So many parents ask me the same question: “Do I have to sleep coach? Will my child just outgrow this?” My answer is always the same: sleep is a learned skill. Many parents are surprised to learn that sleep is not something you’re born with, rather, it’s up to us to teach our children. And, I’m sure that you’ll agree, sleep is so important, both for adults and for our growing children. So, no, you don’t “have” to sleep coach, but believe me when I tell you that there’s such a marked difference between a well-rested, well-napped baby and one who has sleep issues (or just bad sleep habits or what I like to call sleep crutches). There’s also a huge difference in mom and dad when the kids sleep well at night. When you have a well-rested baby, you end up with a well-rested family.
I understand that some parents may feel that their child will eventually “figure it out”. While there’s nothing wrong with thinking that, the problem that I always find is that babies, toddlers, and preschoolers don’t just “figure out” how to sleep well. Of course, over time, you may become accustomed to your child’s sleep routine, but that doesn’t mean that your child’s sleep patterns are healthy or conducive to quality nighttime (or naptime) sleep. We teach our children how to play, how to eat, and how to use the “big kid” potty…why not teach our children how to sleep well, too?
Before You Sleep Coach
I believe that I can help every family with sleep, no matter the issue, but it’s important that before you start the sleep coaching process, you follow a few simple steps:
1. Get the Green Light from your child’s pediatrician.
2. Keep a sleep and feeding log.
3. Determine your child’s ideal bedtime.
4. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
5. Decide about the pacifier.
6. Get your child used to waking between 6:00 and 7:30 a.m.
7. Make sure that all caregivers are on board.
8. Pick a realistic start date.
A note from The Sleep Lady: The gentle sleep coaching process takes both time and patience, but the end result (EVERYONE sleeping!) is definitely worth a few weeks. Remember, you are essentially teaching your child how to go to sleep and breaking a sleep crutch that he’s had for 6 months (sometimes 12 or 18 months).
There’s one more step that you need to take before you embark on the sleep coaching process. You need to make sure that your child is developmentally ready. For most children, this means sometime around the 6-month mark. I see so many families that try to sleep coach their 2 or 3 month old with absolutely zero success become frustrated and feel that the process “doesn’t work”, when in fact their baby is simply not mature enough to benefit from sleep coaching and is not developmentally ready. There’s a benefit to waiting until 6 months, as your baby’s circadian rhythms and development are more favorable to sleep coaching.
A Note from The Sleep Lady: Yes there are some babies who are ready at 18 weeks, but not all are so don’t feel discouraged if your baby just doesn’t seem ready quite yet.
The way that I’ve approached teaching sleep is through sleep coaching. My method, The Sleep Lady Shuffle, is a gentle method that I developed because I couldn’t stand the other options (cry-it-out) that were available when I was sleep coaching my daughters. Now, sleep coaching is not a magic pill. Sleep coaching takes patience and persistence, for a short time, and has a long-term reward.
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