This post was written for Brood by Jessica Peters (she/her) of Cuddles and Care. Jessica is a Newborn Care Specialist, Postpartum doula, Infant & Toddler Sleep Expert. Watch our recent Instagram Live with Jessica here.
At Brood, we believe that parent’s know best — for their babies, families and themselves. This includes how parents and their babies sleep for the duration of the parenting relationship. For some parents this includes sleep training, co-sleeping, night nurses, sleeping in shifts and much more! Sleep arrangements tend to shift based on your own needs and your babies’ ability — this blog post outlines some of the ways this can look, while using sleep training as a tool.
When most parents hear the words “sleep training” they picture a screaming child for hours on end and lots of tears. I’m here to expand your perspective and grow your understanding of the classic notions of sleep education!
Sleep training can be a supportive tool that parents access when needed — the spectrum of reasons and desires can range from: mental health needs, physical + physiological healing post-birth, a desire to be more rested, needing to have more capacity for parenting in the day, and for others — it’s good old capitalism calling! At its best, we’ve seen sleep training be a beneficial tool that can reap numerous rewards both immediately and down the road for both the child and parent(s).
Before we dive into the nitty gritty, know that sleep training, education, and routines are not recommend or advised for babies before they are a minimum of 12 weeks old and 12 pounds. We advise you check in with your family doctor, walk-in clinic, community health care centre or care provider before starting sleep training, altering your child’s inate sleep patterns and/or dropping any feeds.
Consider this scenario: It’s 7:00 am, your baby wakes happily for the day and by 8:30am they are back down for a 1.5 to 2 hour nap. By 12:30pm, it’s nap time again, and off they go and sleep for another 1.5 to 2 hours. By 4:15pm they have a quick little snooze to keep them going until bedtime. Come 6:30pm, their bedtime routine starts and your baby is snoozing with lights out by 7pm; and the same scenario is repeated daily. To top it off, there is no endless rocking, bouncing, car rides or stroller walks in order for this to happen. All it takes is a quick trip to their room, a short sleep routine, and they do the rest.
This is an ideal view of what sleep training can give you. With the goal that it teaches your child what healthy sleep can looks like, and how to achieve it. It allows their growing bodies to get the sleep they need, when they need it! It can take away the frustration, tears and meltdowns that come from an overtired child who is struggling to sleep or stay awake. It also gives you, the parents and caregivers, scheduled breaks in your day that allow time for yourself. Parenting is hard – you also need a break!
If this scenario intrigues you, and you’d like a look into the what the process can look like, read on!
Each family and child will be unique – sleep training is not one size fits all. When finding a sleep consultant to work with, make sure they are giving you options when choosing the method you’d like to use, this is key in getting customized solutions (instead of a biased opinion). This shows interest in your child’s well being and your values and lifestyle, and not just the need to make a quick pay day out of your sleep predicament.
The most common sleep methods are:
- The infamous CIO (Cry It Out): Yes, it’s an actual method and no, you don’t need to choose it! This is for parents with a high cry tolerance and that want the process to be swift.
- Ferber: This is the method that many families choose. It consists of timed intervals that allow you to go in and soothe your little one. This gives your child the opportunity to gently learn to self-soothe and put themselves to sleep, while you offer support.
- PUPD (Pick Up Put Down): Unlike Ferber, this method allows you to take your little one out of their crib and quickly soothe them before starting the timer all over again. However, this one is not for all children. For some, having a parent come in repeatedly and then leave, is quite confusing and makes the situation worse or prolonged.
- The Chair Method: This is for older children who benefit from having a parent in the room while falling asleep. There is no talking though – just your presence in the room!
- The Silent Return: Again, a method for older children – specifically toddlers who can get out of bed and into yours. This is not an easy method to pull off and it’s not for the faint of heart. The night will usually consist of multiple returns and silent walks to their bedroom and getting them back to bed.
I’m sold, but how do I choose the best method for my child?
Trust your instincts, think of your child, and be open to making changes as you go. Experienced sleep experts may sometimes create an entire sleep method that mixes different elements of the ones mentioned above. You can also pivot and reassess if the method you chose isn’t working – that’s okay! You won’t know until you start, and that’s the biggest step. Your sleep expert is there to guide you through the process and work through any kinks in the road. Use their guidance and don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be gentle with yourself.
Although there may be some tears throughout the process (it’s very likely!), these sleep habits can be a part of a supportive routine that is with through all the ups and downs of life – travel, teething, transitions, regressions. Healthy sleep habits are taught and learned, not inherited. A child’s sleep changes throughout the first years of life; and one of the ways to help them navigate it is by giving them the tools to get through it. At the end of the day, trust yourself, gather experts you trust, and know that you know your families needs best!
Guest blog post written by Jessica Peters