Sleep Training Through Challenges
It's seems like there's never a good time to address your child's sleep. You know they need more sleep (and you do too!) but there's always something else going on - teething, sickness, mental leaps, physical leaps, nursing, travel...The list goes on. If we waited until the perfect time to address your child's sleep, you'd be waiting a long time. So here are some tips to handle the challenges that are bound to arise when teaching your child healthy sleep habits.
Teething: It's inevitable that your child will deal with teething issues during their infant and toddler years, but that doesn't have to mean that their sleep will be disrupted for years. Typically, teething pain is at it's worst for a few days when the tooth is coming through the gums. You're child will probably be irritable during this time and may not sleep well. Hang in there! Talk to your pediatrician about pain relief options. Teething is usually NOT something that affects sleep for long periods of time. So if you feel like your child has been teething for weeks or months (and they only have a few teeth), it's unlikely that teething pain is causing their poor sleep. It's time to look at how you can help your child develop healthy sleep habits.
Illness: I get this all the time, especially during winters in Minnesota. Sleep is going great and then child gets sick and all their healthy sleep habits disappear. When your child is sick with a fever, stuffy nose, cough and is generally miserable, I don't recommend trying to sleep train. Focus on getting your baby healthy and getting them the sleep they need, even if that means some extra cuddles or more night wakings. Talk to your pediatrician about how you can make your child more comfortable - humidifiers, pain relievers, saline nose rinses, etc. As your child starts to feel better, get back on track with healthy sleep habits. A week of sickness doesn't need to turn into months of poor sleep!
Milestones: In the first year of life, your child will meet so many exciting milestones: rolling, sitting, pulling up, scooting, crawling, walking. It's so fun to see your child develop and grow, but it can also mean disrupted sleep when your baby would rather practice pulling up than sleep. You can continue to practice healthy sleep habits as your child is reaching these milestone. First, make sure they are safe. That means getting rid of the swaddle when they can roll, lowering the crib when they can stand and removing any tempting objects outside the crib when they start to climb. Second, practice these milestones during the day with your child so they don't have the desire to practice them at night when they should be sleeping. Finally, let your child be. He or she will inevitably end up stuck in a certain position. Maybe they've figured out how to sit, but can't figure out how to lay back down. This is normal! Your child may fuss or cry when this happens. I recommend helping your child get back into a normal position once or twice. If they continue to get themselves stuck, let them be. They will figure it out! If you continue to help them out, they will learn to get your attention by continuing to get stuck. Babies are smart!
Night Feeding: Moms frequently worry about how they can introduce healthy sleep habits while they are nursing or bottle feeding at night. Night feeding does not prevent you from developing healthy sleep habits at all! As your child reaches an age and weight where it is no longer necessary for them to eat around the clock (talk to your pediatrician about when this is), your focus should be on gradually stretching out feedings to every 3 hours. This time frame allows your baby to get good, restorative sleep while also getting full meals during the night. When your baby gets up to eat, keep them awake so they get a full meal, feed until their belly is full and then put them back to sleep using your healthy sleep habits. Feeding every 3 hours or more also makes weaning (when that time comes) much easier.
Travel: Traveling can take a toll on even the best sleepers. Changing time zones, different sleep environments and different schedules all affect sleep. I don’t recommend traveling while introducing healthy sleep habits. Give yourself time at home to get your routine down and get your child sleeping well before you travel. Once you are ready to travel, be prepared. Start by putting your child in a pack n play for naps the week before you leave. This will help them adjust to a new sleep environment. Bring room darkening shades and a white noise machine. Try to stick to their routine as much as possible but accept that it won’t be perfect. Your goal is to survive and hopefully enjoy yourself! Once you return from traveling, get back into your routine and get back to those healthy sleep habits.
Do you need help implementing and following through on healthy sleep habits? Let me know!