A certified pediatric sleep consultant gives advice on everything sleep related.
To all of you sleep-deprived mamas out there: I see you. I know what it’s like to be up all night every night. I know what it’s like waking up before dawn every day. I know what it’s like being so angry at your child and then hating yourself for feeling like that. I know, I know it all, because I’ve been there (read our sleep training journey). Hence, that’s why I decided to team up with Casey Mayo, a certified pediatric sleep consultant for Sleep Wise Consulting and a mom of two, and answer some of your questions and concerns.
We received close to one hundred questions on Instagram, so Casey took a general consensus of your questions and answered things pertaining to what you mamas asked. If your question hasn’t been answered in this article, please reach out to Casey for a free call. To book a call, click here. You can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) Sleep Props
Many people asked how they can get their little ones to sleep through the night, especially when breastfeeding puts them to sleep (and now this is no longer working). The issue here is that if your child depends on something for sleep, such as breastfeeding, rocking or co-sleeping, they lack the skill to actually put themselves to sleep without that prop. Because they need that particular prop to put themselves to sleep at the beginning of the night, they will need it for the middle of the night as well. Once they can put themselves to sleep at the beginning of the night, they can put themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night as well. Dropping the prop is the beginning of the process.
2) Bedtime Routine
A good bedtime routine is key to helping your baby and toddler sleep well at night. I recommend doing: bottle/nursing, bath, book and then bed wide awake but ready for sleep. If you don’t want to do a bath every night, continue to do a mock bath (a routine in the bathroom – ie. sponge bath or lotion massage. Make sure that your child is wide awake throughout the entire routine. Keep the lights low and voices soft. The whole routine should take no longer than 30 minutes total.
3) Early Mornings
If you have a baby that is continually waking early….there are a few things to consider. Make sure that your child is getting enough time between nap and bedtime. Not too long and not too short. Pay attention to cues and use the chart provided as a key for figuring out those optimal times. Make sure your child isn’t napping too long. Try cutting a nap or two by 30 minutes to see if it helps. If you child is on solid food, make sure there is enough healthy fats in their diet. Healthy fats could be avocado, whole milk yogurt, cheese, nut butters and more. If you still can’t nail down the issue for the early morning waking, I’m happy to help.
4) Independent Sleep
Because I don’t know individual details for each individual who commented, I can’t give the exact plan you should use to teach your child to sleep independently. I recommend that you figure out the daytime schedule, following appropriate wake times, make sure you have a solid bedtime routine, make sure your doctor approves of your decision to sleep training and that all health issues have been resolved. Once all those details are in place, figure out a plan for your partner/spouse and stick with it. It will be hard but worth it.
5) The Issue of Your Baby “Growing out of It”
At some point every parent will have to teach their child to sleep independently. It’s best to start as soon as you can. It’s never too late but the idea that your child will do it on their own one day, is not something you should count on. It’s a skill that has to be taught and is totally doable to teach.
6) Reasons to Wait on Sleep Training
If you suspect a need for more feeds in the night, do not try to pull them prematurely. It’s always best to speak with the doctor before pulling night feeds. It’s best to let them do it on their own, especially for breastfed mothers who don’t know how much their child is getting. You don’t need to wait if you suspect your child is in a regression, leap or growth spurt. You can do it through the thick of it, and it may even shorten the length of the troubled period you are going through.
If you suspect your child is going through a regression because sleep has changed, it’s very well possible that there may be a unresolved sleep prop issue. For instance, say the pacifier was working really well for a while. You would put it in at the beginning of the night and your child would sleep sweetly with or without it for the rest of the night. Now you are stuck playing paci-pong (a beautiful description for putting the pacifier back in all night long), then the pacifier has become an issue and needs to be dropped. Maybe you rocked your baby to sleep at the beginning but now they are up every hour expecting to be rocked to sleep, that has now become a sleep prop that needs to be done away with. If you’ve eliminated all sleep props and sleep is still a struggle it could be a schedule issue and wake times need to be lengthened. It’s a hard season to be in but I’m happy to support you through it!
8) Dropping middle of the night feeds
When you are up feeding your baby in the night, keep your voice and lights low. Make sure your child is staying awake during the feed and goes back down awake after the feed. This will keep you from forming a habit of nursing to sleep or bottle feeding to sleep for any time in the day or night, thus making sure your child is using their sleep skills all the time.
9) Toddler Sleep
For toddler sleep battles, make sure you are keep things very consistent all the time. The bedtime routine shouldn’t change night to night depending on what your toddler demands. Follow a routine like: bath, brush teeth, potty, two books and bed. Keep the routine to at least 30 minutes, any longer and you could be stretching it out for no reason. Enforce the routine with sticker rewards and a chart to follow. This makes it fun and rewarding for the child. Also, introducing a sleep clock could help. I recommend the Hatch Baby Rest. You can start it as early as you want.
10) Some other handy toddler tips:
– Make sure you don’t move your child to a toddler bed too early. This transition should be done at 3-years-old. Any earlier and they may not be developmentally ready to understand how to stay in bed all night. Moving a child to a toddler bed will not help solve your sleep issues.
– Make sure your toddler is getting plenty of physical activity. I recommend between 1.5-2 hours of outdoor play every day. If weather is bad you can create a fun obstacle course through the house or have a rockin’ dance party that gets the wiggles out. There are lots of ideas on Pinterest.
– Make sure your child still needs to nap. If you suspect it’s time to drop a nap, drop it and offer quiet time in their room instead and opt for an early bedtime until they adjust. Don’t drop the nap prematurely. I usually see kids dropping the nap after 3. It can happen a little earlier but I wouldn’t push it unless you suspect it’s causing sleep issues or bedtime keeps getting later and later.
I hope this article gave you a little bit of clarity. And as always, don’t be afraid to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have.