Sleep training can be tough. There’s no sugar coating it but the benefits to the whole family are endless. But it might not always go as planned. Here are the 4 C’s I share with the families I work one-on-one with that lead to successful sleep training, better sleep for the family, better moods, more energy (not that kids need that!) and more.
First let’s define sleep training
The term sleep training gets a bad rap. It’s often used synonymously with cry-it-out (extinction method) but this is not truly what it means. Sleep training is really a way of helping your child LEARN to fall asleep in a different way. That way is typically independently. It really should be called sleep learning or sleep teaching. Because that is what parents are truly doing. Teaching and helping their child learn how to settle to sleep. Notice I said settle, not soothe. My philosophy includes helping soothe your baby, toddler or child so that they can settle from a calm or calmer place into sleep.
Now let’s get to the 4C’s of successful sleep training
You want to feel confident in your plan. (Yes, having a plan is important. Randomly deciding you’re going to start in the middle of the night doesn’t usually go all that well.) A plan you feel confident in is one of the 4 keys to successful sleep training.
This is a big change for your child. Having them see that you are confident in what you are doing can help them feel more comfortable. They can sense your emotions and if you are feeling anxious, stressed, or scared, it can make them more alert and alarmed.
Confidence also helps you achieve the next two C’s more easily.
Staying calm while you go through your soothing bedtime routine and as your support your child during your sleep training process (however you choose to in your plan) will help your child so much.
You want to be able to share your calm with them. Using your calm nervous system to help calm theirs through this major change in their life.
As mentioned, your child can sense your emotions and feelings so this piece is important and considering how you can best stay calm while developing your plan will help you with successfully sleeping training your baby, toddler or young child with as little stress as possible.
Our kids thrive on routine and knowing what to expect. Plus we can’t expect consistency from them if we aren’t consistent ourselves. Consistency through your plan will help your child know what to expect for their sleep and helps them figure out what they can do to settle to sleep.
Pick a plan you feel comfortable staying consistent with. Take into consideration how long you have the capacity to stay consistent through some protest and upset (think days versus weeks versus months.) As well as your comfort levels and desire to comfort and soothe (such as doing so immediately or intermittently.)
Children will feel more comfort and security in knowing what to expect and be able to more easily settle into their new sleep routine when we are consistent with them.
This one really comes first. Sleep, especially bedtime is the biggest separation of the day. Not only is your child separating from you physically for independent sleep but they are separating from consciousness and it really is a vulnerable process.
Connection is the opposite of separation. Our children are wired to want to be connected to us. This doesn’t mean they need to be physically connected 24/7. It means they need their ‘connection cup’ filled daily. The way to do this is through meaningful, intentional, quality attention. It’s really about quality versus quantity.
Quality attention and time – the key to successfully sleep training babies
Babies and young toddlers take up a lot of time and attention so an easy way to make sure their connection cup is getting filled without adding anything to your to do list is transforming common caregiving activities into opportunities for quality time.
Diaper changes, getting dressed, feeding, baths are all great opportunities for this. Being intentional with these activities. Be fully present, make eye contact, be playful and silly, invite your baby or young toddler’s participation in these activities. This is a cornerstone to RIE parenting or respectful parenting. This time to fill their connection cup is so important. It allows for easier separation for sleep as well as for play.
Quality attention and time for Toddlers and Preschoolers
For toddlers, preschoolers and young children this quality time is just as important. Maybe even more because our children spend the day learning and actively trying to figure out how to be independent from us. They need this connection and quality time because they are still wired to be connected to us and they need us to initiate it.
Experts recommend a least 20 minutes of this quality time a day. Set up some special 1-on-1 play time each day where you are fully present – mentally, emotionally and physically present with your child. Give it a special name. It doesn’t need to be fancy – ‘mommy or daddy and Evie special time’ or even just ‘Evie’s special time’ are great. The name makes your child feel even more special and significant to you. Then get down and play with your child, letting them direct the play and playing in whatever capacity they invite you to play in.
Our children’s main goal in life beyond basic physiological needs is to having belonging and significance. Accomplishing this with quality time is key to allowing our kids to learn to and be able to easily and peacefully separate for sleep.
Successfully sleep training your baby, toddler or young child
There you have it – my 4 C’s to successful sleep training, better sleep and more at your house. However, this stuff can be hard. Balancing it all, creating the right plan, and making adjustments to your plan as needed based on the actual responses once you implement your plan can be a lot, especially when you are exhausted and sleep deprived. This is where my team and I come in. We can help with all those pieces, making sure you feel supported and have the support and help you need while helping your child best learn their new sleep skills.
If it all seems too overwhelming and you aren’t sure what to do next, reach out today!