6 04, 2016

Sleep Training Your Toddler; 5 Tips for Success

April 6th, 2016|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , |

Is sleep training your toddler right for you?

It happens to the best of us; we have a baby that was sleeping well ( or not) but then the toddler years hit and all hell breaks loose. Your child is climbing out of the crib, coming out of their bed and into your room, resisting nap, waking early, not letting you leave-you name it, you’ve got it.  You start to think that sleep training your toddler is needed. But how to begin? All the baby books focus on just that-babies.

The good news is that I have helped many families with toddlers (and preschoolers! ) start to have healthy sleeping habits so that the whole family *including mom and dad* are feeling well-rested and happy. It is never too late!

Let’s not waste another moment of you feeling tired or frustrated, shall we? Here’s what you need to know…

Sleep Log

The best place to start at is with documenting your child’s sleep. Without having a base from which to start from, it is hard to move forward.

Maybe you’re back to work during the days and struggling to get your little one to sleep at night. The last thing you want to do is start writing everything down, *BUT* it’s exactly for this reason that it’s important to log your child’s sleep. As a busy mom myself (are there really any other kind?) I know it’s hard to accurately remember everything from day to day. But after working for years with exhausted parents, I know it’s even more difficult to remember details when you’re sleep deprived.

Record it on your computer, open up your favourite sleep app, or go old school with a pen and paper, but whatever you choose, there are some important factors to document;

  • Wake up time
  • Nap starting and end times
  • Bedtime
  • Night wakings, and
  • Your child’s mood

Record this information for 5-7 days to provide valuable clues about your child’s sleep. It will help you to asses how much overall sleep and nap time they are getting each day on average. From there you can adjust accordingly.

This sleep logging time period should be one where everyone is on a pretty regular schedule. Don’t do it when there is illness, vacation, vaccinations, or house guests that may influence your results.

Baby or Toddler?

The term “toddler” is pretty ambiguous, describing everything from 12 month-3 year olds. When you’re looking at developing a healthy sleep routine though, it’s important to know where your little fits in for two reasons.

The first being is that you need to know what the average sleep requirements are for his or her age. And the second is for the most appropriate sleep training method options for their cognitive level.

A 13 month old toddler is going to have very different sleep needs than a 23 month old toddler. And each will have different options in terms of what is appropriate to expect from their level of understanding when trying to change behaviours.

Another special area to note is whether or not your child is still in their crib as it will impact your sleep training methods. I generally recommend that you wait until at least 3 years old to move a child to a big-kid bed for reasons outlined here, but I understand that not every family is able to do that.

Age Appropriate Routine

When you’re thinking about sleep training your toddler, it’s essential that you make their daytime and bedtime routine the primary focus. Although the talk in moms’ groups tends to focus on the sleep training aspect, it is in fact only focusing on the sleep training part that will ensure failure.

A perpetually overtired child will continue to cry, have temper tantrums, get silly, resist sleep period even after being sleep trained if their routine isn’t on track. Sleep training is *only* meant to get rid of sleep associations. It does not fix routines that have poorly timed naps and/or a bedtime that is too late.

If your little one is taking 2 naps a day, they will generally need a morning nap around an hour in length, and an afternoon nap ranging from 1.5-2 hours. A toddler that has completed the 2-1 nap transition will need a midday nap ranging from 1.5-3 hours in length and bedtime falling somewhere between 6-8pm.

Please note that these are just averages-always take your child’s unique sleep temperament into consideration.

Manage the Sleep Debt

This goes hand in hand with the preceding tip. As you focus on your child’s routine, their sleep debt will begin to be reduced. You can further this process along by not allowing bedtime to be too late.

How late is too late?

Well-rested toddlers can handle about 4-5 hours from the wake up of their last nap until bedtime. However if they are overtired, moving bedtime up earlier than this will be very helpful.

Change Sleep Behaviours and Expectations

Now it is time to decide how you want to change your child’s sleep behaviours. Do they come out of their room each night? Need you to lay down with them? Insist on something to drink before they go back to sleep? This is where you would choose the appropriate sleep training method and employ it consistently to change these sleep habits.

This is one of the last areas to consider and should never be done without addressing any daytime routine issues first. This way, we tackle the child’s sleep debt which assists with reducing the amount of crying. Win-win!

Picking the actual sleep training method for your toddler will be based upon their age (see point #2), their personality, and your parenting philosophy. Consistency is essential; pick a method that you can see through to the end. Constantly changing your method or response will ultimately confuse your child (read: crying) so following through once you have begun is the quickest path to success.

For a comprehensive review, I detailed many options in this sleep training series and several of them can be adapted for older children in big kid beds.

BONUS: A Tip For Older Toddlers

The older a child is, the more you can talk to them about how great sleep is for their bodies, preceding any changes you intend to make. You want to sell them on the idea of sleep and what it can do for them.

Most toddlers love to be physically active; running, jumping, swinging, climbing play structures and the like. Use this to your advantage and begin to draw the connections for them about how sleep helps their energy levels; allowing them to feel good enough to play.

By discussing the benefits of getting enough rest before sleep training your toddler, and then following through during the implementation period, you will help your child start to take pride in their sleep skills.

It is actually pretty amazing and quite touching to see when this transformation begins to happen. I have had many parents amazed how suddenly their child is eager to go to sleep (after resisting sleep for sometimes years). The child begins to appreciate and feel the difference in themselves!

If your little one has been lacking sleep for sometime, it may be time to consider making some changes in their routine. Sleep training your toddler can result in your child getting healthy and restorative sleep, and teaching them a valuable life skill. The preceding tips are a great place to start and should you want more detailed help, check out the toddler sleep consultation options.

If healthy sleep habits are well under way, but you need to ask a quick question, be sure to like and join the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page’s Wednesday night free Q & A sessions.

1 04, 2014

Sleep Training Series Part 4: Pick Up and Put Down

April 1st, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Sleep Training|Tags: , , , |

Pick Up/Put Down Sleep Training Method

Part Four in our Sleep Training Series offers parents another slower or “gentle” sleep training plan called Pick Up, Put Down or PU/PD for short.

Pick Up, Put Down which is most notably advocated by Tracy Hogg in her book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with your Baby, offers parents another alternative to Fading.

Tracy calls this approach “middle of the road” and some people feel it falls under the category of “gentle” methods while others  feel this approach is very confusing for children and frustrating for all involved. But it’s important to decide for yourself.

From my experience, clients choose this method in the hopes of reducing tears. However, we must make sure the child’s daytime routine matches their biological sleep windows, otherwise what results is overtired crying.

Another factor to contemplate is that while this is considered a gentle sleep training method, if your child doesn’t like a lot of engagement, it will result in a lot frustrated tears in the first few days.

Pick Up, Put Down: The Method

Essentially with PU/PD, you would do your wind down routine and lay your child down still awake. (Like all sleep training methods, this is an important component.

If your child wasn’t fussing (or their sounds didn’t make you uncomfortable), you would leave the room. If you’re child began to cry to the point of making you uncomfortable, you follow a “stop, wait and listen” approach.

Get extra tips to help your baby sleep better. Download the Sleeping Through The Night Guide.

If your child continued to get worked up and needed  your help, you would return to the room and pick your child up for a minute or two to settle them down (the pick up part) and then lay them back down (the put down part) still awake. You would repeat this process until your child settled down in their crib and eventually went to sleep.

Tracy advocates this method be used from 4-8 months of age and after that, you wouldn’t pick your child up anymore, but just gently lay them down in the crib each time they sat up.

However, laying a child down every time they sit up can quickly become a game or incredibly frustrating for them, so you would need to reassess if that was happening with your child.

A few tips for success:

1. Ensure your child is on a great sleep routine and bedtime is age appropriate.

2. Start with a soothing wind down or pre sleep routine and implement it before you begin the sleep training part.

3. Make sure you as the parent are well-rested before you begin, so that you have the energy to see it through to the end.

4. Listen to your child’s sounds-if they are just fussing, give them some time and space to see if they can get settled on their own first

5. Enlist in the help of someone else. Tracy even says herself  that this method can be  “darn hard” and can be taxing for one parent to do it solely on their own.

How Long Does It Take to Work?

Pick Up Put Down can take anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks to see consistent changes. On average, I have found it’s closer to 2-3 weeks though. Like any method, your child’s temperament and your ability to maintain the consistency is what will also influence the time line.

Pros and Cons of Pick Up/Put Down

Pro

  • Parent can stay in the room with their child the entire time
  • Parent has the opportunity to comfort their child as they learn how to fall asleep on their own
  • This method has slightly more structure than a ‘no-cry’ method such as Fading, without being too rigid

Cons

  • Is very physically demanding
  • Night wakings can last 2+hours in the beginning with over 100 pick ups and that can be hard to maintain this method consistently
  • Some children get very upset with this method and it causes much frustration for both parent and child
  • If you have other children to tend to during nap time, this method is hard to do consistently
  • Can be confusing to a parent exactly when they should be picking their child up and for how long

Pick Up Put Down is a gradual method that can be a nice alternative for a parent looking for a more slower approach, but with progress becoming  evident a little bit sooner than the Fading approach.

However, like all methods there are pros and cons to it and you need to evaluate if this method suits your child’s personality and one that they will respond to well. If you are looking for another method, please continue reading and check out Part Five in this sleep training series.

If you’re not sure if this method is right for your child, Baby Sleep 101 is always here to help you assess your child’s sleep problems and come up with a plan that will help you see success with your goals.

Remember to download your free sleep guide here as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 01, 2014

Sleep Training Series Part 2: Understanding Crying

January 28th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Sleep Training|Tags: , , , , |

Welcome to Part Two in our Sleep Training series. If you haven’t already done so, please read part one as it contains very important steps that you will want to implement before sleep training.

Baby Sleep Training and Crying: An Emotion to Be Supported

Many times parents come to me, at their end of their rope. They are beyond tired, frustrated, constantly arguing with their spouse and impatient with their children.

They know that their lack of sleep isn’t letting them be the best parent they could be, but they have put off any sleep training because they are worried their child will cry.

Sometimes this can translate in a parent’s mind that their child will feel abandoned or scared. But crying doesn’t necessarily mean lonely or fear, it can also mean they are angry and exhausted. It’s important to have the appropriate response to each circumstance.

If your family is so exhausted that you can’t even function, then you need to make changes.

We do need to be realistic though; you are changing the way they have fallen asleep for months or years. Adults rarely joyfully embrace change, so why would we expect our little ones to?

In general your child isn’t going to be happy about it, especially when they’re tired. But I don’t want you to be scared of their emotions. Protesting, being frustrated, voicing complaints is normal.

Supporting it, without suppressing it, is healthy.

We want to show our children that we are there for them, that they can express themselves and we are there to support them through their learning.

Cry Me A River

So this is the big issue that makes sleep training so hard for all of us.

Everyone wants to know: How-Much-Will-My-Child-Cry?

If you’re wondering why I’m not saying “if your child will cry”, it’s because, in the vast majority of cases, a child cries at some point during sleep training. Of course, there are some children who don’t cry at all, or only fuss, but they are in the minority.

It would be great if I could promise you no tears in every situation, but that’s just not realistic. Saying that there is a sure fire ‘no-cry’ sleep training method is misleading.

Crying When Tired

Let’s think about the crying a child does during sleep training from another perspective.

Let’s say you are in a foreign country and everyone speaks a different language. You have no idea what they’re saying, but you do know that they’re saying something. Would you just assume the worst and fear they are plotting your demise?

Hopefully not.

You would probably use the context of the situation, their facial expressions, body language, your location and other factors to make a reasonable judgment call in regards to what they’re trying to communicate to you.

The goes for your child when he or she is crying. You need to use the context of the situation and make the appropriate call as to what they’re saying.

If they have a sleep debt from being massively overtired, and you are not longer rocking/holding/bouncing/feeding to sleep/replacing the soother a million times a night/driving all over town and trying to avoid red lights (think the movie Speed), then it’s reasonable to assume that they are crying because they’re frustrated. I often joke with my parents and say they are likely swearing at you in baby language. 😉

Sleep Training Does Not Equal Bad Parenting

You are not a bad parent for deciding it’s time to help your child learn healthy sleep strategies.

Every family is different and whether you want to start before any bad habit emerge or your ‘tools’  have stopped working, when you feel it’s time to change the situation, do it with confidence. Confidence in both your child and yourself.

You are not making your child cry, you are allowing them to express themselves.

You are helping them to learn a new skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

You are being empathetic and understanding that they are frustrated, tired and just want to sleep, while giving them time and opportunity to practice these new skills.

You trust and believe in your child that they can learn new habits.

Sleep is one of the fundamental building blocks of human health. Not being well-rested is unhealthy for both your child and yourself.

Crying does not lead to health issues, but sleep deprivation does.

When you remove the sleep props or sleep associations that your child relied on to fall asleep, they will understandably be upset. But by setting up a great sleep routine, making sure your child is napping well, and keeping bedtime early, you will help to miminze the amout of frustration crying that your child does. 

Worries, And Fears and Tears, Oh My!

But of course, everyone worries. I understand because I too, was also concerned when I first contemplated sleep training.

I had read every sleep training-shaming, mom-scaring, studies-out-of-context-taking, article out there. I thought I was a bad mom for not being able to handle the sleep deprivation. And so for a long time, I allowed my fear to override logic and health needs.

Fear can stop us in our tracks before we can even take a step forward. Our brains go into overdrive and imagine worse-case scenarios.  But it’s important to not deny your child quality sleep and therefore optimal health, because of what may happen. Often, parents’ worries far exceeds the reality and a child doesn’t cry for as long or as hard as they thought.

It may ease your mind to know, as it did mine, that all the research shows that sleep training is safe and effective.

It is not child abuse, it’s not selfish and it does not lead to any long term (or short term) damage. (However, chronic sleep deprivation does.)

Want to help your baby sleep better at night, while minimizing crying? Download this FREE sleep guide. 

But what parent loves to hear their child cry? None of us. However, crying happens. Along with diaper blow outs and gross-smelling spit ups. It is unrealistic, not to mention extremely stressful, to entertain the idea of never allowing your baby to cry.

Crying, especially when overtired is an emotion and a need for sleep.

And remember, you will minimize the amount of crying by following a great sleep routine before sleep training.

But Really, How Much Crying Will There Be?

So back to the main question-how long will the crying last? We’ve heard it before, but it needs to be said again: every child is different.  There are many factors that influence how long a method starts to work such as:

  • age
  • method
  • personality
  • consistency of parent implementation
  • quality of day routine
  • sleep debt amount
  • how many attempts at sleep training were previously tried

These factors will all influence how long they sleep training will take, which makes it difficult to provide exact answers on the time a child takes to learn new sleep habits.

I can however, offer you an estimate of how long each method takes to start seeing change and we will look at those in the future posts of this series. You can begin with Part Three: No-Cry Sleep Training.

Changing sleep habits is hard work, especially in the beginning, but when it’s time for you to make that change, know that your child is very capable of learning how to sleep more solidly on their own.

Want more tips to help your baby sleep better? Download the FREE  guide; Sleeping Through The Night, 5 Tips Every Parent Needs to Know.

 Ready to get started on helping your family have healthy, restorative sleep now? Please see our consultation page to select your package.
6 01, 2014

Sleep Training Series:Part 1

January 6th, 2014|Categories: Sleep Training|Tags: , , , |

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.  Leo J. Burke

 You’re tired. Your child is tired. Nobody is happy. You have decided that it’s time to hunker down and commit to sleep training/sleep coaching/sleep shaping (it goes by many names) to help your child sleep through the night and take restorative naps.

But where to start? You’ve read a thousand books and each one contradicts the other. It’s enough to make anyone frustrated.

Thinking about Sleep Training?

Folks who don’t face sleep issues may scoff at the idea of ‘teaching’ a child to fall asleep, but what many people fail to realize is that falling asleep unassisted is a learnt skill. And just like anything in parenting, if you want to teach your child a new skill, it is going to require time, patience and a ton of consistency.

Every sleep training method can work, but only if you are 100% committed to it. How can you commit to something you know nothing about? Well you’re in luck! This article will be the first in a series of posts examining the most common sleep training techniques from gradual to the most direct, along with the pros and cons with each method.

Let’s start at the beginning…

The first place to begin before any sleep training begins is with a solid pre-sleep routine. I often refer to this as a wind down routine. A wind down routine is a short series of steps that go through with your child right before their nap and/or bedtime. It is fairly consistent from day to day and between naps and bedtime. This vital step helps to cue your child’s body and brain that it’s time to relax and get ready to sleep. In fact, a wind down routine is so important for great sleep that it’s even recommend for adults.

A wind down routine might include one or more of the following, depending on your child’s age and if it’s before a nap or before bedtime;

  • diaper change or potty time,
  • nursing/bottle,
  • pajamas,
  • brushing teeth,
  • reading a book together,
  • prayers/quiet song,
  • rocking/ cuddling
  • bed
The Next Critical Step…

So now you have the perfect wind down routine and are using it consistently. Excellent! The next important step is focus on your child’s daytime routine.  Ensure that your child is on a solid routine or about to begin one. That means he or she is taking restorative naps (most children 3 and under still need to nap) and has a relatively early bedtime.

 

Want more tips to help your baby sleep through the night? Download the FREE Sleeping Through the Night guide.

If the child’s routine isn’t on track, then you are not going to have success sleep training. Why? Because you can’t sleep train a chronically overtired child. You may be teaching them to fall asleep independently, but they will still continue to wake up at night, take short naps and be miserable because their routine is off and bedtime is too late.

This is a really important point, so it’s worth repeating : 

If you want to solve all sleep issues, then your child’s daytime routine needs to be addressed too.

So therefore make sure you child is napping well during the day and going to bed on time each night. Sleep begets sleep and what happens during the day, has a direct effect on the quality of your child’s night sleep.

Know Thyself

Once you have a wind down routine in place and a great daytime routine, you will want to begin thinking about what your parenting philosophy is and what kind of person you are. What does this have to do with helping your child learn great sleep skills?

Everything!

In order for sleep training to be effective, you have to be extremely consistent day in and day out-for several weeks.  In order to teach a child a skill, they need to practice it over and over again in the same manner every time. I really can’t emphasize how important the consistency factor is. Please don’t skim over that part and think it won’t apply to your child.

It will.

This means you have think about your personality and your parenting philosophy.  Understanding your feelings in regards to parenting, will help you to follow a method you really and truly believe in and feel comfortable with.

It’s great that your cousin’s-best friend’s-brother’s -sister-in-law had success with crying-it-out after 4 nights. But if you find it difficult to listen to your child cry for two minutes alone, then it’s that method isn’t right for you. It’s unlikely you won’t be able to follow through for one night, let alone four. Choosing a method that fits with your comfort level and personality is the first step to seeing success.

Know Thy Child

The same holds true for your child as well. What is your child’s temperament and personality? Can your child easily adapt to new situations or are they more stubborn strong-willed and persistent? Not only should you pick a method that you can stick to, but you need to also pick something what is best for your child.

Unfortunately, sometimes the two are not the same.  If you have a strong-willed child, then it’s even more important that you pick a suitable method that you can sustain for the long haul.

So there you have the beginning steps that are vital for successful sleep training. It’s important to begin with these steps first so that you can choose which method you need.

Sometimes though, just establishing a great wind down routine, a  consistent and well-timed daytime routine and an age appropriate bedtime is all you need to solve your sleep issues.  If it isn’t, then stay tuned. In the upcoming articles, I will explore the most common sleep training methods. You can read the next article in Part Two: Understanding Crying.

Remember to pick up your free Sleeping Through the Night guide, here.

Don’t want to wait and too tired to read? Get started on helping your family have healthy, restorative sleep now and see our consultation page to select your package.