Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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10 Things You Need To Know About Teaching Your Baby To Sleep

1. Sleep training does not equal “Cry It Out”

Most people misunderstand what CIO means and use the term inappropriately.  “Cry it out” means to close the door and not return back in all night.  When I’m working on a case I try and view the world from the baby’s perspective.  If I was just left into a room to cry, how would I know that I have been heard?  That would be really frustrating.  I want my kids to know that I have heard them, so this method is not what I promote, and sleep training does equal CIO.  There are many different methods for teaching your baby to sleep and to learn how relax themselves into sleep.

2. When you sleep train you need a plan!

A plan that addresses 24 hrs and 7 days so that you set your baby and yourself up for success.  You want to ensure that your baby is getting enough calories and naps during the day and isn’t kept up too long before bedtime.  A lot of parents are unsuccessful sleeping training on their own because they don’t give enough consideration to the amount of nap time a child needs, or they don’t stick with their plan long enough to see it succeed.  Self doubt is a killer!

3. The anxiety leading up to sleep training is worse than the actual sleep training itself.

I remember my hands shaking I was so nervous to sleep train my son in the first night, and I was wide awake at 2 am just waiting for him to wake up again, even though he’d just slept 6 hrs in a row, the longest he’d ever slept!  Once you have your first night under your belt things get much easier emotionally for parents.  Things usually go much better than you expect.

4. Sleep training will also address your nursing or feeding habits.

Usually there is a nursing-sleeping association where baby is fed right before going to bed.  A good sleep training plan will look at how and when you are feeding and try and remove sleep crutches such as nursing to sleep, a soother and/or motion.  A good plan will also look at other feeding factors to make sure hunger is not a real reason keeping baby awake.  In 99% of cases, hunger is not an issue, but the parents are usually sure it is:)

5. How good or bad a baby is sleeping is entirely subjective and thus there really are no “perfect” sleepers.

Parents have different thresholds on what they can handle and what is a “good sleeper” to one parent, is a “bad sleeper” to someone else.  Also, just when you think you’ve got things exactly where you want them with your baby’s sleep, something will change.  She’ll grow and evolve or start teething and throw things off, but if you’ve had a good plan, you’ll have the skills and knowledge to handle these changes.

6. How quickly the sleep training will be successful depends on a number of factors.

The baby’s temperament.  If you have a “willed” baby you will know within the first night of your sleep training plan.
If you have done some sleep training attempts previously it will take a longer each time you try.
If baby is teething this can extend things a bit.  I do not predict how many nights it will take since each child is different and children can surprise us in good and bad ways!  Sometimes it can be one night and other times it can be 7 days.

7. We don’t sleep train babies, we sleep train parents.

Often parents are interfering with baby’s sleep without knowing it.  One of my clients summed it up best, “Clearly, I was holding her back”.  Sometimes we jump up to feed in the middle of the night without giving baby a chance to go back to sleep or even interrupt when they are actually still asleep, or sometimes we just want to help them settle so much that was actual impede the process.

8. Partners can help!

Moms are so dominant in the relationship for so long, especially if breastfeeding.  Children will often fall asleep more quickly with Dad doing the responding than Mom during sleep training.  Dads can expedite the process and interact with baby in a new meaningful way!

9. Teaching your child to sleep will help you be more in tune to your baby’s needs during the day and night.

Often our kids aren’t getting enough sleep and they are in the overtired zone. Once their night time sleep improves they become less fussy and happier children doing the day which makes it easier for their parents to read their hunger and sleep cues.  It can be very easy to soothe a baby with a breast or bottle, but often hunger wasn’t the issue, and we just masked what was really bothering the little person. The 24 hour sleep plan will help identify and meet needs.

10. You can still be a loving, attached parent and teach your baby to sleep.

There’s so much pressure to following attachment parenting principles in efforts to build attached confident kids, and a dark cloud over sleep training, seeing the process as selfish.   However, sleep training your children does not mean that you are not meeting their needs or fostering a strong attachments, and can help improves the qualify of life of entire families.  Sleep training is not something to feel guilty about!

I have so much I want to teach you about your baby’s sleep.  My online class and community can teach you everything you need to know about your baby’s sleep from 4-24 months and provide you with a follow up community for support and encouragement.  Because it does take a village!

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  1. Online Sleep Class
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