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The Secret to Successful Sleep Training

The Secret to Successful Sleep Training

Sleep is one of those things that we’re always searching for answers to. We Google, we chat to other Mum’s, we ask our own Mum’s…we want to get it right.

So what is the secret? 

Let me tell you, there is no secret. Good sleep is a learnt skill much like our children learn to ride a bike or write their name. Whilst it is absolutely a biological function, if we don’t teach our babies what we want them to know about sleep-your sleep journey may not be what you had imagined. You see, newborn babies sleep quite soundly as they have beautiful sleepy hormones from Mum. This lasts a few weeks, and then they ‘wake up’. After that time, sleep cycles start to emerge and by the time they have matured your baby is sleeping much like you do, in obvious periods of light and deep sleep. 

Now at this time, if your baby only knows one way of falling asleep, this is how they expect to fall asleep and get back to sleep each and every time. For example, if you have fed your baby to sleep each time they go to bed, this is how you have taught them they need to fall to sleep. This also tells them each and every time they stir between sleep cycles they again need to be fed to get back to sleep. Such a strong sleep association will usually see a baby wake many times  overnight and have unpredictable and short naps, which leaves you with a very tired baby on your hands. 

I know there are plenty of families who believe it’s ‘normal’ to have their babies and toddlers wake many, many times through the night. But it is only normal for those babies who haven’t  been shown and supported through one of our most necessary life skills. And I repeat, there is no secret when showing them how to do this. It is all common sense practise but we often become impatient or confused along the way which comes off as ‘we failed’.  

Remember that sleep training is just like anything we show our children. It is all about us helping them in the beginning and slowly changing he way we do things so they can begin to do this  themselves…that's all. Just like we don’t continue to spoon feed them, we don’t continue to hold their hand as they learn to walk, we eventually take their training wheels off. Sleep is no different, they don’t need us to do it all for them. 

I actually see time and time again, a baby who is ‘put to sleep’ by Mum and Dad will usually take lengthy periods of time (which also involves crying/kicking/pacing/frustration) to get them to sleep, night after night after night. Yet, we don’t hear about that. But when a family chooses to show and support their child in how to fall asleep more independently and peacefully, sleep for  longer periods we are judged for that.  

If you want your very own sleep training success story, you can have it. Below are my 'secrets that aren’t secrets':

  • You need to create the right sleep environment for your baby or child. Most importantly you need to ensure your baby is sleeping safely, which means in their own sleep space on a firm/well fitted mattress.  
  • A dark room will always help to promote sleep, always.
  • Your baby needs to be dressed appropriately for bed, temperature is everything.
  • Your baby needs a dry bottom.
  • Your baby needs adequate feeds/solid meals to know they have a full tummy.
  • You need to be aware of your babies appropriate wake-windows to avoid over or under tiredness.
  • We need them to go from completely awake to also in their sleep space-with as much help from their care giver as needed in the beginning. Over time we start to withdraw the help-quite often your baby is so ready by now as you have been showing them how at a pace that suits you both.
  • There is no baby (provided they are healthy and all of the above needs are met) that cannot put them self to sleep. If your sleep training seems to have not worked, I would presume you may not have had guidance from an expert and may not have been consistent in your approach. Remember when we learn something, it gets easier when we try and try again. 5 minutes simply may not be enough. 
  • Just like consistency, patience is also incredibly important. We need to be calm and ride it out  whilst being there for our babies. Just like anything else, practise makes perfect and it will  come. Please be patient.  

I say to many of my families, ‘if I am forced into doing something I will often show resistance.’ Our babies are no different, they do not need to be forced to sleep-it is our job to show them how to do this them self.  

And just remember sleep training does not mean we’re aiming for all babies to sleep 12 hours straight at night and nap at the same times each day. Sleep training is as simple as a baby being able to put themselves to sleep when they are tired and all of their needs are met.