If you are a working mom you probably already feel like you’re climbing Mt. Everest every day. Your mind is full, your schedule is maxed, and your body is tired.
Now that your child is near the six-month mark you may want to take that next step — sleep coaching. How wonderful it would be for him to fall asleep by himself, and even sleep through the night.
However, just the thought of adding more to your plate might set off your already-frazzled nerves. You may worry that this will mean less sleep and more effort for you, and more crying for baby. You may wonder if it’s worth it, knowing it’s going to be more work up front.
Let me assure you, it is worth it.
Sleep coaching doesn’t take as long as you might think. Most families see dramatic change in their baby’s sleep within two weeks of consistent coaching. You may sacrifice a little sleep on the front end of sleep training, but in the long run, both of you will reap the benefits. Once your child is sleep trained, he will experience more stable and positive moods. A well-rested child will also be able to focus and learn more readily according to his developmental age.
While you are sleep coaching, your baby may fuss a little more than usual because you are helping him learn a valuable life lesson: how to cope, adapt, and soothe himself to sleep. If you follow The Shuffle you will be near your child — comforting and assuring her when he’s struggling — so he isn’t alone.
Are you convinced that sleep coaching your child, even while working, is worth the cost up front? If so, let’s look at how to get prepared.
Is Your Baby Ready?
Before you begin sleep coaching, consider whether or not your baby is ready for this next step.
Check with your doctor.
Ask your pediatrician if your child is ready to sleep through the night with or without feeding. If your child is waking up to feed several times a night, it would be good to make some schedule adjustments first. Rule out underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to your baby’s sleep issue. If your baby has reflux and is taking medicine, for example, talk with your doctor about the dose and timing and its possible connection to sleep issues.
Create a feeding plan.
Does your pediatrician say that your child is old enough (typically 6 to 8 months) to drop her middle of the night feedings? If so, you could do a dreamfeed around 10 p.m. or do a set-time feed for three nights in a row and then drop the nighttime feeding altogether.
If she wakes at night at times other than the set-time feeding, just soothe and comfort her. Then feed her again at 6 a.m. The important thing here is to be super consistent. If you cave in, it will be even harder to eliminate nighttime feedings moving forward.
Develop a soothing bedtime routine.
Children crave a routine, even ones as young as 3 months old. Take some time to think through what is reasonable, what you can consistently maintain each night, and what is soothing for your child. Your routine may include a few of the following:
- A warm bath
- Playing soft, soothing music or singing a lullaby
- A snack (nursing or a bottle)
- Swaddling (if baby isn’t rolling yet)
- Reading a board book
- A snuggle and kisses
Do these things in the same order each night. Use a low, soft voice and dim the lights in the room. These will all begin to serve as sleep cues. As her melatonin production increases her body will know that sleep is on the horizon.
Preparation for Sleep Coaching
If you have ever painted a room, you know that most of the work is in the preparation. Painting the walls is the final, essential step that will either go on easily and look terrific — or be terribly difficult to do — depending on how well you have prepped the room. Like painting, preparing to sleep coach is important for a successful experience. Before you dive in, you should prepare yourself and your child for success when it comes time to actually begin sleep coaching.
Dedicate some time
Meet with your spouse and plan together when you can dedicate three weeks to sleep coaching. Clear your weekends of outside commitments so that you can support one another and catch up on sleep while the other is on duty.
Make meals ahead of time
Put away some freezer meals so that you can spend less time on meal-prep and use that energy for your child at night. This may sound like a pain, but you will be grateful for that frozen platter of enchiladas you can pop in the oven when you get home from work.
Adjust your work schedule
Ask your boss if you can come in a little later or head home a little earlier for a week. You could also ask to make up the time in a few weeks when you are well-rested and able to work more effectively.
There are two things you can do to get sleep coaching off to a good start.
Begin with your child well-napped
The ideal way to start your child’s first night of sleep coaching is to be sure he is well-rested. That’s so he is not excessively cranky as you introduce a new way of going to sleep. In order to do this you can stretch the rules for a couple of days to make sure he meets his daytime nap needs. This may mean asking his caregiver to rock him to sleep for his naps, or take him in the stroller or car if necessary.
Then, make sure to wake him two to three hours before his bedtime. He’ll be drowsy, but awake when you begin his bedtime routine and sleep coaching.
Start on a weekend
Since you have gone back to work you will need extra support during sleep coaching. Start on a Friday night so you have the weekend to begin a new routine and grab some extra rest while your partner is available to watch the kids. It is invaluable to be able to lean on one another for the first few days. If you are a single mom, enlist the help of a faithful friend that first weekend.
RELATED: 10 Steps to Take Before Starting Baby Sleep Coaching
Once the prep work is done, it’s time to start sleep coaching. The Sleep Lady has options ranging from books to one-on-one help.
- Blog – search for more articles that can help, as well as free downloads
- Books – Good Night, Sleep Tight is available in paperback and Kindle
- Gentle Sleep Courses – online courses and answers from expert sleep coaches
- Directory of Coaches – work one-on-one with a certified Gentle Sleep Coach in your area
- Help Desk – get help now from a certified Gentle Sleep Coach
Communication Is Key
As you make a new sleep schedule for your child, regular communication with your caregiver is critical. Work with them so that they are putting your child down for naps in the way you want them to and on the schedule your child needs.
For example: If your child is being cared for away from home each day, does your pickup time allow you enough time to get home, feed him, spend some time together, and do your soothing bedtime routine before he falls asleep on his own? This is something to watch for. You need your child to be drowsy but truly awake when you go through your bedtime routine. Otherwise, he is not learning to soothe himself to sleep. Instead, he is collapsing into sleep because he is exhausted.
If this is happening, your child will likely wake up at night, not know how to put himself back to sleep, and cry out for you.
Figuring out the best schedule may take some trial and error, so keep communicating with your caregiver as you need to.
Worth it for the Working Mom
Being a working mom is no small task. It is definitely not for the faint of heart! Adding in several dedicated weeks of sleep coaching may feel downright overwhelming. However, I know that you can do it well with some planning, prep, and good communication. You will be so glad you climbed this mountain once you are on the other side!