Sleep training for babies: yes or no?

This is one of the most popular questions asked by new parents. They go through the first few weeks desperately sleep deprived because their babies have no routine and no understanding of day and night. 

Babies and parents both need to learn about baby sleep. It doesn’t come naturally.

Baby sleep is a complex topic, one that is neglected and seems to last for years if not handled early on. I know we struggled with it a lot initially and still do today. 

Woman working with little child at home
Baby wearing winter clothes

Why baby sleep is important?

Babies have no sleep routine

Baby sleep is something that most new mothers struggle with and is a really big transition and adjustment.  They set their babies down for a nap and the baby wakes up immediately. And then you start again from the beginning. You end up carrying them, swaying them from side to side, going for walks with them, singing and trying anything to make sure they sleep. If it isn’t addressed soon, it can go on for many years. 

So I spoke to my friend, popularly known as “Jane the sleep coach”. She decided to train as a sleep coach after needing a career change when her 50th birthday was looming. It seemed to her like the perfect opportunity to utilize her skills as a mum of four, and with so many years of working with families. She trained at the Nanny Sleep Academy.

She shared some of her thoughts below:

Struggling with baby sleep

I understand how it is to be an expat parent, often with no family nearby to help. So those sleepless nights, with no support, can really start to affect parents’ lives, relationships and our feelings towards our children. My husband was working away a lot when my first two were very young. I honestly cannot explain the relief when my parents or in-laws would come to visit. Just to have some helping hands for a week and to have an hour or so to myself was such a relief!

Babies have different types of cries! Babies make noises when they are settling and during the night, and it does not always mean that you need to respond immediately. They often need to be given time to settle instead of immediately being picked up and rocked or fed. But they first of all need to learn how to self settle. This means that they can be put down to sleep drowsy and actually settle to sleep by themselves. Then if they wake during the night they are in the same place they fell asleep and will re-settle. If they were in your arms when they fell asleep they will most likely be surprised when they wake up and cry, then you need to go through the same routine again to re-settle them.

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Mother holding a baby and working on a laptop

It gets bad before it gets better!

I am talking here about children from the age of 4 months old upwards to toddlers and even older. Some are families with one child, others with multiple children. For them bedtime is not a wonderful time to cuddle and say goodnight, it’s a time of day they dread because they know another sleepless night lies ahead.

I always say to parents that the clue in why they are coming to me is that they ‘have tried everything’. Tried everything’ usually involves having purchased sound machines, new sleep sacks, special rocking devices, formula that allegedly helps babies sleep longer, and much more! All these alleged sleep aids are sold as ways to help babies sleep, but unfortunately nothing will change unless a baby knows how to self settle and link sleep cycles. I can safely say that when babies can sleep, you do not need to buy any of these items.

When parents say they have tried everything it could mean, for example, that they are feeding to sleep and then the baby is waking up after 45 minutes, then they try again all night but end up adding in rocking or pacing the corridors just to get the child to sleep. Or they put their toddler to bed and after an hour the toddler wakes up and they need to go and lie with them until they fall asleep and generally find it easier to then just sleep with them. But end up sleeping in a tiny bed with a toddler rolling around all night. Often the toddler will still wake up even though they are there, but they just do not know how to break this cycle.

The thing about these two examples is that it is fine to have any kind of sleep in your home until it isn’t.

What do you do when you don’t want to feed your baby every 45 minutes all night or sleep in the same bed as your toddler? How can it change when you don’t know what to do? Many parents who come to me have already researched various sleep techniques on the internet and tried them. They have sometimes been to the doctor as ‘surely there is something wrong with my child’, and been told there is nothing wrong with their child, no reason why they can’t sleep, and they just need to wait. But it’s difficult to wait when you are sleep-deprived. Also, saying to wait is ridiculous as something has to change!

So, this is when parents come to me and I tell them what we need to do is melt the snowball…take everything away…very slowly…that they have been doing…until you do nothing…you put your child into bed…say goodnight and leave them self settling…and see them in the morning.

The solution for baby sleep

The three key words are Calm, Committed and Consistent.

Children love the 3 C’s as these actions make them feel safe and secure.

While training your baby to sleep, you have to stay calm, committed to the process and consistent with your approach. This is what sleep coaching is about.  Responding to your children’s sleep needs in such a way that they are able to self settle and sleep independently.

One of the key points about sleep coaching is that this is for the parents. It is so you can learn how to teach your child how to sleep independently. By the end of the coaching you will have all the tools and knowledge you need, not just for now, but for always.

If you would like some help with sleep in your family and you are ready for the 3 C’s, then all you need to do is reach out.

Please mention the Confused Mother when you contact Jane The Sleep Coach to receive a 10% discount on any of the sleep packages.

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Do you want even more content on motherhood? Here is The Confused Mother podcast, where I talk to mothers and experts about everything related to motherhood and work. Click below to tune in on Spotify or Apple podcasts:

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