What do you think of when you hear the words “sleep training” or “sleep coaching”? I’m guessing that for a majority of you who haven’t experienced The Shuffle images of screaming, crying children left alone is one of the first things that comes to mind. I hear the same fear of tears from parents who come to me for help.
No one wants to listen to their baby cry-including me. No one wants to leave their child alone, especially when your baby is frustrated, scared, and overly emotional about a big change that they don’t fully understand. While cry-it-out methods like Weissbluth and Ferber work for some, they are just too extreme for me. I believe that there is a gentle, gradual solution that will help EVERY child sleep that involves far less tears…if any at all.
The first thing most parents don’t understand is that tears happen. When you are raising a child, you will find that she goes through stages, from non-verbal to verbal. Non-verbal children cry to communicate a need, frustration, tiredness, and many more issues that they simply don’t have words for. Verbal children cry AND tell you what they don’t like, but they still use tears for a myriad of emotions that you and I can talk about rationally.
Know What’s Normal
As stated above, it’s perfectly normal for your child to cry when she wants or needs something. In fact, that’s how pre-verbal babies communicate. It doesn’t matter if they’re hungry, done with a toy, need a change…the result is the same: crying. The difference is knowing what is normal and what is not.
When you leave your baby to cry unattended for long period of time, you may be teaching your child to seek stressful situations, because that’s all she knows.
Know Your Child’s Limitations
It’s very different to let an infant under 6 months of age fuss or cry than it is to allow a 2-year-old to cry. Make sure that your expectations for your child are reasonable, and that you take your child’s age into account.
Although sleep is a skill that we need to teach our children, we also need to ensure that our baby is developmentally ready to learn, or you’ll just end up with more tears, and a very frustrating situation. Most babies aren’t ready for sleep coaching until 6 months, because the ability to self soothe isn’t fully developed until then.
Do Not Start Too Early
Choosing to sleep coach your child at the appropriate age is so important, and is part of what makes my method the most gentle and effective sleep coaching method out there. If you ensure that your child can self-soothe and is able to begin sleeping through the night (please check with your pediatrician ), everyone will have a much easier time when you begin to sleep coach.
Many times, I talk to families who are so excited because they’ve been using my sleep coaching method, “The Shuffle” on their 3, 4, or 5 month old, only to find that their baby sleeps “wonderfully” for a week, and then suddenly everything changes, the tears show up, and mom and dad are beyond frustrated.
I know that it’s tempting to get started sooner, but quite honestly, parents who wait until their child is 6 months find that their baby’s sleep habits begin to improve with little to no tears in just a few days.
Remember, your child’s tears are trying to tell you something. Before you rush to her side, evaluate her age, development, and if she’s learning a new skill (like sleep or tummy time), and realize that you can soothe through words and light touch instead of rescuing her right away. If she escalates, then please pick her up and snuggle her. No one likes to see their baby cry, especially me.
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