There is an endless amount of information on the internet about the best way to have your infant or little one get good, healthy sleep. Plus the constant barrage of well meaning advice from your friends and relatives about when your baby should nap, whether they should have a dummy or not, and countless other bits of wisdom.
In my many years as a professional infant and toddler sleep trainer I have been able to see what works, what doesn’t and also the ‘grey areas’ around this very important – and sometimes drama filled – issue of sleep.
Below I have listed some of the most common answers to the questions I get asked constantly. Hope you enjoy them – and please Reach Out if you have any questions about your own little one.
Infant sleep training refers to a wide range of methods used to adjust a child's sleep behaviour. The goal of infant sleep training is generally to get your baby to be comfortable sleeping for several hours through the night, without your help.
There is a general consensus that sleep training should begin between four and six months old. At this stage, babies are typically capable of self-soothing and may no longer require night feedings. Additionally, around four months into your baby’s development, their sleep cycles start to become more regularised and their circadian rhythm starts to take effect.
Some babies can start sleep training earlier or later, but at around four months old most are able to learn the skill successfully.
I've written an article about when to start infant sleep training that you may find useful.
While some parents find success after only one night of sleep training, others require weeks or even months to achieve the same results. Every baby is different and will respond differently to this type of discipline, but experts agree that it typically takes around three to seven days for successful sleep training results.
It is important to be consistent in order for your baby to learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. Attempting this every night will not result in success if you completely abandon the practise after only seven days.
Sleep training is beneficial for all babies, including those with special needs. In fact, children who suffer from a variety of conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Cerebral Palsy and Seizures are the ones who need to get consistent sleep the most! This is because chronically sleep-deprived children don't get an appropriate amount of REM sleep, which can negatively impact their health in areas of the brain related to these disorders.
I find that a child who is dependent on using a dummy to get to sleep will at some stage experience sleep troubles.
If the dummy has started to cause you sleep problems and you feel like you are constantly getting up to reinsert it all night, then your probably feeling extremely exhausted and wondering, is this ever going to end.
Removing the dummy altogether is the most effective way to establishing good sleep habits but not everyone wants to do this or feel they as parents are ready to take this step. Let me help you make this decision.
There can be many reasons your child wakes through the night. If your baby is under 3 months, then this is normal behaviour. But if your baby is over 3 months, is waking multiple times a night and needs help to be put back to sleep, by now you would be feeling exhausted. Do you need some support?
Rocking your baby to sleep can cause this kind of behaviour. You rock your baby to sleep to find them waking up at 11:00pm and the rocking will be needed again to get your baby back to sleep. This can happen multiple times a night, the same as a dummy dependency.
Daytime sleep, which is less than 40 minutes in duration. A typical sleep cycle (the process of drifting between light and deep sleep) for a baby can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as 50 minutes. Your baby may awaken when passing through one sleep cycle to the next and have a difficult time falling back asleep, especially for a baby who doesn’t know how to fall asleep independently.
Your toddler has graduated into a big bed and now gets out to follow you to the door. This can happen multiple times before your child has even considered sleep. How frustrating for you, but how fun for them! Let me show you how to eliminate this game.
Allowing your child to settle themselves to sleep is one of the most important rules to achieving successful sleep.
This process is defined by putting your baby to bed awake but ready for sleep, without the use of an aid. If you are using an aid such as rocking, Feeding, cuddling or the use of a dummy then you may very well be encountering sleep troubles. When your child relies on this process to get to sleep, they may find it very difficult to resettle without it and enter into their next sleep cycle.
OK, imagine someone turned around and said its time to go to bed! You look at the clock and its 5 o’clock in the afternoon, you don’t even feel tired enough to go to sleep. You could possibly have a little lay down for about 20 minuets or so but you know you couldn’t have a solid restful sleep and be refreshed when you woke. This is how children work too. Finding the right awake time is key (the time between when your baby woke up to the time your baby goes to bed). You may be potentially putting your baby down too early meaning they are not yet ready for sleep. This will create BATLES, catnapping and possibly even nap refusals. We tend to get a lot of information about an overtired baby and not enough information about giving your baby enough awake time suitable for their age. In my personalised plan I will help find the perfect wake time suitable for your child.
Baby is ready for sleep (see awake times), now all you need to do is pop them into a safe sleep environment and allow them to self settle.
Children like to know what’s going to happen next. Never underestimate how much your baby understands and takes in. Giving clear cues to your child will enable them to predict when its bedtime and will potentially avoid meltdowns at bedtime. One thing I always recommend is to always give the feed at the very beginning of the bedtime routine. It could look a little bit like this one:
Bed (Verbal Cue: sleepy time for Charlie)
A sleep aid is an object or an action that is needed to get your baby to sleep. Some examples of sleep aids include rocking, feeding and dummies.
A positive sleeping aid is something that does not require Mum or Dad’s attention, therefore does not become a problem. An example of a positive sleep aid is a comforter.
There are two types of sleep, light sleep and deep sleep. Each night adults and children move through repeating cycles. A single sleep cycle for a baby will last from 30-50 minutes. Children briefly wake between sleep cycles and enter into another cycle, but only if they know how to. Some children will wake completely and call out for assistance for resettling. Usually these children have been helped initially to get to sleep. Independent sleepers will have no problem entering the next sleep cycle.
Reward charts can be a fun and interactive way to encourage good sleep habits and behaviour. If your child is doing as you ask you will reward them with a sticker. Once they reach a certain amount of stickers they will receive a reward. This can be anything you choose. As your child understands this process you will need to make the ‘game’ harder to achieve stickers for the ultimate goal, a reward.