....But You Still Want To Encourage Positive Sleep Habits
I’m often asked what parents can do to improve sleep if they’re babies are too young to sleep train or if parents decide they don’t want to sleep train but do want to make sure that they encourage more independent sleep habits. I recommend two things you can do to help your baby progress on the journey to sleeping more independently and eventually through the night.
1. Be routine with your routine
Note I said routine a not a schedule. While structuring your little ones day has its benefits in terms of feeding and napping regularly. Going by the clock ( i.e. a schedule) sometimes just doesn’t work, life somestimes just gets in the way so having a routine ( a regular & predictable sequence of events) that you follow through the day every day is the best way to help your baby learn how to feed and sleep well.
A routine is just a regular sequence of events. Followed in the same order, with the same steps every single day. Doing this daily turns the simple steps you take every day into a habit, things you just do without thinking.
Start your day around about the same time, get baby up change nappy, bring down stairs, feed, play for a while whatever you do with your baby in the morning and throughout the day, make it regular ad predictable for them.
Naps & Bedtime
Have a little pre nap routine that you do every single nap time.
You might go up to baby’s room, close the blinds, sing a lullaby and feed , then put them in their Moses basket or cot, or something along those lines. Do it in the same order around about the same time of day (if you can) every single day at every single nap. Do your bedtime routine the same way, the same steps every single night. It’s repetitive and some would say boring but it’s how your little one learns what’s happening now and what’s going to happen next. It builds trust, security and connection which in turn leads to calm relaxed kid, and calm relaxed little ones find sleep far easier than tense anxious little ones. Sure there will be days when the routine might slip that’s life sometimes, just get right back into your routines ss soon as you can.
‘But what if I’m already doing all that’?’
I often hear after I say this , my response is keep doing it, over and over and over. You are on the right path trust me, it’s how babies learn!
Watch them at play sometimes they may do the same thing over and over again, testing the theory seeing what happens. I know you’ve seen this in your little one at some point. Chucking the dummy out of the buggy over and over or throwing their spoon or toys.
2. Always Respond.
‘am I over indulging them if I always go to them when they wake or cry out’
Not at all! I think its important to always respond but also how you respond is important and the best way to respond will vary from child to child too.
One little one may sleep better if, when they wake mum responds as soon as possible to calm and soothe because they just fall asleep faster and/or can get worked up quite quickly if mummy doesn’t come ASAP, then can be quite hard to calm back down.
There are other little ones that may stir and even cry out quite loudly but rushing into them too quickly actually wakes them up when perhpas theyre werent awake at all. Perhaps a mum needs to pause a min before going in because they’ve not actually woken up, just come into a light sleep even woken for a second, cried out rolled over and gone back to sleep but in our haste to help we’ve actually disturbed them and woken them. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me in 18 years of night work ????
I had one little one who did a full on scream/cry (that’s the only way I can describe the sound) in her sleep for about 3/4 seconds. Doesn’t sound that long but trust me it got my attention! I’d dash into her room to find a sleeping little baby girl sound asleep looking like a angel. I wondered if I was hearing things but she did it a lot! So we got used to her and stopped dashing in as we were waking her without realising. I had another charge last year who would ‘sing’ in her sleep & around 4am she would start vocalising,
I was in the room with her and this one noght a paused and noticed her eyes weren’t open. She was completely relaxed, eyes closed fingers in her mouth just kind of ‘singing’ for 40 seconds or so every nights sometimes at 2 sometimes at 4! At first I would get up an go to her, check she was ok, give her her dummy and she'd stop till I paused one night and just watched her. She didn’t need my help,she was fine but had I not paused that one time and observed her i wouldn’t of realised she didn’t need me to help her she was ok.
One thing I will add is that the singing little girl seemed to know when I was in the room with her. When I'd night nanny for her I would share her room overnight and when I’d arrive at 9pm and creep into her room in the darkness she’d always wake briefly and smile at me or look in my direction and then just go back to sleep. Maybe thats why she didn’t need me to actually ‘do’ anything when she would ‘sing’ in her sleep as she knew someone was there with her.......I don’t know just pondering on that one ????
But back to my main points
Be routine with the routine and always respond, IMHO only way to foster independence in little ones at sleep or in any situation they may have, is to show them that when they need to depend on us they can every single time!
p.s. oh and to observe sometimes instead of rushing in to try and fix things. I do this often and have to remind myself to not always rush to solve the 'problem' and see if i notice something that may indicate to me that theyre ok and i perhaps don't need to step in.
If you'd like some help and support changing or shaping your little ones sleep habits, with or without sleep training. If you'd like to just have a chat with me about your situation or have me create a personal plan and support & coach you as you implement the steps get in touch now. You can email me charmaine@soundlysleeping and we can talk. You don't have to sleep train and you dont have to cope with sleep deprivation by yourself. I want to help you and your baby get the sleep you both want and need. To check out my various sleep solutions click here