I don’t think I will ever forget that evening. It had been over a year since I had slept through the night. Which is why I was in the kitchen facing down my fears. I put all my nervous energy toward scrubbing dirty pots and dishes. I stopped to text my parents and siblings our news, “Started the first night of sleep training!” My husband was taking night #1, sitting next to the crib. I would do the nap coaching the following day. Inwardly I groaned as I listened to our little guy cry. For a time, I thought fear would win. I could see myself rushing into the bedroom waving a white flag and shouting “It’s okay, we don’t have to do this. We will keep rocking you to sleep and we can all wake up 6 times a night together – no problem!!! Just please stop crying and please don’t think we don’t love you!!!” Yet my love and my belief in what was best for our son – to sleep and to sleep well – kept me strong. I made it through that first bedtime and another until our son was happily going to sleep each night and sleeping through until the morning!
Now, I get the privilege of working as a sleep coach. I see parents go through a roller coaster of highs and lows the first few days and weeks after starting sleep training. Parents have chosen to sleep train their child for a variety of reasons…
The whole family is exhausted.
The baby is not just “growing into sleep” as the doctor and parents hoped.
Medical issues have complicated the situation and ingrained poor sleep habits.
A change needs to be made and parents find themselves ready and willing to teach their child sleep skills. Yet the theory of sleep coaching and the experience of carrying it out are often different. I tell parents, “The first few days are going to be the hardest, and after you will encounter setbacks but your child’s sleep will get better and you will become a Sleeping Home!”
The first few days are usually the most difficult. Often sleep training is hardest on the mom. Exhausted from the ongoing lack of sleep she wrestles between a mama bear desire to care for her child and her ideals of what that means practically when her child is Not. Sleeping. Well. She knows they need a change, but that doesn’t make it easy. Once the sleep coaching has started, questions prick a Mother’s heart, “Is sleep coaching the right thing to do?” “Am I ruining my baby?” “Will my toddler ever trust me again?” “Is my little one going to think I don’t love her anymore?” “Why is my baby crying?” “Will there be a long-standing gulf between us?”
If you are that mom, you know your child needs restorative sleep to grow in all the ways they were intended to grow. You know you need restorative sleep so you can be the parent your child needs. Yet, the worries and questions can weigh a parent down in the beginning. I know, I have been there with two children – tired, questioning and worried.
So to help you hang in there, here is my heart-to-heart encouragement – 7 Truths and Tips – from me to you as a fellow parent and a sleep coach:
Print them off (see my free printable below)..
Read them daily..
Recite them to yourself…
Keep remembering why you are doing what you are doing…for the long term, overall good of your child and your family – so you can be a Sleeping Home! It will be worth it!
“7 Truths and Tips To Use When Starting Sleep Coaching”
Truth & Tip #1 “I Am Not Abandoning My Child.”
You don’t have to leave your child and let them cry until they fall asleep exhausted to sleep train! That method might work for some families but if it doesn’t work for you, it is okay. Choosing a gentle sleep coaching method like The Sleep Lady Shuffle, allows you to be with your child as you teach them how to sleep. You can be present and ready to respond, reassure and redirect.
Start viewing yourself as a Coach, as a Teacher to your child. You get to teach them the important life skill of sleep. This is just the beginning of the skills you will teach them so that they can be successful adults one day. Believe that you have this ability to coach your child in this skill, and believe that your child can learn this skill!
Truth & Tip #2 “Babies and Children Cry to Communicate.”
Most babies will cry during sleep training, because they don’t like the new methods used and they are protesting the change. No one likes to hear their kiddo cry but you can minimize the tears and you can respond when it is a BIG deal versus a protest.
Minimize tears by getting your child to sleep during the right sleep windows. If you get them to sleep before they are overtired it will be much easier for them to go to sleep. Use gentle sleep methods, provide a calming bedtime routine and stay consistent. If your child cries out and is hysterical – it won’t ruin the sleep training to hold and reassure them. If your baby calms down immediately you will know they weren’t as upset as you thought – they were protesting. If it takes a couple minutes to calm them down, hold them until they do and then put them back in their sleep space before they are asleep in your arms. *Of course if your child is sick, always attend to their needs.*
Truth & Tip # 3 – “Tiredness Is Only Temporary.”
Children will often become more tired in the beginning of sleep training. The tiredness can cause crankiness, fussiness and sensitivity during the day. Some parents worry they are harming their child. Remember this kind of tiredness is temporary and will get much better day after day! (After a few days or a week as they begin to learn to sleep better, they may flip flop and sleep a little longer for a time.)
Provide your child with extra patience, lots of love and encouragement during the day, hugs or cuddles, and pay attention to their sleepy signs, putting them to sleep right away when the signs arise.
Truth & Tip #4 – “I Am Choosing The Best For My Child.”
There are lots of studies that show that more and better quality of sleep is good for babies, children and adults. The body renews and replenishes during sleep. It is common to see babies hit developmental milestones after sleep training because they are sleeping better!
Write out why you are choosing to sleep train your child. List the benefits for your child – keep it in front of you daily or even look at it in the middle of the night when you are tempted to be inconsistent and interrupt their process of learning.
Truth & Tip #5 – “It Takes Time To Learn Sleep Skills.”
Even though any tired parent wishes sleep training could happen overnight, learning to sleep is a learned skill. It takes days, sometimes weeks to learn to sleep through the night and go to sleep independently. Once good sleep skills are in place there will still be setbacks (travel, sickness, growth spurts, etc) and children will need a quick refresher on good sleep manners.
Be patient with your child as they learn this new skill. Stay consistent in your interactions with your child – inconsistency will confuse your little one and therefore lengthen the process. Consider cutting out extra obligations and events for 3-4 weeks so you can provide space and regular routines to encourage the learning.
Truth & Tip # 6 – “It is Worth It to Take Care Of Myself”
If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have energy to love and care for your family. Oftentimes parents start sleep training when they are desperate and completely worn out. Perhaps you are so frazzled you forget what you are saying mid-stream, you snap at your kids when you don’t want to, or you often feel down or depressed. You need more sleep and sometimes parents feel guilty for that reality. However, if the lack of sleep isn’t working for you and your child is healthy and able to sleep better developmentally then sleep coaching is a wise and loving choice. There is no need to feel guilty. You are making a good decision to make a change to help everyone sleep better.
Unfortunately it can get worse before it gets better. So plan to care for yourself during the sleep coaching. Trade off the sleep training with your spouse so you can both get a longer stretch of sleep. Find a friend, family member or even hired help who can support you for a couple weeks (babysit kids while you get a nap, do the dishes, listen and support). Get a massage, take a walk, or get a coffee alone each week to rejuvenate!
Truth & Tip # 7 – “Consistency is Key”
I have mentioned it earlier, but this is worth repeating – Consistency is Key! It is better to keep doing the same thing if you can’t have good follow through with your new plan. It is hard on children to have parents switching their methods each night or week. Parents will often teach their baby to go to sleep at bedtime on their own in a crib but then bring the baby into the parent’s bed at 430am. This is common and understandable from a parent’s point of view but incredibly confusing to a baby. The best way to see success is to be consistent.
If you are not ready to be consistent, wait to start sleep training until a time when you will be ready. Consider your child’s point of view, if you rock your baby to sleep one time but don’t the next, what does it communicate? Evaluate your reasons for sleep training and keep your “why” in front of you so that when you are tempted to change your method you remember the greater goal you are working to achieve.
Hang in there friend, you will get to a better place! Time and hard work will make a difference, and you will be amazed by the transformation in your home. It is going to be worth it!
If you have tried sleep coaching (or you are trying it) and change hasn’t occurred or you are confused what to do next, I would love to help you – you can contact me here or find me on Facebook to ask your questions! This what I do – support families, create customized sleep plans, and provide step-by-step support that results in Sleeping Homes!