Do you find that putting your little one down for a nap, or at bedtime, is just the beginning of a long and drawn-out episode of crying and fussing, bookended by frustration? You might even admit that your current method is not working as you had hoped or planned.
If so, then sensitive sleep coaching may be perfect for you. It will take time, and it will take dedication and consistency. Just remember to go into this with an open mind and a gentle heart.
Change is not easy, and making changes to a sleep routine can be decidedly difficult. However, by the time most parents decide to take action, they have already been facing tough and frustrating scenarios for quite some time. If you are ready for some gradual, gentle, and positive changes, then read on, and we will outline a strategy.
Once you have decided to change your child’s existing sleep routine, there are a few scenarios that usually play out.
If you have decided that your daytime schedule routine needs a change, then this may be more difficult. Rescheduling naps or bedtime will initially be met with some difficulty in getting your little one to sleep. However, sometimes making small changes to timing, can have a big impact without implementing formal coaching methods.
Initially, you are likely to notice that you are even more tired. It may seem hard to imagine being more tired than you are now, but going with a more gentle, responsive approach usually means you end up with the short straw. However, please remember that this is only temporary. By maintaining consistency, your child will have gentle encouragement to go to sleep.
Things may seem to deteriorate before they improve. A new routine is often unsettling to children, and especially by a new routine that involves their sleep. No matter how gentle the process, change for children can take time. Be tolerant of their feelings, be calm, and be patient. Peaceful but firm is a narrow line to walk, but the outcome will be much more fulfilling for you and your child.
You may find that you have to make and enforce decisions about daytime and nighttime parenting. Children need and expect consistency, even when it makes them angry. You may feel guilty when they cry, and that is okay. You are aiming for attachment, not disconnection, from all negative emotions.
It is not your job to remove negative emotions from your child’s life; but it is your job to help them cope and deal with negative emotions in a healthy way.
Progress is not linear. There is a strong possibility that you will experience the ebb and flow of success and regression. It may be tempting, but try not to measure your success by anyone else’s.
As you make specific changes and adjustments, as gentle and gradual as possible, you are still likely to encounter a slowly-flattening roller coaster like this:
First change cycle
Often, this is moving the sleep trigger (your child’s favourite way of falling asleep) slightly earlier (in the routine) while supporting your child to go to sleep in a way that is not necessarily preferred. For example, if mom has been breastfeeding to sleep and this has become unsustainable, she can continue to use this trigger, but move it from the last step she takes before putting her baby down to sleep. She can nurse until her baby is very drowsy and almost asleep. From there, mom can switch to a different trigger to help her baby the remainder of the way to sleep. Mom may choose to hold and rhythmically pat her baby’s bottom. If mom is able to successfully do this, and lay her baby down asleep in the crib, this starts the slow shift away from breastfeeding being the only way the baby falls asleep. Mom may have to repeat the process two or three times the first couple of nights, continuing to add other triggers on top of each other.
Here is what the process may look like:
- Night 1 – Very hard to get the child to sleep.
- Night 2 – Still hard to get the child to sleep.
- Night 3 – Maybe slightly easier, or possibly harder than previous nights, since babies will push back to test your consistency.
- Night 4 – The child falls asleep with intervention but no crying.
- Night 5 – The child falls asleep easier, some intervention is required.
- Night 6 – The child falls asleep with minimal intervention.
This routine of change, adjust, accept, and change should continue until your child meets the goals you set for them.
So dear readers, if it seems hard, admit that it is, and persist. Change is hard for all parties involved, but it is a necessary part of improving our lives and the lives of our children. Make sure you are both moving at a beneficial pace, and not too fast.
Above all, keep your sense of humor and perspective, remembering how far you have come. It is always okay to reach out to a friend or family member for a quick venting session.
Everything will be alright. Be kind, be gentle, and be positive.
If you’re looking for a family-centred approach to sleep coaching, I’d love to connect with you for a free, no obligation 15-minute consultation. You can book a call with me by visiting here: 15-minute consultation.