Sleep is a biological process, not a behavioral one. Behavioral sleep issues arise around sleep, when a baby or child's emotional needs remain unmet. Yes, babies & toddlers need a lot of emotional support, balancing the needs, while encouraging safety & security around sleep is the solution. Conscious parenting helps parents understand how their own emotional past plays a role in their child's developing emotions. We cannot train a child to sleep any more then we can train them to breathe. Like all milestones, sleep evolves over time and each stage must be mastered before moving onto the next.
Sleep training by definition is the process of training young children to fall asleep on their own, typically by means of techniques in which the child is left to cry without being comforted, either for gradually increasing periods of time or until they fall asleep.
I began the journey of sleep consulting as a parent educator, lactation consultant, pediatric and NICU RN. I wanted to apply the methods used for developmental care concepts in the NICU, and emotional wellness through conscious parenting to the principles of sleep work. Through my own experience, years of education, extensive parenting, and sleep courses, I began to see what was missing for so many parents. There was a conflict between nurturing parenting practices and achieving healthy sleep. Main stream sleep solutions were all about "training" your baby and using cry-based methodologies to achieve results. With the focus on controlling behavior through disconnection, rather than being attuned to your child and supporting them emotionally. This was not in line with my parenting philosophy and the need for alternative sleep solutions was born.
"My baby wakes up at 4:50am!!!" I hear this all the time from mom's!! Lets review....
The simple solution you've probably read before is to put your baby to bed earlier! This is true and the first step towards correction is always an early bedtime, but what is you've tried this for two weeks and it isn't working? Early bedtime often works for a little while and can resolve a sleep debt issue. It will promote later wake up times provided sleep is balanced, but long term you might discover your baby goes to bed at 5:30pm and wakes up with the birds at 5:30am. That's because the sleep debt is now repaid and your baby is sleeping 12hrs.
I know my baby needs sleep but how can I support the tears?
When you have a sleep association between nursing, rocking, bouncing and sleeping or anything else in fact, it starts to interfere with your baby’s natural ability to self soothe which ultimately interferes with sleep! You must first teach the skills for happy sleep and apply the positive connections. Balance the schedule, improve the environment and practice emotional wellness during the day, before moving towards eliminating the associations you don't want at night! By helping your baby find another way to sleep, trading one association for another and shifting their comfort zone slowly, you can promote healthy sleep without assistance and support any tears!!
Many parents find the blissful sleep initially provided from the pacifier, soon becomes a nightly service required every hour!! Pacifiers are recommended by the AAP and are considered a good safe sleep practice. They may also help reduce the risk of SIDS and are strongly encouraged for premature babies in NICU's everywhere. Sucking is soothing and comforting to a baby. It actually releases endorphins and provides pain relief for babies. The feel good when they suck, even non-nutritive sucking! Without it your baby will look for their "sucking fix" somewhere else, thumb, fingers or momma's breast just for comfort. The decision to introduce a pacifier is one you must carefully consider. Many sleep advocates discourage pacifiers for the very reason they become a sleep crutch, but for some parents the short term wakings are worth the long term benefits. How does one decide??
The dreaded diaper change
If you're a parent you've heard the term many times! "Watch for the sleepy cues!" Many parents get confused and wonder what exactly it is they are looking for? Yawning and eye rubbing are late signs for a sleepy baby, and crying is often way too late! Here's the scoop on the "sleepy" signals and how to understand them.
I decided to write this post to share with other mom's the experience I've had raising my own children in a highly competitive world and why sleep and emotional wellness are more important than ever for young babies and toddlers today. Relationship foundations and internal working models of the brain, are set for life during these early years. A child's ability to cope with adversity and to have a strong sense of self worth is linked to the interactions they experience before they can even speak. These foundations need to be strong and babies need to feel emotionally secure in order to adapt to the academic demands they will inevitably encounter down the road.
Along with my professional experience, I'm also a mom to three great kids! I've been where you are many times and had the same bedtime struggles you're having! Today, I get asked the same question over and over from clients and friends; "How do I manage bedtime? "Many families begin to feel anxious as bedtime approaches and anticipate a challenge from their toddler. The biggest issue is managing your expectations and creating a calm peaceful home. Believe it will go well every time and project those emotions onto your child, while maintaining a confident and consistent approach. Keeping parents on track is truly the biggest issue! When you’re tired, worn out, had enough of negotiating and just want to give up, you often send mixed messages and become inconsistent. Little ones need you to set these boundaries and make them clear. Another little piece of advice, communicate what you want them to do and minimize the use of the word "no!" See how this simple trick changes your approach and how empowered you feel as a parent.