Healthy Sleep Habits: Why Not All Sleep Habits Are Bad

Healthy Sleep Habits

If you’ve been a reader of The Baby Sleep Site® for awhile, then you know a thing or two about sleep associations, don’t you? You’ve no doubt read our sleep association blog post, and have learned all about how certain habits that your baby associates with sleep (like nursing to sleep, or rocking to sleep, or being held during sleep) can cause big, huge sleep problems that affect the whole family.

And you’ve no doubt learned that sleep training is the process of gently weaning your baby away from any negative sleep associations, and teaching your little one how to fall asleep independently, without ongoing help from mom or dad.

But what if I told you that not all sleep associations are bad? Sleep associations tend to get a pretty bad rap, but that’s not necessarily fair. I think when most of us hear ‘sleep habits’, we tend to think about bad habits – but the truth is, good, healthy sleep habits do exist, and what’s more, they are key in helping your baby or toddler sleep well.

Healthy Sleep Habits: How Babies and Toddlers Form Sleep Habits

If one thing is true, it’s that babies and toddlers tend to form habits with lightning-fast speed. Do something consistently enough, for several days in a row, and your little one will come to see that as the norm, and will expect it. We as parents can use this in our favor; it’s this trait in our children that allows us to teach good habits and to build positive character traits. For example, if we consistently require that our child say “please” before we hand them a snack, or help them with a task, then it won’t be long before that child says please habitually.

But this can backfire, too. Sometimes, things that we DON’T want to become habitual actually do – you allow your child to watch TV for 2 hours each morning while he’s sick with the flu, and he comes to expect 2 hours of TV time EVERY morning, even after he’s healthy. And the same goes for sleep – sometimes, we do things that we mean to be temporary (like nursing to sleep after every night waking, or holding the baby for every nap), and then suddenly, BOOM – our child has come to understand that this is standard, and should happen every day (or night).

Good vs. Bad (or Healthy vs. Unhealthy) Sleep Habits

So how can we distinguish healthy sleep habits from unhealthy sleep habits? First, it’s important to remember that there is no “script” for sleep – one family’s huge sleep problems are another family’s norm. And things that some parents consider problematic (like nursing to sleep 5 times a night), other parents don’t mind doing at all – or even do intentionally. So keep in mind that NOTHING about your baby’s sleep is a problem until it’s a problem for you.

Keep in mind also that every baby is different, and that means sleep needs differ from child to child. Your child may be completely rested after 3 or 4 nighttime wakings, or with naps that are on the short side – while another child may be overtired and cranky if even one daytime nap is off.

Now, as for what makes a sleep habit healthy vs. unhealthy – in general (after taking your parenting preferences and your child’s sleep needs and temperament into account), sleep habits that heavily involve you “doing” something tend to be less healthy than sleep associations that require little to no work from you. Here are some examples to illustrate this idea:

  • FEEDING: If your baby needs you to feed him all the way back to sleep after every interrupted waking at night and during naps, that’s probably an unhealthy sleep habit. But if your baby simply needs you to feed him until he’s drowsy, that’s very likely a healthy, manageable sleep habit.
  • ROCKING: Same as above – if you have to rock your baby all the way to sleep every time she wakes, that’s probably unsustainable for you, and therefore is an unhealthy sleep habit. But if you simply need to rock until drowsy, that may very well work for all of you.
  • PACIFIER: If you have to replace the pacifier for your baby every single time it falls out, that’s an unhealthy sleep habit – but if your baby can replace the pacifier himself, and doesn’t need you to help when it falls out in the middle of the night, then the pacifier can actually be a healthy sleep association.
  • COSLEEPING: If you are co-sleeping out of desperation, because it makes it easier to nurse your baby all night long, but you don’t actually WANT to share a bed with your baby, then this is most likely an unhealthy sleep habit. But if you are cosleeping intentionally, and have worked to ensure that both you and your baby are getting enough sleep, then this can be a healthy sleep association.
  • LOVEY: If YOU are your child’s lovey, and that’s standing in the way of you getting the sleep you need, then that’s an unhealthy sleep association – but if your child’s lovey is something like a blanket, or a small stuffed animal, then the lovey is a great sleep association, as it allows you child to soothe and settle without your help.

Why Healthy Sleep Habits Matter

I know that for some of you, what I’m saying here is nothing new. But here’s why this distinction between healthy and unhealthy sleep habits matter: your child will always have sleep habits. There is no such thing as habit-free sleep. So your goal in sleep training is not simply to wean your child away from unhealthy sleep habits and associations – it’s to replace those with healthy sleep habits that allow your child AND you to get more sleep. What exactly those healthy sleep habits look like is, of course, entirely up to you. For instance, some families introduce the pacifier as a healthy sleep habit, while others are working to wean away from it because it’s a negative sleep association. But it’s key to remember that your child will always have habits surrounding sleep – wearing certain jammies, for instance, or doing the bedtime routine in a certain order, or stroking a special blanket before falling asleep.

And really, when you think about the way you fall asleep – is it any surprise that your child needs healthy sleep habits? I don’t know about you, but I have lots of little routines and habits surrounding my own sleep – for instance, I absolutely cannot sleep unless I read for at least 10 minutes before bed. You probably have your own little unique pre-bed habits and rituals as well. True, some of us are probably more habit-driven than others, but even preferring one sleeping position to another, or sleeping on the same side of the bed, is a kind of sleep habit. So is it any wonder that our little ones need the same?

The key is simply to ensure that your baby or toddler’s sleep habits are actually encouraging and helping sleep, and not disrupting it. And if that process is proving daunting or difficult for you, remember – we can help! Our team of expert consultants is ready to offer you compassionate, caring support that is 100% personalized to your unique situation. We will craft a Personalized Sleep Plan™ specifically for your family, that walks you through every step of night weaning, in a way that matches your goal and parenting style.

Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Tell us about your little one’s sleep habits – healthy or unhealthy? Any tips to share about how to help little one’s build healthy sleep associations? Share them below!

 
bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
 
Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
 
bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
 
bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
 

Baby Won’t Nap? Here Are 7 Reasons Why (#7 Is Surprising!).

Baby Won't Nap

Nap time is, without a doubt, a tired parent’s favorite time of day. Baby goes down for a much-need snooze, leaving mom and dad time to have some much-needed “me time”.

But of course, in order for your baby’s nap time to be a favorite time of day, your baby has to actually, you know, TAKE A NAP. And therein lies the problem, for many parents!

So many of you have written in to us over the years, letting us know that your baby won’t nap, and you are at a loss as to why. Baby is tired? Check. Baby is settled in crib after nap time routine? Check. Baby not sleeping? ACK – check!

But why? Why is it that your baby won’t nap, especially when you’ve tried everything? Odds are, your baby won’t nap for one of the 7 reasons listed below.

Baby Won’t Nap? Here Are 7 Reasons Why.

  1. Your baby may not be tired enough to nap. Well, this one just makes sense, right? Even if you think it’s nap time, if your baby is feeling wide-awake and energized, then she may not agree with you! So why might your baby just not be tired enough to take a restorative nap? Well, take a close look at your baby’s sleep and feeding schedule. Is nap time coming to close to the your baby’s morning wake-up time, or perhaps too close to the last nap time? As your baby grows, she will need more and more awake time between sleeps.
  2. Your baby may be too tired to nap. I know, I know…how can ‘too tired’ be a problem? Well, it’s true – a baby who is overly-tired actually has a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep than a baby who is well-rested. If your baby recently missed a nap, for example, or had lots of interrupted night sleep, or a too-late bedtime the night before, or was up way too early this morning, it may very well be that your baby is overly tired, and that’s why he’s not napping well. The key to preventing over-tiredness is a great schedule – be sure your daily schedule isn’t stretching your baby’s awake time past what he’s capable of.
  3. Your baby doesn’t know it’s time to nap. Your baby can’t really consult her watch, after all 😉 And really, if you think about it, just like you need to know that it’s time to sleep in order to settle in to bed and begin getting drowsy, your baby does, too. So how can you signal to your baby that it’s time to settle down and nap? By creating and then consistently doing a pre-nap routine! Similar to a bedtime routine, a nap time routine signals to your baby that nap time is approaching. A nap routine should be shorter than a bedtime routine, and should be soothing and calming enough to wind down even the most spirited baby. Just be sure that whatever you do for your nap time routine, you do it consistently at every nap – that’s how it will become routine for your baby, and consequently, that’s how it will begin to help your baby settle down and nap when she is supposed to.
  4. Your baby isn’t in a “sleepy” environment. Where is your baby not napping, exactly? Is it in a darkened room, with some gentle white noise in the background? Or is it in the backseat of your brightly-lit car? Or in the stroller, in the middle of a crowded store? Or in your arms, in a noisy room? While newborns may be able to conk out and sleep just about anywhere, in any position, older babies and toddlers need a sleep-inducing environment that’s fairly quiet, dim, and calm, in order to sleep well.
  5. Your baby is in in the midst of a nap transition or developmental leap. Take comfort – this one has nothing to do with you! And this may very well be why some of you who know you are doing everything “right” are still struggling with naps. One common sign that a nap transition is approaching is that your baby will start to skip a nap off and on (usually the last nap of the day). And when your baby does take that nap, it may be more of a catnap than a long, restful nap. Similarly, your baby may be in the midst of a sleep regression (like the 4 month sleep regression, or the 8/9/10 month regression), and that may be the cause of the nap issues.
  6. Your baby is too hungry to nap. Many of us who are “sleep-obsessed” (and hey, that describes all of us who work at The Baby Sleep Site®) immediately jump to schedule and sleep-habit reasons when we are faced with sleep problems. But guess what? Sleep issues are often caused by a hungry tummy! Check your baby’s nap schedule, and then see how it’s lining up with her feeding schedule. Is your baby’s nap falling in the middle of what should be a feeding? Most of the time, it’s a good idea to feed your baby shortly before a nap (although not right before – you want a little time to burp your baby and let the food digest, particularly if your baby is prone to reflux).
  7. Your baby doesn’t know how to fall asleep (and stay asleep) at nap time. So this one may catch you by surprise – it seems odd that a baby might not know how to fall asleep, right? Isn’t falling asleep just something that happens? Well, no, not really – knowing how to lie down, become drowsy, and fall asleep alone in a sleep space is actually a learned skill. If you want your baby to nap independently, in his own sleep space, then your baby will need to know how to do that. And if your baby is heavily reliant on YOU to fall asleep, because he has sleep associations that involve breastfeeding, or being rocked and held by you. And this, parents, is where sleep training (including nap training) comes into play. In order to help your baby learn to fall asleep independently, you have to go through the process of teaching him how to do this – and that’s what sleep coaching is all about.

Baby Won’t Nap? Let The Baby Sleep Site® Help!

Parents, there is absolutely no reason why you have to struggle in vain with your baby or toddler’s naps. If your baby won’t nap, let us help! Our team of expert consultants are standing by, ready to create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for you and your family. The plan will be 100% personalized to your baby’s sleep needs, and will walk you through every step of solving your nap issues.

Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Bedtime questions or tips? We love hearing from you – share below!

 
bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
 
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
 

bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 
bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
 

Can’t decide which product or service is right for you? Visit our Getting Started Page for help.

Holiday Recovery 101 – Getting Your Baby or Toddler’s Sleep Back On Track

Holiday Sleep Help For Baby Toddler

December was a whirlwind. You shopped up a storm, performed magic in the kitchen for your houseguests, went to all of the holiday parties, drank your share of the wine and watched the ball drop. What’s left? Picking up the pieces! With the close of the holiday season comes a stark reality: “normal” life has resumed, and your family is off-schedule, tired and cranky. If you’re lucky, getting back to your normal routine will be a piece of cake, with just a little nudge. But for many of us, it will be a week or more before our little ones snap back to the norm.

Not to worry, though – we have help! Read on for 5 tips to help your kiddos recover from wacky sleep schedules brought on by the holidays.

5 Ways To Help Your Baby or Toddler Recover from the Holidays

  1. Put them to bed early—If your children are overly tired, the best medicine is to put them to bed early for two or three nights so they get extra rest. Children who are overtired will actually appear hyper (it might not be the cookies!) and act out as they fight the fatigue.
  2. Offer naps early—If your child is a nap-taker and she’s now sleeping only half as much as she did before the holidays, try offering her naps a little earlier than usual. Short naps are a sign of being overly tired and putting her down just 15 to 20 minutes earlier will make a big difference.
  3. Wake them up in the morning—That’s right! This is one of those times you should wake your chile from sleep. If your child is now up a lot at night, as tempting as it is, don’t let him sleep in too late in the morning. Get back into routine and on schedule by controlling wake-up, even if you generally don’t follow a strict schedule. You can’t make him sleep, but you can control the time you start the day if he has started sleeping in. This also helps if bedtime has gotten too late in the past couple of weeks. Stick to a stricter schedule for two to three days to get back on track.
  4. Start from scratch—Unfortunately, even if you had been working on sleep training prior to the holidays, some kids will have completely fallen into their old sleep habits during the holidays. If your baby had only just started to self-sooth (ie. fall asleep without your help), she may seem to have forgotten how to do it in just a week’s time. Help her to remember by teaching her from scratch, just like you did the first time. It may take longer this time around, but stick with it and your hard work will pay off.
  5. Hold off on major changes—As much as it may appear that your child has changed her sleep needs in the past couple of weeks, don’t make any drastic changes until you are sure that the holiday hustle and bustle are behind you and you are back to your normal routine. While baby may have transitioned from two naps to one nap the same week that grandma and grandpa came to visit, it’s unlikely that this is a permanent shift. Make sure you don’t jump to any conclusions and give her time to adjust after the holidays before you make any big changes. More than likely, your child’s sleep disturbances will work themselves out in a short time. If you feel that you’re encountering an ongoing sleep issue, trust your instincts and seek further support. You’ll all sleep better!
  6. Need more holiday recovery tips? Members, log in to the member’s area and listen to our special tele-seminar, How To Recover From The Holidays. Not a member? Become one today, and access the tele-seminar instantly!

    Post-Holiday Sleep Help from The Baby Sleep Site®

    Need help getting back on track after the holidays? Or, maybe there is no “on track” for your little one – maybe what you need is help teaching your baby or toddler to sleep soundly at night, and to take longer, more restorative naps. Whatever your needs, we can help! We have a team of highly-trained sleep consultants at your disposal, ready to craft a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for your family. Your plan will walk you through every step of sleep coaching, and will be 100% personalized to fit your baby’s personality and needs, and to mesh with your parenting philosophy.

    Browse our list of consultation package options here.

    Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

    Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

    Is your family still suffering from a “holiday hangover”? What are your tips for getting back on track after the holidays? Share your wisdom with us, and feel free to ask questions – we’ll answer!

     
    bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
     
    bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
     
    bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
     
     
    bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
     

3 Ways Your Baby’s Sleep May Change This Fall

 
Baby Sleep Fall Changes

Fall is right around the corner, parents! And I, for one, cannot wait to exchange the heat and humidity of summer for the crisp chill and beautiful leaves of fall. Warm sweaters, pumpkin-flavored foods, hot apple cider…fall is my favorite!

If you have a baby at home, though, the weather won’t be the only thing that changes this fall. You may notice some changes in your baby’s sleep, too. But not to worry – we have got you covered! We’ll tell you what changes to expect, and how to deal with them.

3 Ways Your Baby’s Sleep May Change This Fall

  1. Shorter Days May Affect Bedtime. As days get shorter and nights get longer this fall, you may notice that your baby’s bedtime becomes a little earlier. This is normal; our circadian rhythms (the signals that tell our brain when it is time to be awake, and when it is time to sleep) are closely connected to light. So when the sun sets earlier, it’s natural for your baby to want to go to bed earlier.

    This will not necessarily be a problem. However, if you find that the earlier bedtimes are causing your baby to wake earlier, you may need to take action and shift your baby’s schedule a bit.

  2. Nighttime Sleep May Get Longer. The long, bright days of summer are fun, but they can cause babies and toddlers to sleep less at night. Bedtimes tend to be later in the summer, and since the sun comes up early, our kids tend to get up early, too! But starting in the fall, you may find that your baby is sleeping more at night.

    This can be a great thing, particularly if your baby missed out on long nighttime sleep over the summer. However, if your baby is sleeping more at night, you may find that his naps are affected. That can happen because a baby’s overall sleep amounts tend to remain the same from day to day, so if more of that sleep is happening at night, then less will happen during the day. If that’s a problem, then you may need to work on naps by shortening your baby’s nighttime sleep, leaving more sleep available for nap time.

  3. Cooler Temperatures Can Mean Deeper Sleep. Here’s a fun fact for you: all of us (little ones and adults alike) tend to sleep more deeply when the temperature is cool. The optimum temperature for sleep will vary from person to person, of course, but a good temperature to aim for is right around 68 degree Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). It can be hard to keep room temperatures that cool in the summer, but as fall temps cool off, you may find that your baby begins to sleep more deeply and soundly.

    This is great, of course – something else to love about fall! Just be sure not to compensate for these cool temps by dressing baby too warmly for bed. Do that, and you risk making your baby too warm at night; that, in turn, can make her sleep more restless and fragmented. For ideas about how to properly dress your baby for bed, check out this article.

How are you preparing for changes to your baby’s sleep? Share your tips with us!

 
bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 
 
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.

 

bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

 
Baby_On_Computer_RESIZEDIf you are looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation, and want plenty support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations. Your consultation package will provide you with the chance to interact one-on-one with a trained sleep consultant, who will create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ for your family and then work to help you implement it at home.
 

Can’t decide which product or service is right for you? Visit our Getting Started Page for help.

5 Things To Do BEFORE Sleep Training

You just can’t take it anymore. The exhaustion, the bleary eyes, the waking-up-more-times-each-night-than-you-thought-humanly-possible…you’ve had it! “Enough is enough!” you’ve said to yourself. It’s time to take action. It’s time to reclaim your nights.

This, readers, is the point at which many parents first visit the Baby Sleep Site. They’re beyond exhausted. They know their babies are waking more frequently than is necessary, but they just don’t know how to make the night waking stop. However, they also know that if something doesn’t change soon, “death by sleep deprivation” is going to become a real possibility!

Our solutions for these parents? Sleep training. We’ve written a ton on this subject — from free guides to blog articles — and we’ve created a consultation system to help clients through the sleep training process. So we’re not going to go into the ins-and-outs of how to sleep train in this article.

Instead, we’re going to focus on 5 things parents should do BEFORE they start sleep training. We believe strongly that having a plan can take you far on the road to success; with that in mind, let’s talk over 5 steps to take before you start sleep training.

5 Things To Do BEFORE You Sleep Train

  1. Catch up on sleep (this means everyone!)

    You’ve heard the expression “things will get worse before they get better”, right? Well, that applies to sleep training in a big, big way. When you start sleep training, expect for everyone to lose some sleep before things start to improve. Remember, your baby is learning a new skill here — sleep probably won’t come easily right from the beginning! For this reason, it’s critical that mom, dad, and baby be well-rested before starting this process.

  2. Develop bedtime and naptime routines.

    Consistency is one of the most important parts of any sleep training plan — the faster your baby learns that the same things will keep happening at the same times, the faster he’ll learn how to break his sleep associations and start sleeping through the night. And routines go a long way towards building consistency.

    Start developing small, simple patterns before naps and bed — this could include reading a few books, rocking and singing a song, having a bath, etc. Start on these bedtime routines and naptime routines before you begin sleep training; that way, your baby will already be familiar with them before you actually start the sleep training process.

  3. Make a trip to the doctor.

    The idea here is that you want to rule out any underlying medical issues that might be causing your baby’s sleeplessness. Sleeplessness can be caused by simple things, like illness or teething; however, it can also be caused by more serious medical conditions, like food allergies, reflux or sleep apnea. If you have any concern that your baby’s lack of sleep might be related to a medical issue, see your doctor. Once you’ve ruled out a medical issue, you can continue with sleep training.

  4. Make a plan.

    We like planning, remember? :) Just as you may have made a birth plan or a plan to start your baby on solids, you’re definitely going to want to make a plan for how you’re going to actually sleep train. There are a variety of sleep training methods you can try; determine which one seems best for your family and your situation, and then set about implementing it at home. But, take a step further than that and outline exactly what you plan to do every step of the way. We find families are more apt to follow through and be successful.

    We usually recommend that parents try a sleep training method for at least a week before deciding whether it’s successful or not (again — consistency!) However, if you put in a solid 7 days trying one method, and it’s proving to be disastrous, don’t be afraid to try something else. Your plan isn’t carved in stone, after all. Do what works best for your baby and your family.

  5. Clear your calendar.

    When you start sleep training, you’ll want things to be as normal as possible around your house for at least a few weeks. Again, consistency is a huge part of the sleep training process. We want to establish predictability and routine. And it’s hard to do that if your days (and nights) at home don’t look the same from one day to the next.

    This is why we don’t recommend that people start sleep training right before a move, or before a vacation. Sleep training shouldn’t happen right before the birth of a new baby, or before a major surgery. All those things cause disruptions to the normal flow of life in your home, and those disruptions are going to disrupt any sleep training you’re trying to do, too.

    Nicole’s Note
    “We get asked a lot whether to start now or after an upcoming vacation. My general advice is if you have at least two weeks before a vacation, you can at least start ‘Phase 1′ now, which might mean just a part of your short- and long-term goals. If you have at least 3-4 weeks prior to a vacation, I recommend you go for it! It may even lead to a better vacation and there is never really a ‘perfect’ time for big changes. You can always find an excuse for not taking that first step, which is the hardest.”

    What’s more, if you’re an “on the go” parent, you may need to cancel some of your plans. You’ll probably need to spend your days and nights at home for a few weeks — no all-day errands, no late-night excursions. You want baby to have plenty of time to practice sleeping in crib or bassinette, and plenty of opportunities to adjust to the new schedule and routine.

What about you? What steps did you take to prepare for sleep training? Share your story below!

If you’re looking for ways to to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. 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.