With the new year upon us, many people will make New Year’s resolutions and some of you may be considering “help my baby sleep” as one of them. Here are 11 tips to make sure 2011 is a year of good baby sleep.
1. Change your lifestyle – Since only fewer than half of you who make a new year’s resolution this year will stick to them more than 6 months, rather than make a new year’s resolution, make a lifestyle change. Just like a crash diet doesn’t work in the long term (and why Weight Watchers is so successful), you need to make a lifestyle change in which you change the way you view your baby’s sleep. It’s not always the quick fix that sticks.
2. Do your homework – Most of the parents who will visit this site in the next year are well-informed and well-read, so this goes almost without saying, but do some reading and research about your baby’s sleep and make sure you know age-appropriate milestones. Just because something worked for your friend doesn’t mean it will work for you or your baby.
3. Have realistic expectations – Last week I had to give one of a few refunds occasionally requested. I stand by my guarantee and honored it, however, I do believe that this particular mom read a few of my testimonials and somehow couldn’t understand why I couldn’t help HER baby in one e-mail. My track record is good, but some parents send me one e-mail while others consult with me for 30 days where we can touch base very frequently to tweak their plan. I am, unfortunately, not a miracle worker, but I keep working with you to find THE solution that works for YOUR family. Your baby is unique and may or may not respond as quickly as some of the lucky few who have success in one or two nights. I wish they all did, but frankly, if they did, I wouldn’t have this site because my own son would not have been as challenging as he was and I wouldn’t have had to obsess about his sleep as much as I did! Please have realistic expectations for your baby that while he may respond in a few days to a week, he might not or he will and then backslide. If you are realistic, you will have less frustration and more success, since you are less likely to give up before he has time to learn. This is especially true for slow-to-adapt babies.
4. Stop comparing your baby to your friend’s baby – It’s soooo frustrating when your friends around you all have babies who sleep great or did after five minutes of crying or something. Believe me, I know! But, consider that a) not all people define “sleeping well” the same way (some might not mind replacing a pacifier three or four times per night, but you might), b) it doesn’t mean they won’t have different sleep issues later (babies change a lot in the first two years!) and c) all babies have easy and hard things about them (some might struggle with sleep and others with eating, for example).
5. Trust your instincts – Sometimes our instincts are wrong (like if you think keeping baby up later will give you more sleep when usually the opposite is true), but many times they are right! You know your baby best. If you start to wonder if you are making too many excuses for bad sleep, you’ll know it’s time to make a change.
6. Plan for setbacks – No doubt that just when you figure out the first thing, a second thing pops up: “She was sleeping great and then learned to roll! AAAHHH!”
7. Don’t start too early or too late – Well, it’s never too late, but sometimes it can be too early. Only some two month olds can self-soothe, for example. And, it can get a lot more complicated when your baby sits up, pulls up, and stands up!
8. Set goals – One helpful step you can make is to set (realistic) goals for your baby’s sleep. If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s very hard to find a path there. And, you should be more specific than making “sleeping through the night” your goal.
9. Make a Plan – If you’re going on a road trip across country, most people make a plan. Some will plan it down to the last detail including where they will stop for potty breaks while others will make loose plans such as where they might stop each night to rest. If they make it to a nearby city they might stop sooner or later while others will do anything to stick to their plan and stop when they planned to stop. Whether you are type A or type B or take where the wind blows you, success usually starts with a plan, even if it’s not super detailed.
10. Take that first step – Once you have your plan, taking that first step is often the hardest. Very often we build up how terrible sleep training will be in our head and, often, it’s worse in our head than in reality (unfortunately, not always). We’re afraid we’ll be sleep training a tortoise and we’ll feel guilty because our baby won’t sleep because it’s our fault. The first step in solving any problem is usually the most difficult (usually admitting there is a problem), but one of the most important.
11. Get Support – Whether it’s another friend going through a similar situation, your partner/spouse, a friend on Facebook, your parent helping you through, or me, one thing that helps you succeed in making a big change in your life is your support network. Holding yourself accountable by “checking in” with someone also helps you succeed. So, try to get your support lined up before you start.
Only you can make the change that your family needs to thrive in 2011. I hope these 11 tips can help get you started. And, if new year’s resolutions is what inspires you to take that first step, then just make sure you are one of the 50% who will stick to them. 😉 If you need help implementing any of these tips or making changes in your family’s life, please consider our baby and toddler sleep consulting services, where we help make you a plan you can feel good about. It’s not that you aren’t fully capable, sometimes you are just too tired to put it all together.