Sleep Training Tips from a Nanny/Mama Who Knows!

Getting a good night’s sleep for anyone is incredibly important, but for new parents it can seem like a far off dream(she’s got puns!). After nannying professionally in Austin for 11 years(including much sleep training of children from infants to toddler age), and now being the mother of a fully sleep-trained baby, I am excited to share some of my tips for sleep training your child. My partner is offshore six months out of the year, 28 days gone, 28 days home, so I am a single parent, half of the time, and I highly suggest sleep training for single parents and couples alike!

 

The first few numbers are more of a checklist involvingwhether or not your family is ready. This seems like a no-brainer, who wouldn’t be ready to sleep through the night uninterrupted? But there are many moving parts to the snooze machine, and checking them all is important.

1. Is your baby ready? I generally suggest waiting to sleep train until your infant is at least 4 months. By this age he/she usually weighs enough, is no longer swaddled and can wear a sleep sack, which I highly suggest, and can take down a larger pre-bed feeding to keep him/her full overnight. As always, consult your pediatrician if you have doubts, questions.
2. Are you, the parent/s ready to have your child sleeping in his/her room? Moving your child to his/her own room is necessary to sleep train. For breast-feeding mothers, I suggest pumping some nighttime bottles if you want to share sleep training duties with your partner. For some parenting styles, for example those who follow Attachment Parenting, sleep training is not a good fit, to each her/his own!
3. Are you and your partner on the same page? This seems like another no-brainer but make sure you and your partner discuss sleep training, and what the method you choose entails, specifically before you begin. I thought as a nanny of 11 years and with many sleep training successes under my belt my husband would defer to me and follow instructions, cut to night one, he folded like a cheap suit and snuck in under the guise of “changing a diaper” and interrupted our whole rhythm! Single parents, you can do this! Couples, you can do this, but only if working together!

The next four tips involve environment, making sure the when, where and how of your sleep training is handled. Sleep training is method, not magic, I always say, and as with any method, setting is key.

4. Can you devote a decent amount of time to complete sleep training? My sleep training method works in 1-3 nights, however I suggest setting aside at least one full week when every night is spent at home, and strictly on the sleep schedule you are working toward. For example, attempting to sleep train during the holidays when your family may be traveling or having overnight guests is not ideal.

5. Are you properly equipped? Besides the will to sleep, and a can-do attitude, there are several products I recommend that can aid you in the process. White noise machine, aforementioned sleep sack (I use muslin in summer, fleece in colder months), fan if you do not have a ceiling one, always want air moving in baby’s room. I suggest keeping room dark obviously though black-out curtains are not a must, and actually it aids in your child’s ability to decipher night from day if minimal light can distinguish the two.
6. Have your created a safe and soothing space for your babe? In addition to the environmental aids of white noise machine, fan, and taking lighting into consideration, your child’s crib should be free of anything soft besides a fitted crib sheet, and your baby. No bumpers, stuffed animals, blankets, nada, as your pediatrician will tell you. Having a clear crib will keep your child safe and will also prevent any objects from waking him/her, disrupting sleep. Optimal temperature for snoozing babes is 68-72 F, and will be most comfortable for your babe in pajamas and sleep sack.Your child’s room should be a soft, quiet sanctuary. Keeping your energy soothing and relaxed is as important as anything else. Try consciously taking deep, calming breaths any time you enter your child’s room. When your baby feels you relax, he/she will feel calmer as well.
7. Have you established a routine?Have a repertoire of lullabies, prayers, soothing rhymes pre-planned for the time after bottle, before putting baby in crib. I love rockers or gliders, but really a chair will do. It is important to take time after baby has finished bottle to burp, rock, soothe, sing, enjoy the time together. I make sure babies are sleepy, but not asleep when I put them in crib. I also have a verbal cue for when they transition from me to crib, whether a soothing shushing, or sweet phrase repeated. Eventually your child will associate this sound with transitioning from you to bed and being able to predict this move will be reassuring to him/her. Bedtime routine is a special time for you and your child, it will evolve from shushing, to stories, to books, to conversations, and is a time that should feel bonding and precious, not rushed, stressful, or dreaded.
8. Are you, the parent/s properly equipped? I highly suggest video monitors for sleep training parents. The purpose of sleep training is to allow your child the freedom and space to develop his/her own self-soothing techniques. Being able to not just hear, but see your child while these skills are being developed is not only reassuring, but pretty amazing. Whether your child is a side-to-side rocker, singer, thumb-sucker, thrasher, or rhythmic fusser, every baby has his/her own physical habits that help him/her sleep. When sleep training some of my former nannying charges, to simply hear them, I would think they were crying and crying only. It was only after I was able to watch the monitor that I could see clear as day that some would be fussing but also rolling from side to side, soothing themselves, or kicking their feet and sucking on their hands, soothing themselves. My son is a thumbsucker, and an idiosyncratic one at that. He HAS to have a small bit of material from his sleep sack with his thumb when he first puts it in his mouth, then and only then he will roll onto his side and suck his thumb while sleeping. This has been the case from night one. Had we rushed in when he first started fussing instead of watching the monitor and seeing that he was just trying to get that fold of material next to his thumb, we would have set ourselves back. Observe your child, watch him/her self-soothe. It is pre-tty cool!

Now that y’all have these tips, tricks, and product ideas to implement into your own sleep training method, go forth and sleep, “to sleep perchance to dream.”



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