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  • Writer's pictureJulia Lagman

Making Changes Without Sleep Training

Updated: Dec 4, 2019

A few months into the parenting journey, we’ve usually discovered a few things that aren’t working for us and are looking for ways to make changes. Do we need to train our babies to sleep? NO! In fact, you can’t train someone to sleep. Sleep is a biological function and comes when there is enough sleep pressure (the body is tired enough) and is regulated by the body’s circadian rhythm (exposure to light and darkness). We can, however, make many positive changes to support sleep. Here are a few simple steps to follow to make changes without sleep training:

1. Make changes during “sweet spots”

You may have heard about “sleep regressions”. These are times when your child is developing a new skill, such as rolling over, crawling, walking, talking etc. and their sleep can be disrupted by all this mental stimulation. They can wake more often during the night, practicing their new skill or chatting away. If you can, it is best to make changes in between these developmental leaps, which are the “sweet spots”. During these “sweet spots” in between developmental leaps, your child is more likely to be easygoing and open to change.

2. Make sure your child is ready for the change

It is important to make sure your child is both developmentally and emotionally ready for the change. A child who is developmentally ready for a change is one who has reached an age where what we’re expecting is developmentally-appropriate. For example, sleeping through the night is not developmentally-appropriate at 3 months of age, although parents may want this to happen, as babies still need to wake for feedings, comfort, regulating their breathing and heart rate etc. A parent knows best when a child is emotionally ready to make a change. For example, if a parent feels their toddler is emotionally ready to ditch the pacifier or move to a “big kid” bed, it will make the transition easier and much less traumatic for everyone.

3. Examine your motives

It is critical that parents examine their motives for wanting to make a change. We often feel pressure from family members and friends who think we should parent our children the way they did. Of course, most people have good intentions, but choosing to make changes based on someone else’s parenting values is very risky. We will find it challenging to be consistent and follow through if we don’t believe in it ourselves! Due to outside pressure, we may also choose to make a change at a time when our child is not ready. You know your child best; trust your instincts.

4. Make sure the environment supports the change

Sleep is greatly affected by the sleep environment. If you want to make a specific change, does the environment allow you to do it? For example, perhaps you want to sidecar a crib but don’t have the space. In that case, you might consider a floor bed instead. Perhaps you want your child to sleep in their own room but your child’s bedroom would be on a different floor from yours. What adaptations could you make? Do you want to make a specific change but feel that the light in the room, the noise in the house or the presence of another sibling in the room makes it challenging? Adjust the environment or adjust the change so that they align.

5. Plan for alternate measures of comfort

When making a change, your baby may become upset at the change in routine. Plan ahead and decide what alternate measures of comfort you’d like to provide. The goal is not to remove all forms of comfort and have children cry it out. This does not make a child independent; it could cause the child to have a negative association with sleep. Remember that crying in the arms of a loving caregiver is not the same as crying it out alone! The presence of a loving caregiver can be the greatest comfort during an uncomfortable time of change.

6. Tailor the approach to your family

Make a change that resonates with you in a way that fits with your parenting values and your child’s temperament! At In Touch Sleep, I can teach you all about sleep regressions and sweet spots, helping you find the optimal time to make changes. I can help you assess both your and your child’s readiness for a change. I will help you plan according to your environment and put in place alternate measures of comfort for your child. Most of all, I’ll help you find an approach that fits your family and helps everyone rest easier. Contact me today to get started!

photo: Rashed Khan

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