Sleep Training “Setting the stage”

The words ‘CRY IT OUT’ jump into most parent’s minds when they hear the words ‘SLEEP TRAINING’, which is why I don’t like to refer to myself as a sleep trainer but rather as a sleep consultant. We have a very holistic approach at Good Night and we don’t look at sleep in isolation. It is extremely important to ensure that you set the stage for your child to be able to fall asleep independently and to settle themselves back to sleep when they wake up at night.

You can’t expect a baby to fall asleep independently and to sleep through the night when they are not ready to do so, and therefore we have to take their age, growth and numerous other factors into consideration. You can, however, decrease the amount of wake ups during the night. There is no need for a parent to be up every hour but a mom might still have to get up between one and three times a night for a feed, depending on baby’s age, etc.

There are numerous sleep training methods available on the internet and baby related books, and all these tools have the same end-goal in mind, which is to teach your child to fall asleep independently. There are however a few factors that you as a parent need to consider before attempting to apply any of these methods.

First, you need to break any negative sleep associations and focus on building positive sleep associations.

Second, the amount of food and the type of food your child eats plays a crucial role in sleep. For example, babies under one year of age still need a certain amount of milk during the day, and a parent should not remove night feeds if the child is not getting the appropriate amount during the day time.

Third, you need to look at your child’s sleep environment, in some cases the room might be too light, or the environment might be too noisy. If that’s the case, you then need to consider block out curtains, switching off the hallway light or maybe introducing white noise into baby’s room. Safe sleep is extremely important, especially under the age of 1 year and then again for toddlers who are able to get out of bed and walk around in the house.

Fourth, babies and toddlers need a specific amount of sleep during the day and you need to keep to your child’s age appropriate awake time. You cannot expect an overtired or under-tired child to fall asleep independently and soundly.

The last factor I would like to mention is routine and schedule. A fixed, age-appropriate routine and schedule will cue your child’s brain about when sleep is coming and that makes it so much easier for them to fall asleep.

All of these factors mentioned above must be taken into consideration before attempting any sleep training method, otherwise we are not setting the stage for our children to fall asleep independently. Another important fact to keep in mind is that you never have to leave your child’s side and you never have to do anything you are not comfortable with when you embark on sleep training. We can teach our children the very valuable skill of sleep in a very gradual, gentle manner.

Anita van Wyk – Good Night sleep consultant.

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