If you have been working on your baby or toddler’s sleep for any length of time, then you know that sleep coaching tends to take time. Sure, some parents see miraculous results overnight, but that’s the exception – it’s not the norm! For most of us, sleep coaching involves days or weeks of work before we see real, meaningful results. The work is worth it, of course – the payoff of a full night’s sleep is worth anything!
But sometimes, starting can just seem so daunting. What do you do first? Should you start with a nap, or with bedtime? Lots for an exhausted, sleep-deprived parent to consider!
As always, we are here to help. We know that sleep coaching can be an intimidating process to start, so we thought we’d help make it easier. Below are 5 things you can do tonight that will help kick off the sleep coaching process for you and your baby, and start your whole family on the road to better sleep. Think of this as your ‘quick win’ – you can put each of these strategies to work tonight – no waiting necessary!
5 Easy Ways To Start Sleep Training TONIGHT
- Identify your baby’s sleep associations. This is easy – you can do this right now, in just a few minutes! Think about how your baby or toddler typically falls asleep. Does she fall asleep while nursing, or drinking her bottle? Maybe she falls asleep while you rock her? Does she fall asleep on you, or in your arms? All of these are sleep associations – they are things your baby needs in order to fall asleep. The process of sleep training is simply weaning your baby away from her sleep associations, so that she can learn to fall asleep on her own, without outside help. Once you have identified your baby or toddler’s sleep associations, you have identified the problems that need fixing. That’s step one!
- Start a bedtime routine. If you haven’t already, start a bedtime routine tonight with your baby or toddler. It doesn’t have to be long (it shouldn’t be, actually – 15 minutes is sufficient!), and it doesn’t have to be complicated (again, it shouldn’t be – you want straightforward and simple). Read a few books, sing a lullaby, give kisses and cuddles, and then it’s lights out. Pledge to do this routine every night; that’s what puts the “routine” in bedtime routine. Once you have instituted a strong routine, it will help your baby or toddler better understand what’s expected of him at bedtime.
- Shorten your baby or toddler’s time spent with a particular sleep association. Now that you know how your baby or toddler falls asleep, work to shorten whatever association she has. For instance, if your baby needs to be rocked to sleep, try to cut back a little on the time you spend rocking her. If you typically rock her for 30 minutes, try rocking her for 20 and then holding her without any movement for 10. If you do this gradually, you will eventually (and gently!) wean your baby away from the nursing. Same with feeding your baby or toddler to sleep, or holding her until she falls asleep – slightly reduce the time you spend doing these things. This is the first step towards changing your baby or toddler’s sleep associations.
- Don’t race in when your baby or toddler starts crying after a night waking. I’m not telling you to let your baby cry-it-out. You should choose that method if you feel it’s best for your situation. I’m not instructing you to do that, necessarily! Rather, I’m encouraging you to wait a few moments between the time you hear your baby or toddler cry and the time you pick him up. Remember, not every cry is truly a cry for help – some cries are simply noises that our babies or toddlers make as they briefly wake between sleep cycles. In those cases, if you were to wait a few minutes, you might find that your baby or toddler settles himself, without your help. So when you hear a cry tonight – just give it a minute. See if your baby or toddler can re-settle without you.
- Track the times of all night wakings. You can’t really know what you’re working towards, in terms of your baby’s nighttime sleep or daytime schedule, until you know what the current situation looks like. So tonight, and over the next few days, track the timing of everything. Make note of all night wakings. Write down bedtimes and wake times. Note all naps, including when they start and finish. Same with feedings. What you are doing here is starting your sleep log. That will become important as you continue to work on sleep training. A sleep log will show you any patterns or trends that may be happening in your baby or toddler’s sleep. It will also help show you where you are making progress and where you need to continue to focus your efforts.
You Don’t Have To Sleep Train Alone
Remember that, while you certainly can sleep train your baby or toddler on your own, you don’t have to. That’s what we are here for! Sleep training can be tough, and hundreds of parents turn to us for sleep coaching help every month. We can help you, too! Take a look at our consultation packages, and see which one looks like a good fit for you.
Once you purchase, you will immediately receive access to the Helpdesk, and you can set up your account, fill out your Sleep History form. Submit it to a consultant, and you’ll get started on the journey to better sleep!
Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers.