Gentle Sleep Coaching While Maintaining Your Close Bond

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  • December 21, 2016
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Would you like me to answer your baby sleep coaching problem in my next video? If so, post your question on my Facebook Page! I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!

 

Hi. I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and in this video, I’m going to answer Lacey’s question that she emailed in about her daughter, Emily.

Here’s what she wrote:

“My daughter is 14 months old. As a baby, she had colic and silent reflux. Over the first 9 months of her life, we had to rock her to sleep to help her with the reflux during the daytime and evening naps. For her evening bedtime routine we usually have bath time, sing songs to her, put on PJs, and then I nurse or rock her to sleep.

She’s a happy baby and she’s right on track for development. But I’m concerned that I’m failing as a parent when it comes to her sleep. At 14 months old she falls asleep between 9:30 and 10:00 pm at night. Is there a way to slowly push her sleep back to 7 or 8 p.m. at the latest? I’m a full-time working mom and my husband and I both truly enjoy the time from 5 to 9 p.m. with her.”

Then, Lacey goes on to describe a lot of details about her napping. She was napping a short amount of time at 10:30 in the morning and then at 1:30 p.m. for a total of 2 to 3 hours. But now she’s pushing her nap later and later, starting anywhere from 2 to 4 p.m. and then sleeping for 2 hours. She asks what to do about the nap schedule and continues on:

“I’m a mom who doesn’t believe in the cry-it-out method. I’ve instilled an amazing trust and security bond in my daughter. I just believe in my heart that letting her cry [using the cry-it-out method] will break that bond and will cause problems down the road. Any suggestions, insights or comments that you may have to calm my worries about my baby’s sleeping pattern would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.”

 

You Are Not Alone

Lacey, I first want you to know that you’re not alone. So many parents call and write me to say, “I feel like I’m failing. Why is this so hard? Why does sleep not come naturally?”

 

No Guilt

I think that in your case you did what you needed to do, particularly when she had colic and reflux. You needed to hold her, soothe her, and do whatever it took to survive until she felt better. I don’t think you should ever feel guilty about that. You’re right – it sounds like you do have a wonderful, trusting, and secure relationship with her.

 

Gentle Sleep Training Builds Attachment When Done Properly

I think that it’s possible to improve sleep for the entire family and still keep that secure bond with your daughter. One of the ways to do that is to use a gradual, gentle sleep coaching method. This is a method in which you absolutely are responding to her cries and you’re not leaving her alone to figure it out. I fully support you in taking the kind of gentle approach that will maintain a close bond.

 

Adjust Her Wake Up Time

The first thing that we need to do is work on putting her down to sleep awake. You say that both dad and a grandparent are taking care of her during the day, so they may need to be involved in this.

Start by regulating her wake up time. You do not say what her wake up time is, but I assume it’s probably later since she’s going to bed later. So, you might want to start by waking her about 8 a.m. or possibly 7 to 7:30 a.m.  This will shift her circadian rhythm so that it will be more in line with yours and your husband’s.

 

Adjust Her Naptime

If she wakes up at 8 a.m., her first nap is going to be at 10 a.m. Or if she wakes up at 7 or 7:30 a.m., have her go down for a nap 2 hours after her wake up time. You might need to keep that nap short in the morning since she is 14 months old and may soon be ready to transition to one nap. She’s probably not ready for that change quite yet. Keep that nap short so that she has enough sleep pressure to go to sleep earlier in the afternoon.

If you notice that even a 45-minute morning nap pushes the afternoon nap really late, you might have to transition her to one nap.  I would recommend you address her nighttime sleep issues before transitioning her to one afternoon nap.

Again, only allow a 45-minute morning nap so that the afternoon nap can start sooner. Make sure you don’t miss that afternoon nap window. If you do she may become overtired and not go to sleep until 4 p.m. Once you move her morning wake up time and nap earlier it will often automatically move the bedtime earlier. Just be sure to watch those windows.

 

Getting Her the Sleep She Needs

I know that you enjoy that time from 5 to 9 p.m. with your daughter. I really understand that as a mom myself. I would just encourage you to think about getting her the sleep she needs as well. You can have that quality time in other places, like in the morning. If she’s feeling overtired at or 9 or 10 pm, that’s really not the quality time you hope to have with her.

 

Quality Time Is Not Sacrificed

I have really wonderful memories of bedtime with my children. So do my kids who are 18 and 21 now! We remember fondly all the great stories, the bath playing, the picture books we would read together, and the things that we would talk about. It is genuine, quality time that you can still have with your daughter during the bedtime routine. Just push bedtime a little bit earlier so she’s going to bed closer to 8 p.m. As you wake her earlier in the morning and have her nap earlier you will start to see that she is ready for bedtime earlier too. Look for her sleepy cues.

 

Don’t Miss Her Window

If you are completely convinced that even when she naps from 1 to 3 p.m. she still doesn’t need to go to bed until much later, you could start pushing her nap back earlier to let’s say 12:30 pm. But, again, if you’re missing her bedtime window – that natural time to go to sleep where our body secretes melatonin when we provide a dark and calm environment – the body is going to secrete alerting hormones. This means that she’ll get a second wind, which is probably how she’s able to make it until 10 o’clock.

Pushing bedtime back earlier in small increments at this age doesn’t work as well as it does when they are older. Instead, I want you to watch how she acts at after 7 pm, particularly when you adjust the naps and move the afternoon nap earlier.

 

Put Her In Bed Awake

Finally, at bedtime, you’re going to focus on putting her in her crib awake. You said you usually nurse and rock her to sleep. Now you will have your soothing bedtime routine with her room light on. I would nurse her with her light on, talk with her and if you see her starting to fall asleep I would unlatch her so she does not fall asleep while nursing. If she indicates she still wants some more milk, then you can put her back on. However, if she starts to fall back to sleep again, I think she’s just trying to nurse to sleep. I would unlatch her again. You might want to read a little book, or if she seems really tired you can put her straight in the crib.

Sometimes, when parents start to not allow the toddler to nurse to sleep, they become really stressed and say, “Oh my gosh, she’s so awake. She’s never gone into her crib that awake. I’m really worried .” Consider reading a short story to ease the transition. But, again, the goal shouldn’t be to read a story until the baby is overly drowsy. That’s what we want to try to avoid.

 

The Shuffle Supports A Secure Bond

After your comforting bedtime routine put her into her crib, give kisses and say “I love you sweetie pie”, turn the lights off and the night light on, and you sit next to her crib. You offer physical and verbal reassurance until she’s asleep. You can also pick her up to calm her as needed. I go over all of the rules in my book, Good Night, Sleep Tight, about The Shuffle and sitting next to her.

When you do The Shuffle you’re going to stay with her until she’s asleep. You’re going to do that each time she wakes up during the night. Then you’re going to move your chair a little farther away every 3 nights. Again, all of the details are outlined in my book. When you follow my gradual, gentle method you are responding to her, you are there for her and you are helping coach her as she learns a new skill. Doing so supports a secure bond.

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.
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