Crib? Check. Swaddle? Check. Bedtime routine? Check. Sleep all night....? Not so much. There are SO many variables to think about before embarking on a sleep coaching program, which is why parent's often feel as though they've "tried everything" and nothing works. Especially within the first year, infant sleep evolves very rapidly! Before you embark on the journey to healthy sleep, you need to check a few things off your list in order to enable your success. This a list of steps I often pass onto my own clients before we begin working together:
1. Touch base with your pediatrician
-Get the "green light" to sleep train. Most doctors ask that children are at least 11 pounds and anywhere from 4-6 months old.
-Ask about any age-appropriate dosage increases for reflux or medical issues, or address medical concerns
-Inquire about how long your pediatrician believes your child can go at night w/o a feed (if at all). This depends on age, weight, and current nutrition.
2. Make sure all caregivers are in agreement with the plan- babysitters, daycares, Grandparents, nannies, etc. Everyone needs to be on the same page, because without a united front, the work we do together could easily fail. For example: You don't want to be working on a plan weaning your child off of rocking to sleep, when say, Grandma babysits one night and begins rocking baby back to sleep at every waking- this creates uncertainty & confusion for our little ones that are only able to go off our social cues before language development.
3. Review the sleep environment handout (client provided) This addresses any issues with your child’s room (invest in blackouts, white noise, lovey, use of nightlight, etc). We use this custom black out shade that costs under $50 and can easily be taken on & off your child's window.
4. Begin your sleep diary- (client provided) This is a log of day sleep & night sleep to refer to during our consultation with at least 2-3 days of data. Keeping a sleep diary for the first year is often very helpful for clients to refer back to and celebrate the small victories, such as longer naps and/or referring to the prior day to see when that last nice, long, nap occurred.
5. Think about a bedtime routine that would work for you, and give it a shot tonight! Cues are so important when it comes to signaling the child that “it’s bedtime”. Ideal bedtime is between 6-8pm, so over the next few days, if you don’t already have an established bedtime, watch your child for fussy/sleep cues to determine when on average that natural window ends. You'll want to begin the bedtime routine about 30 minutes or so before you want child to be "asleep". In my home, we actually begin about an hour early, and allow the kids extra bath time to expend all last bits of energy!
6. Decide on the pacifier (if applicable). If your baby is over 6 months, you may want to ask yourself if this is a problem we need to address while we work together: Can your child guide it back to his/her mouth? Have you had a conversation with your doctor about pacifier weaning? Are you having to run and re-plug the pacifier constantly to get baby back to sleep?
7. Get your child on a consistent wake-up time. Every day- not just M-F ;) Ideal wakeup times for children are 6-7:30am. Wake your baby by 7:30am no matter 5 days before implementing a “sleep plan”.
8. Plan on about 3-4 weeks at home without traveling. Consistency in routine & environment are two of the MOST important factors when a child is learning a new sleep skill, and if you don’t do the same thing in the same place as much as possible (i.e. naps in the crib) , this will prolong the negative sleep habits and issues.
Contact us here for help on customizing a sleep plan for your family.