I have a joke I share with a colleague of mine that I don’t just sleep train babies I sleep train parents too!
I train them to realise that if they little one isn’t sleeping through the night consistently…It isn’t their fault. It’s not that anything is wrong. It’s not that anything they do to help them sleep is wrong, their baby isn’t ill or has some secret syndrome that prevents them from needing as much sleep as their friends babies. It’s not because their little ones enjoy being awake and screaming at 3am (in fact they probably want to sleep as much as their parents do). It’s not because you rock them to sleep on occasion or because you missed they’re quiet window yesterday afternoon, or even because you’re inconsistent with your routine on the odd occasion. It’s just that sleeping independently all night every night isn’t something they have mastered yet…
More than ever I feel that parents need support and knowledge in this area if for no other reason than to stop blaming themselves if their little ones aren’t great sleepers.
When I first started out as a night nanny back in 2000 sleep training your baby was the in thing.
Gina Ford was all the rage and getting babies to sleep through the night as fast as possible was the goal. Before I became a mum myself I didn’t really give too much thought to the process of leaving a baby to cry it out. But I knew that I didn’t like to hear a baby cry, who does? When clients used to ask me my opinion on Gina and her methods my answer was always the same. Gina does work but I hate to hear a baby cry. Back then if a client wanted a sleeping baby that’s what I did my best to give them. And I could often get a little one sleeping through the night fairly early one but those results weren’t always permanent. And when they weren’t we always searched for a reason why! The overall reason was fairly simple. Sleeping all night every night consistently and independently wasn’t a skill they had mastered yet.
The attitude to toward sleep then was very different to how it is now and I’m hoping to help continue to change that attitude. When I first started working with parents it was generally considered that
- That babies needed to sleep through the night ASAP – most of my clients were first time mums who were counting down to having to go back to work and panicking about doing so on minimal sleep
- That leaving a baby to cry alone for lengthy periods was necessary to sleep train and that to do anything else was either spoiling your baby or “creating a rod for your own back”
- That a baby who didn’t sleep through the night by a certain age had “something wrong” with them that needed to be fixed….
And to be honest this wasn’t even the thoughts of the parents I worked with this was what the books, classes experts and everyone around them had insinuated or straight out said
All of which are completely untrue and quite unfair for our little ones
A few things I’ve realised and come to understand in my night work with babies and toddlers Is that sleep, learning to sleep through the night and doing so independently, is a skill. A skill that needs to be practised in order to master. And that’s the message I share with all the mums I work with. When you look at sleep as a skill to be mastered, mums realise the real deal and stop blaming themselves for their baby’s inability to regularly sleep all night.
That’s the message I want to share.
If your little one isn’t sleeping through the night just yet.
It’s not YOUR fault. It’s NOT their fault; they simply haven’t mastered the skill yet
In my work as an early years educator (nursery nurse). We observe, we plan & implement based on our observations and assessments to help a child develop globally. We look at and aim to further a child progress in their global development by breaking their development into various areas. When they’re at nursery and learning through play it’s my role to help a child to develop personally socially physically and intellectually also to encourage they’re language communication skills they’re understanding of the world around them through their senses and to encourage they’re development through expression and via use of media and art . In my work with young children overnight many of the same principles apply when helping them learn to sleep. Their awareness of the world around them, the way they like to express themselves and their physical and emotional development and who they are, their own little personality and temperament all play a part in how well they are able to sleep, and whether or not they can do so independently as yet
When I’m looking at a sleep issue for a client I work in the same way observing them, using what I’ve observed to decipher which area of development a little one is struggling in, or needs support with. Then planning a way to help them develop in that area to help them sleep better. With sleep I look at physical, emotional, social and intellectual/cognitive and environmental areas and how your little one may be developing or operating in that area that can affect sleep and we build on what your little one can do - rather than just focusing on what they can’t. Then help mum and the little one to progress past the issue.
As I said, learning to sleep independently is a skill your little one will need to practise in order to master and us as parents can help support that development.
Learning to walk for baby is a process.
Learning to take pureed food then more solid textures is a process even progressing from nappies to the toilet is a process that isn’t learnt overnight.
Our babies learn how to do these things over time sometimes slowly but surely and sometimes very quickly learning to do each of these things independently. It’s the same with sleep.
So stop blaming yourself and share this with anyone who has something to say about that fact that yours or their own little one isn’t quite sleeping through yet.
It’s a skill they just haven’t mastered yet but they will and we can help them, without having to use extreme methods or potentially unsafe techniques but with sensitivity, understanding and a little bit of patience.
I’m sure all mums and dads would love for their little ones to learn how sleep all night evey night as quickly as possible – It would be great for everyone if they did no doubt, but understanding how and why they sleep the way they do and helping them learn skills to get to sleep independently is far more valuable in the long run than just having them sleep through asap, they may learn to sleep through the night at 3 months but doesn’t mean you’ll never have a sleepless night again….. but if you do, it won’t be because you failed. Its not your fault or your little one’s, they’re just still mastering the skill!.
Charmaine is a former night nanny, early years educator and coach for sleep deprived parents in London across the UK and internationally.
She coaches and supports parents by empowering them with support and information on how to help the little ones on their life to sleep better and longer and eventually through the night. Either through group coaching via her members club or 1-2-1 coaching Charmaine believes everyone in your house can sleep soundly with a little patience knowledge action and understanding.
To find out more about Charmaine and her work click here