Pretty much the first question people ask when they see a new mom with her baby is “how is he/she sleeping?” I think everyone is just curious because if you’ve ever been there you know that getting that sweet baby to sleep is no easy task. I’m currently in the beginning phases of sleep training my 4 month old daughter and was lucky enough to get to chat with Lauren Lowenstein, a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach to get some expert advice on infant sleep training. This subject is super broad so we are breaking this up into a two-part series, see nap time tips to get helpful info about your child’s nap time.
- What does a sleep coach do? Can you come to my house at 3 AM? (That’s a joke unless you say yes)
Great question! Many young parents whose children are struggling with sleep have no idea what a sleep coach is or that we even exist!
As a gentle sleep coach I provide a detailed sleep plan for your child taking a gentle approach to reduce the amount of anxiety, and tears commonly associated with sleep training.
When a parent comes to me I have them fill out a thorough questionnaire so I can gather all the information I need to better understand the underlying cause of sleep issues and what specifically needs to be addressed. The sleep plan is individual depending on the current sleep issue, age, temperament, and the parents sleep goals for their child. Although I do not do overnight sleep coaching (at this time), I am fully confident that the consultation will provide parents with enough information and support to be able to coach their child through the night. I am available for text, email, and phone follow ups.
- What age is ideal for beginning sleep training?
The ideal age to begin sleep training is 6 months old, although as early as 4 months can be appropriate. A number of factors weigh in on this decision such as temperament, weight, and medical conditions. In the first few months of life we can shape and mold an infants sleep to set them up for sleep success with certain routines, and techniques. Although these are subtle, they are helpful. Babies don’t come out knowing how to sleep. Sleep is actually a learned skill! Some babies figure it out early on and the longer stretches turn into all night sleeping and on the go naps. But many babies need help learning to sleep. They don’t know how to cope with stimulation.
Prior to 6 months old babies are not developmentally mature enough for true or full sleep training.
Many babies eat frequently and may still need nighttime feeds, colic subsides, the moro (startle) reflex disappears, the common witching hour has mostly gone away, and baby’s brain is now producing Melatonin. These are just a few reasons why waiting until 4-6 months is the ideal age to sleep train.
- Why do babies typically wake up so many times throughout the night?
To understand why babies wake so frequently at night, other than to eat, you first have to understand that sleep is divided into two different types. REM and non-REM sleep. REM sleep is active sleep and the lighter part of our sleep where dreaming occurs. Non-REM sleep has a few stages but is the stage of deep sleep where if awakened you feel groggy. Newborns sleep is about half REM and half non-REM sleep. Around 4 months REM sleep begins to slowly drop off and by age two a child’s sleep is more similar to that of an adult.
When we go through sleep cycles our brain activity can wake us. This is when we may wake up to move positions, mumble something, and fall back to sleep. We fall back asleep as adults because we know how to. When babies and children go through a partial arousal at night and they don’t have the skill to get themselves back to sleep, they will cry out.
If a baby has a sleep crutch like being rocked to sleep or nursed back to sleep, this is when they will search out for mom or dad to help get them back to sleep. This is why breaking a child of a sleep crutch is so important.
If they learn the skill of putting themselves to sleep at bedtime, they will be able to get themselves back to sleep through a partial arousal without needing assistance from mom or dad. More sleep for all!
- What are the best approaches/methods that you recommend for sleep training?
Hire a sleep coach! There are many methods out there when it comes to sleep training. Many parents struggle with being consistent. There is no right or wrong approach as long as the safe sleep recommendations are being followed.
The number one reason any sleep training method fails is lack of consistency from mom and dad.
If you decide to go with the cry it out method, but after half an hour of crying decide to bring her in your bed but the next night try letting her cry it out again you will likely hear longer and harder cries. As a gentle sleep coach there are a few methods and approaches I use. The Sleep Lady Shuffle is the most common method developed by Kim West, author of Good Night, Sleep Tight. This approach allows parents to be responsive and comfort their child while offering consistency.
picture courtesy of Amazon
- Any other tips/tricks to help with sleep training?
Never begin any sleep training program until you are prepared to be consistent. Failure to follow through will likely result in even harder habits to break. Always make sure to follow safe sleep recommendations given by your pediatrician and the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines. www.aap.org.
The Recap on Infant Sleep Training:
- Make sure your child is the right age/appropriate weight to begin sleep training
- Be consistent
- Have a plan
- Help break your child’s sleep crutch by not immediately comforting them whenever they cry out at night
Lauren offers free 15 minute phone consultations so you can find out if gentle sleep coaching is the right method for you! She also offers different packages and pricing on her website. You can contact her via email, see her contact information below.
Sweet Dreams Sleep Consulting
Certified Gentle Sleep Coach for infants and children