep they should be getting by age. Ex. a 2 year old needs 11 hours of sleep at night so if they are waking at 7am each morning, they should be through their bedtime routine and asleep by 8pm.
Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Children at all ages need a consistent, predictable and comforting set of activities or routines to help prepare them physically and psychologically for sleep. These activities should be calm and quiet like reading, story-telling, or lullabies. There should be NO screens or tech devices at LEAST 1 hour before bedtime because this stimulates the brain. All of the routine, except brushing teeth and baths, should take place in your child’s room. You want to choose about 3 activities that can become a regular part of your routine. Some examples include: bath, put on PJs/sleepsack, brush teeth, go potty, massage, swaddle, read books, sing a short song, play a quiet game, share a few things about your day, tell a story, listen to music, baby/toddler yoga, sippy cup of water while reading books, bottle/nursing, prayers, blessings, kisses and hugs.
Install room darkening curtains. If your child’s bedroom gets too much light, they will usually wake very early in the morning or have trouble napping. A dark room creates an ideal sleep environment. IF your child has trouble with total darkness, or getting scared, you can have a dim night-light, red color preferably, as this does not affect melatonin production like a regular night light.
Consider/Experiment with playing white-noise. White noise can be helpful to mask/screen out noise, especially if your child’s room isn’t very soundproof and you have a lot of noises (barking dogs, loud neighbors, older siblings, live on a busy street.) White noise is a constant sound that helps to block out noise. Music is not ideal because it can be too stimulating and if it ends kids can wake up and need it turned back on every time they wake up.
Decide about a pacifier. Research shows that pacifier use during sleep may reduce risk of SIDS among babies who are 6 months or younger. It can be helpful to check with your pediatrician about use. If you are breast feeding, it is recommended to wait 4 - 6 weeks until nursing is established before introducing a pacifier (bottle-fed babies can start earlier.) You may want to use it all the time or just when your baby sleeps. You can reconsider how and when you want to continue use when your baby is about 6 months old. If your baby is over 6 months and using a pacifier, you may need to decide if it is a problem that needs to be addressed during sleep coaching. If you are making multiple trips to the crib to replug the pacifier and you have spoken to baby’s doctor about weaning off the pacifier, and you are wanting to get rid of it, you will need to pick a night to stop, as you can not “wean” from the pacifier. You’ll likely need to do extra soothing the first few nights, but then your baby should no longer need it for sleep.
Make sure all caregivers are on board with sleep coaching. Everyone, including your spouse, nanny, or anyone who cares for your child needs to understand every aspect of the sleep coaching plan, why it is important, and be willing to follow through with it. This is important to maintaining consistency, which is critical to successful sleep coaching.
Pick a realistic start date. Choose a time, about 3 weeks, during which you can dedicate to following a sleep plan and don’t expect any major disruptions or changes in your household, including trips, holidays, moving, or arrival of a new baby. Some families decide to start sleep coaching during summer or winter breaks. Once you pick a night to start sleep coaching, make sure your child gets a good nap(s) that day so you don’t start with an overtired kid.
The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Without Leaving Them to Cry it Out.
By: West, Kim, and Joanne Kenen.
Hachette Book Group, Inc 2020