No Cry? Controlled Crying? CIO?
There are SO many popular sleep-coaching methods to choose from. And, if you seek advice on your Facebook moms group, from your local friends or from sleep coaching books and blogs, you are likely to get very different – and very strongly held – points of view about which one is best. But, when you’re sleep deprived and foggy brained, it can all feel way too overwhelming…making it hard to choose an option or to even get started.
But, there is hope! Depending on your baby’s temperament and adaptability, you may not even need to sleep coach in order to improve their sleep habits. Before you decide to sleep coach your baby or consider which one method is right for your family (note: it’s likely a mixture of several methods!), taking these 5 easy steps will help to set your whole family up for success and put you on the path to better sleep:
Keep a sleep and feeding log
Tracking your baby’s natural patterns - before you make any other changes - will help you get a better idea of their individual sleep needs and help you spot any potential red flags. For instance, are they napping too much during the day? Not eating often enough in the evening? Compare the log to the recommended sample schedules in my free “Baby Schedules” E-book to get a better idea of how your baby’s current schedule fits in and begin to make any necessary adjustments. Ensuring that your baby is on an age appropriate and consistent schedule is often the first step toward better sleep!
Create a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine
All babies (and older children) benefit from having a soothing bedtime ritual with their favorite people (you!). The actual steps can vary, based on what works best for your family, but should be calming in nature. For instance, a baby’s routine may be: bath, feeding, swaddle, and rocking/snuggles. While a toddler’s routine may be: bedtime snack, using the potty, brushing teeth, reading books and snuggling. No matter what routine you settle on, it’s the predictable sequence of events that babies and toddlers come to count on as a signal that it’s time for sleep.
Add white noise and black out blinds
Creating a soothing sleep environment can also make a huge difference in how well (or how poorly) your baby sleeps. Does your baby wake often, too early or have short naps? There are many common reasons for these trouble spots and making simple adjustments to your baby’s room can alleviate most of them. If your baby is sensitive to noise, then they are much more likely to wake if you or your partner wake early for work or if you’re sharing a room. If your baby’s room gets too much light in the morning or from streetlights at night, then they’re also much more likely to wake. Adding white noise and black out blinds can help keep your baby in a deeper state of sleep and prevent waking from those common distractions. Be sure to check out this article for common white noise mistakes - and how to avoid them!
Identify your baby’s sleep props
Do you feed your baby to sleep and then have to feed them back to sleep each time they wake? Do you need to replace the pacifier? Snuggle or rock? While these things are totally ok (and encouraged) with your newborn baby, anything your baby “needs” to fall to sleep can become a sleep prop, as they get older. But, you don’t need to do formal sleep coaching to begin to fade away your baby’s sleep props. Simply by identifying what the potential props allows you to view them in a different way and to slowly offer them less and less.
Check in with your pediatrician
Typically sleep troubles are behavioral in nature, but sometimes babies wake frequently because of a medical reason. For instance, reflux, food allergies, sleep apnea, teething pain and ear infections, and growth spurts can all lead to more frequent waking. Seeking the guidance of your pediatrician is the best way to rule any of these out – and to get the OK for coaching, if needed.
Looking for more free guidance and support from myself and other moms? Be sure to get your copy of the "Baby Schedules" Ebook (free for a limited time!) and join us in the Mommy-SOS Sisterhood on Facebook today!
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Jennifer Howard, CLC, CHBE
As a maternal mental health and pediatric sleep expert, I am passionate about helping tired mamas thrive throughout the many seasons of motherhood. I'm a Nationally Certified Professional Life Coach and Masters Level Therapist specializing in parental mental wellness, marriage/partnership strength and pediatric sleep and soothing.
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