Written by Christina Gantcher, Featured Gentle Sleep Coach
Do any of these apply to you and your baby’s sleep problems?
“Sometimes I can give my child a bottle, he will fall asleep and I gently place him in his crib.”
“Sometimes he wakes up at 1 am and I just have to rub his back for a few minutes and then I sneak out of his room.”
“Sometimes it’s 5 am and I can’t take it anymore so I just bring him into my bed.”
These are all reasons why inconsistency is so powerful- sometimes “it” works. Gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry because sometimes we win. “Maybe if I play that slot machine over there, like that guy did, I can win too.”
Often when I work with a family it takes time to understand the power of inconsistency. Most of us know what happens when we give into the whining for a lollipop at the supermarket check out- it only gets harder to say no next time. The same premise holds true for sleep difficulties.
The Most Important Factor for Baby Sleep Success
When you are trying to put a new sleep plan into place being consistent is the most important factor in baby sleep success. And, doing three different “things” in one night is being inconsistent. Being inconsistent can actually create night wakings! Your child thinks: “sometimes I get a bottle, sometimes I get rocked to sleep and maybe next time it will be a trip to Disney World!” When a parent tells me “I’ve always rocked my child to sleep” I then ask “is that all?” And when they say, “Yes, that’s all” I say, “Then we only have one crutch to undo.” The more inconsistent responses to sleep troubles will mean a longer and tougher path to “undo” the layers of a problem.
Inconsistency is confusing to young children and confusion usually leads to crying, especially for pre-verbal children. Inconsistency actually creates more of the tears we are trying to avoid! When I work with families we discuss in detail their goals for a new sleep situation and craft a plan that they will be able to follow through with so that they can achieve baby sleep success.
- Upcoming travel
- Foreseeable transitions (moving to a new home, the birth of a sibling)
- Other major family stress (death in the family, major illness)
All these factors would lead to inevitable inconsistency so don’t start a new sleep plan if any of these are at play (you’ll just end up creating another baby sleep problem) in the recent past or near future. Set yourself, and your child, up for success so that everyone can get a good night’s sleep by being consistent with a new sleep plan.