Sleep Training: Separating Fact from Fiction

Let’s get to the bottom of what sleep training truly entails.

Too many times parents hear the word sleep training for their child and they run the opposite direction. Training is only meant for your animals, not for your precious bundle of joy. Actually, training is teaching the appropriate skill or type of behavior to an individual. If the word training is a bit extreme we can call it coaching, teaching, or helping your wee ones on the right path to peaceful sleeping. We are born to learn so many skills throughout our life, and in the beginning our parents take on the responsibility of teaching us new skills on a daily basis. We practice skills such as rolling over, crawling, using a sippy cup, going to the potty and riding a bike. Large amounts of training and work go into successfully mastering these various skills. Eventually, would your child learn all these skills on their own, more then likely yes, but as parents its a natural instinct to want to help, guide and teach these things to our children. Sleep is one of the most important task we want our young ones to understand and learn. Being able to instill good sleeping habits from a young age will only make for a happier child and family.

What is sleep training?
True sleep training does not emerge until 4 months old and sometimes it can be between 4 – 6 months depending on the baby. Around this age is when a true schedule can become more natural for a baby. There are mounds of sleep training techniques and it is all about finding the one the fits perfectly for you and your child. I do highly recommend beginning good practices and age appropriate skills from the start for newborns. At the newborn age you can not implement a true schedule, but their are plenty of techniques and age appropriate skills that can be put into place. As a certified sleep consultant one of my main goals is to eliminate any unnecessary wakings or feedings during the night for a baby.

Misconceptions about sleep training!
One of the biggest misunderstandings about sleep training is there is a one size fits all method or approach for sleep training. EVERY child is completely different and what works for your best friend, neighbor or your Aunt Joan back in the day may be on a whole other side of the spectrum from will be the best method for your little one. There are many babies between the 4 – 6 month age range that still require a feeding or two during the night. Learning your babies cues and knowing the difference between a mid night snack and a calorie need for baby is part of the process.

How can sleep training help my child sleep through the night?
Sleeping through the night is a process and for most little ones it will not just magically happen.  As adults most of us will have a bedtime ritual or routine, the same goes for your baby. Your baby will begin to associate certain things with their bedtime and sleep patterns. You may watch your favorite tv show, take a bath, put on your favorite pjs and read a good book. This is how your body recognizes its time to wind down from the day. As you doze off to sleep you snuggle up to your favorite pillow and grab your soft sheets. When you wake in the night you reach for the pillow and soft sheets to help ease you back into your peaceful sleep. Now imagine if someone has to help you do all those things every time you wake during the night, this is exactly what happens to your baby. They expect you to help them with every step to fall back asleep during the night. This is where the issues can begin, you may be rocking, nursing, bouncing and putting in a pacifier multiple times during the night. The baby cries and needs your assistant to get back to sleep.
We forget as an adult that the journey of sleep is an actual process. It is a learned process and if baby has not been taught the correct rituals and procedures he will continue to wake and cry and beg for your assistance creating a vicious cycle night after night.

Let’s roll the dice!
Too many times I have heard, my baby or child will just wake up one day and grow out of their sleep prop association or shock us and sleep through the night. The majority of babies will only become more demanding and reliant on you helping them sleep and it only gets worse as they become older for many children. If you have to nurse them to sleep during the night or rocking them for hours on end the chances are slim they will magically drop these props on their own. Many studies have shown a baby that has not learned the appropriate skills of sleep, will continue to have sleeping issues up until age 5 and beyond.

It is never too late!
To many times parents have an older toddler that has never learned the appropriate skills or independent sleep process. Do not lose hope, these children can hands down be helped just as babies can be helped. Most the time at this age children are just more strong willed and can test a parents patients seeing who can last the longest before giving in to their demands. Age appropriate schedules, techniques and consistency are all apart of helping any child no matter their age.

Kekelley-hallums-thompson-headshotlley Thompson is a wife, mom, and Certified Sleep Consultant living in middle Tennessee. If you have questions or want to learn more about how she can help you and your child get over the hump and resolve their sleeping issues, check out her website at www.serenitysleepers.com or email her at kelley@serenitysleepers.com

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