If your family needs more sleep, and your baby or toddler is not getting the restorative sleep they need, ask yourself these important questions when you feel ready to start sleep coaching your baby or toddler:
Is my baby on an age-appropriate schedule?
One of the most important aspects of sleep coaching is understanding your baby’s sleep needs. Often parents put their baby down when they are already overtired (baby has already started rubbing their eyes, looking distant or being fussy), this often leads to difficultly falling asleep and staying asleep. Resolving any schedule related issues prior to sleep coaching will enable your baby to be relaxed and ready to accept sleep at appropriate times.
Is my baby’s sleep environment primed for quality sleep?
Before sleep coaching, take a look at your baby’s sleep space. It should be dark at all times, for both night and naptime. Light will suppress a baby’s melatonin (the hormone that helps babies fall to sleep and stay asleep) and can contribute to early rising or the inability to transition between sleep cycles during the day. These are my favourite blinds and what I recommend to my clients. These blinds don’t let any light sneak in, you don’t need any hardware to install, and you can still use your cute nursery panels or curtains over them.
White noise is another useful tool for a baby’s sleep space. I recommend a consistent and steady white noise at a low to medium level that plays from sleep time to wake time. White noise can serve as a positive sleep association to signal sleep is on the horizon that should be turned on at the start of bedtime and nap routine.
What sleep coaching method will I use?
Typically, babies require some type of sleep coaching so they can learn how to fall to sleep and back to sleep on their own. There are a variety of methods out there that are no-cry solutions, however, these techniques will not work perfectly for all babies. When deciding on a method, think about your baby’s personality and temperament, this will guide you in deciding on a method that will work best for you and your baby! Parents want as few tears as possible during the process, and understandably so! However, if you choose a method that offers extra comforting and holding, sometimes babies will reject being picked up and soothed too often (a baby may arch their back and cry harder). Be aware of these signs and adjust your soothing techniques accordingly to make learning more comfortable for your baby.
How will I manage tears?
During the sleep coaching process, it is particularly important to remain consistent. Remember, you will be breaking old habits and creating new ones, this can take time! Babies do not like change, but they do thrive on consistency and knowing what to expect. It makes them feel safe and secure. With this in mind, you can be pretty certain that your baby will protest any changes to their current sleep habits. It is important to not confuse these tears with cries of abandonment or helplessness. My particular process, for example, is designed so parents can comfort their baby as required while allowing the baby time to figure out how to fall asleep independently and find self-soothing techniques that work for them. If you remain consistent with your plan, soon your baby will come to expect and crave the new habits you have put in place.
Do I have a support system?
It is not a good idea to go blindly into sleep coaching without a solid plan and someone to lean on for support. In desperate times, when we are at the end of our rope, parents attempt CIO and often fail because they are not ready to truly commit and don’t have a plan and a support system to keep them on track. Before starting any sleep coaching program, talk to your partner, close friend, or even a certified sleep coach. Discuss your goals and what you want to accomplish during coaching. It is very important to manage expectations, and not expect immediate results. There will always be ups and downs during and after sleep coaching so having supportive people encouraging you and supporting your journey is imperative!