Well, 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
- 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).
- 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!
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
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- 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.