14 Tips For Better Baby and Toddler Sleep in 2014

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Tips for Baby and Toddler SleepWell, readers, you know what they say — new year, new start! If your baby or toddler is struggling to take restorative naps, or is having a hard time sleeping through the night, now is the time to take action! With some work on your part (and some help from those of us here at The Baby Sleep Site), 2014 really can be a year of peaceful sleep for your whole family.

With that in mind, here are are 14 tips you can use to get started on improving your baby or toddler’s sleep, and to ensure that you have a well-rested year ahead. :)

 
 
 

14 Tips for Better Baby and Toddler Sleep in 2014

  1. Change your lifestyle – Instead of making a long list of resolutions, commit to making a lifestyle change. Just like a crash diet doesn’t work in the long term, a ‘quick fix’ probably won’t provide lasting changes in your baby or toddler’s sleep habits. Instead, focus on making a lifestyle change, in which you change the way you view your baby’s sleep. Commit to getting rid of unhealthy sleep habits (like falling asleep in front of the TV, or having inconsistent bedtimes).
  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. Our blog is a great place to start! ;)
  3. Have realistic expectations – While we have helped some families achieve miraculous results in just one e-mail or phone call, that certainly isn’t our norm. Some families need 30 days of unlimited e-mails, and frequent tweaks to their Personalized Sleep Plans™, before they see results. We aren’t miracle workers, but we d 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. So please, have realistic expectations for your baby. Know that it may take days or perhaps even a few weeks to see any improvement. 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 try not to believe the many ‘myths’ your friends may tell you about sleeping through the night. And 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!” Teething, sleep regressions, illness, growth spurts – setbacks like these are all normal, so be prepared for them.
  7. Don’t start too early or too late – Well, actually, it’s never too late to sleep train, but sometimes it can be too early. Only some two month olds can self-soothe, for example. So it’s best to wait to start sleep coaching until your baby is about 4 months old. However, don’t put off sleep training for too long – things can get a lot more complicated when your ‘baby’ suddenly becomes a walking, talking, tantrum-throwing toddler! Want to know the ‘ideal windows’ for sleep training? Check out this past article.
  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. Make sure that your goals are specific – instead of setting a goal like ‘sleep through the night’, try setting one like ‘down from 3 night wakings to 2 within first 10 days’.
  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 looser plans. If they make it to a nearby city to their planned stop, they might stop sooner or later, while others will do anything to stick to their plan and stop when and where they planned to stop. Neither of these plans are ‘better’ – both reflect the personality types of the people who made them. So, regardless of your personality type, remember that 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. We’re afraid we’ll be sleep training a tortoise and we’ll feel guilty because our baby won’t sleep and it’s our fault. The first step in solving any problem is usually the most difficult, but it’s also 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 one of our sleep consultants, 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.
  12. Make sure to lay the groundwork before you start sleep coaching. There are a few things you should do before you start any kind of sleep training, including catching up on sleep (both you and your baby or toddler should do this) and possibly visiting your doctor, if applicable. To read the full list, check out 5 things to do before sleep training.
  13. Try keeping a sleep log. You can do this before you start sleep training, to determine how much sleep your baby is getting, and to spot any trends in sleep. But it’s also a good idea to keep a sleep log/journal while you are sleep training. Keeping a record of what works (and what doesn’t), and charting your baby or toddler’s progress over time, will be a big help to you as you work on sleep.
  14. Stay consistent! I know, I know — we sound like a broken record, right? ;) We say this a lot, but it’s an important point to remember! The number one key to successful sleep training is consistency. You have to give a plan time to work, and you have to faithfully stick to that plan, before you’ll ever start to see progress. So don’t throw in the towel after just a few nights – instead, stick with it. If you haven’t seen any meaningful changes in 7-10 days, then consider making changes to your plan.

Remember – your family can do this! Here’s to a 2014 that’s filled with relaxing, peaceful nights!

What are your sleep-related plans for 2014? Any of you planning to sleep train? Feel free to ask questions and share your tips below – we love hearing from you!

Want to make sure that 2014 is a sleep-filled year for your family? We can help you do just that! Check out these Baby Sleep Site products and services…

  • Need more sleep training resources? We have a ton! Browse our list of e-books and e-book packages, designed to help your baby, toddler, or newborn develop better sleeping habits. We even have a book that’s designed just for parents who want to work on naps! These are perfect solutions for parents who want to sleep train on their own, but need more information.
  • Want Unlimited Access to ALL Our Products, Including E-Books? Join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and teleseminars. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! And as a member, you have access to a once-a-week chat with one of our expert sleep consultants – ideal for those times when you need some expert advice!.
  • Need Personalized Help? For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.
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Comments

  1. says

    We’re staying the course with my 2.5 year old’s sleep. The plan is to stay consistent. It has been great the past several weeks, feels like we can keep this schedule for a while! Our bigger plans are changing our own bedtime – going to bed shortly after the toddler goes down and waking before he does in the morning, vs. staying up too late only to wake up groggy and grumpy.

  2. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Kendra – good for you! My husband and I try to go to bed early(ish) on weeknights, so that we can wake up before our kids do. Even 20 minutes of peace in the morning, in which to eat breakfast and drink some coffee, make a HUGE difference in our moods and demeanors!

    Glad to hear, too, that you have a good, workable schedule going for your toddler. Sounds like you have excellent plans for a sleep-filled 2014!!

    Thanks for commenting, Kendra! :)

  3. sarah says

    These articles are such great resources — thank you for making them available! I have a question that I’ve never seen addressed before. I know that to start sleep training, your child should already have given up the swaddle. But what if they still have a very strong startle reflex? My daughter will wake herself up frequently from this reflex and I either have to swaddle her or physically hold down her arms to get her settled during the night — does that mean we should delay sleep training until it’s calmed down? Or will sleep training allow her to resettle herself from even these frequent wakings?

  4. Emily DeJeu says

    @ sarah – This is a great question! First, though, can I ask how old your baby is? That’ll help me know how to best answer.

    Thanks!

  5. sarah says

    @Emily, she’s only 3 months old. Before this week, I’d swaddle her, nurse her to sleep, and then transfer her to the bassinet. However, lately she seems to be struggling and crying more than being comforted by her swaddle and it takes ages to get her to fall asleep. The question became: how to get her to sleep in her bassinet or crib on her own? We’ve been cosleeping, which doesn’t work for us because she’s constantly startling herself and moving around and waking everyone up. I’m not sure how to get her into her crib *without* starting some sleep training. I’m totally confused!

  6. Tricia says

    I just wanted to mention about #5, which talks about not comparing your baby to your friend’s baby. Remember not to compare your baby to your OTHER babies too! With my second I made that mistake. The same sleep approach did not work at all for both kids.

  7. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Sarah — okay, thanks! That’s great info. I conferred with two of our sleep consultants (Shaye and Miriam) and they both confirmed that you don’t necessarily have to wait and wean from the swaddle before you start gentle sleep training techniques. Shaye let me know that she began sleep training her daughter when her daughter was still in the swaddle (she had a strong startle reflex, like your daughter) – then, when it was time to wean from the swaddle, Shaye reports that they had one rough night and then things were back on track.

    I would suggest you think about purchasing a copy of our newborn e-book (access it here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/essential-keys-to-your-newborns-sleep/). There’s lots of info in there about gentle methods you can use in the first 4 months, that allow for things like swaddle and pacifier use, while still helping your baby learn better sleep habits.

    Hope this helps, Sarah! And thanks fr this suggestion, too – I’ve added swaddling + sleep training as a possible article topic for 2014!

    Thanks for commenting, Sarah – and for suggesting! :)

    @ Tricia — Oh, good point! Yes, this is so true – even within the same family, kids are so, so different. That’s certainly true in my own family. So yes — no fair comparing baby to his/her big siblings! ;)

    Thanks for sharing this point, Tricia!