When parents hear the words "sleep training" most often what comes next is fear. The thought of letting your little one cry for hours and hours is gut wrenching for most parents, especially mothers. The answer though doesn't have to be crying it out. Here are some of the best tools we use to help introduce healthy and gentle sleep training habits to babies and toddlers.
- Quality Time. Spend lots of play time in your child's environment before the bedtime routine begins. If they see that mommy and daddy enjoy their space, they will become more excited to be in their space...and that includes during the night. Be genuine and have some good one on one time prior to dinner. Laugh, play with their toys, and give lots of hugs and kisses. This quality time gives security and confidence!
- Make a Plan. When we work with our clients, we often tell them we try and find the best technique that is based off of their child's personality and the parenting philosophies. If you don't believe in crying it out - DON'T DO IT!!!! It won't work and it will actually make things harder for everyone. There are a TON of techniques out there as I am sure you have seen but the best advice we can give is to start off slow. Very slow. And stick to whatever technique you find is the right one for your family. If it's to be in the room with your child, placing your hand on their belly or back (depending on age of child), and use the shushhhh pat technique (simple shushing and gentle pats ever so often until your child fall asleep) or maybe you notice your child has no interest desire and only cries more - try a pick up/put down technique. Don't leave that room though! Stick with it until your child finally falls asleep. Too much still on your child? Maybe sit down and say shushhhhh without touching or take a step farther and move out of the room for a minute of two. There are ways to go about it but whatever you decide, create the plan and stick with it! Be on the same page. Need help creating the plan - purchase our sleep plan. We create a plan that everyone will agree on and when executed properly, success is made in your child's sleep!!!
- Be Consistent. From the beginning your child wants to see how far they can reach before no is no. Set a goal and draw the line before you beginning training. This allows everyone to be on the same page and for consistency to be given. If your ultimate goal is to be in the room, but not to take your child out of the crib, then do that! Children thrive off consistency and routine - be clear in expectations - and don't let them cross that line that you laid out. This goes for all ages, not just toddlers and preschoolers!
- Give Comfort When Needed. Sleep training shouldn't be end all be all. You are still a parent and you are created to help comfort and love your child. It's important for them to know you have abandon them even if you are having to step out of the room for a moment. Comfort them when you come back to check on them. A quick hug, kiss, back rub, or a simple mommy/daddy are here, goes a long way. Just make your check brief. Remember, your goal is to give them a healthy nights sleep. Don't give in too quickly. Just comfort them enough to let them know you haven't left them, you are right here cheering them on, and you love them dearly.
- Continue On. You won't see changes being made over one night - it will take some time. We typically tell our clients after a week you will notice a difference, after two weeks you will notice a change, and after a month of being consistent with the plan you will have a sleeper! That being said, stick with your plan and your technique. It's okay if you have an off night, go back to it the next night.