Waking up three, four, five, or more times a night to the sound of crying. Stumbling half-asleep into the child’s room and reaching into their crib. Rocking them, nursing them, or singing to them before laying them down and going back to bed yourself. Repeat. If this scene is all too familiar to you, you may want to look into sleep training your baby. Danielle Daly, owner of Bedtime Bliss Sleep Consulting, has answers to any questions you may have about the process of teaching your child independent sleeping skills.
What exactly is sleep training?
Sleep training is, essentially, the use of any behavioral methods to improve sleep habits. “It’s teaching your child to fall asleep on their own, which allows them to sleep through the night or for longer stretches, depending on their age,” says Daly, who opened Bedtime Bliss Sleep Consulting almost seven years ago when her son was struggling with his own sleep habits. As a pediatric sleep consultant, she works with parents who are exhausted and looking for solutions to their child’s sleep disruptions, from newborn up to age 8.
When do you know your child needs sleep training?
“It can be a very personal experience, but, typically, if your child is having frequent and recurring night wakings, or you struggle with getting them to fall asleep, then you could benefit from sleep training,” Daly answers. “But, if you’re content with your situation, then you don’t need it.”
It’s important to note there are different ways to approach sleep training, as every child is different. It’s also possible to sleep train your child if they still do night feedings.
“Obviously, newborns wake frequently, but there’s a lot you can do with newborns to guide their sleep in a healthy direction so you don’t need sleep training,” says Daly.
It’s normal for children to go through little bumps in the road when establishing sleep habits. The question to ask yourself is, does your child have healthy sleep habits? Some sleep habits work for other families, but if those habits are not working for you and your family, you may want to consider sleep training.
What may sleep training entail?
“What I do is evaluate current sleeping habits and how your child is getting to sleep. I identify what’s working and what’s not working, and I modify that based on their response,” says Daly. Sleep training can be done virtually or in-person. Your sleep trainer will choose an age appropriate method, one that fits your family’s needs. There will be a program about 3 weeks in length, which your sleep trainer will create for you and help you implement. From there, you can approach any changes that need to be made.
What are the benefits of sleep training?
Our society tends to undervalue the importance of sleep; we forget that proper sleep is crucial especially for the growth and development of children. Sleep training will help get your child’s sleeping habits on track and improve their overall mental and physical health. “Sleep affects your immune system, mood, and academic performance. If your child isn’t getting enough sleep, chances are it will impact all those things,” Daly notes. “For infants, it may mean a cranky baby and tired parents, but for older children it will start to affect their overall mood and academic performance.”
Any tips or tricks?
“I would say a quick tip is to focus on being consistent with whatever you’re doing,” Daly answers. “Have a set routine. Routines are so important, and so are naps–depending on their age. Pay attention to wake times as well, especially for infants. If your baby is not awake long enough, that could affect their naps and night sleep.”
Bedtime Bliss Sleep Consulting’s website also features a blog and a free downloadable sheet for those looking for other quick tips on sleep training their child. However, don’t feel obliged to do sleep training if you are comfortable with your child’s sleep schedule. A lot of stressors come with parenthood, and proper sleep should not be one of them.