COMMON SLEEP MISTAKES
Most Common Mistakes Parents Make When Trying to Get Their Baby or Child to Sleep:
- Parents don't make their child's need for sleep a priority.
- Parents are often inconsistent in how they put their child to sleep at bedtime and in their response to the child's wakenings. Ex. Sometimes I will feed her back to sleep, other times I will rock her and then finally bring her back to bed with me in desperation.
- Parents inadvertently create MORE crying by giving up and resorting to their original sleep crutch after a certain amount of time. Ex. "I let him cry for 30minutes and then got him out and rocked him to sleep because I couldn't take it anymore."
- Putting their child to bed too late. Children need on average 10-11 hours of sleep at night for the first 9 years of their life! Too late of a bedtime and skipped naps will create more night wakings and poor quality sleep not to mention an overtired child!
- Allowing their child to fall asleep being nursed, bottled fed, rocked or walked to sleep at bedtime. Their child will then wake during the night and expect the same thing in order to go back to sleep. They are not given the opportunity to learn how to put themselves to sleep which is a vital life skill. Teaching our children how to put themselves to sleep is one of our many parenting responsibilities.
- Not creating a flexible schedule or routine during the day and before sleep that comforts our children and helps them prepare for sleep.
- Not being a united front as parents and sabotaging each others efforts to improve their child's sleep.
- Making important decisions on how to respond to their child's waking in the middle of the night when they have just been woken up. Rarely are we at our sharpest between 2-5am, for example and this tends to lead to marital conflict.
- Practicing reactive co-sleeping out of desperation. This is when a family co-sleeps because it is the only way to get their child to sleep not because they have made a decision to co-sleep as a family.
- Expecting quick results when trying to change a habit you have created with your child for months and often years. Parents need to dedicate 2-3 weeks of their time, energy and consistency to sleep coaching to see significant changes in night sleep and naps.
- Many parents feel immobilized by shame, guilt and sometimes blame and don't know where to start to change their child's sleep habits. It's less important to focus on how you got here than how you are going to change it.
- Believing that their child's sleep habits will change on their own and that they just have to endure the sleep deprivation in the meantime.
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TOP 10 TIPS FROM THE SLEEP LADY
- Skipping naps and keeping your child up later will cause early risings, more wakings, and poor quality sleep.
- Pay attention to your child's sleep window -- when a child is naturally ready to fall asleep. If you miss that natural opportunity, your child will get wired. That second-wind will mean it takes the child even longer to get to sleep, stay asleep, and he won’t sleep later in the morning.
- Put your child to bed drowsy but awake. Stay with her and reassure her until she is asleep.
- Start introducing gentle sleep shaping techniques when your child is an infant and avoid the years of sleep deprivation everyone talks about.
- When your child is 6 months or older, encourage him to become attached to a lovey – a special stuffed animal or blanket. It makes the child feel safe and secure, particularly at bedtime or when he wakes up at night.
- Children usually transition from two naps to one afternoon nap between 15-18 months. Don’t transition them until they sleep through the night.
- Moving from crib to bed before age 2 usually doesn’t solve sleep problems but increases them. Not only is your child up at night but now he’s able to walk around!
- Install room-darkening shades if your child wakes up very early or has trouble napping. Also, consider using a white noise machine or a fan if you live in a particularly noisy home or neighborhood.
- If a new baby is coming, move the older child from crib to bed at least two months before or four months after the birth of the sibling to avoid feelings of displacement. Better yet, borrow a crib for the interim if the older child isn’t ready to move out of hers.
- Consistency Counts! Whatever your plan is, be consistent at bedtime and for all night wakings. Also, give it time. Sleep is a learned skill and children don’t learn it over night.
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SLEEP MYTH BUSTERS: THE SLEEP LADY SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
#1 If I skip my child’s nap, he will sleep longer at night. Also, the later I put my child to bed, the later he’ll sleep in the morning.
Sleep Lady: The more overtired you allow your child to get, the more wired he’ll get – making it harder for him to get sleep and stay asleep. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but the later your child goes to sleep, the earlier he’ll wake up.
#2 Children not sleeping through the night for the first year or two is a fact of life. It’s not worth it to try to battle them.
Sleep Lady: There is no reason to have sleepless nights for a year or two! Yes, for a few months, but around two weeks you can start gradually laying the groundwork by developing a flexible routine and expanding your soothing repertoire for your baby. By 6-8 weeks, putting your baby down drowsy but awake at bedtime is possible. In addition, healthy babies 6 months or older who are growing well can often sleep 11 hours at night. Although teething, illness and developmental milestones can disturb sleep at various times, they’re only temporary interruptions.
#3 I will have to give up all forms of co-sleeping if I want a baby with good sleep habits.
Sleep Lady: Not true. Consider an alternative middle ground called "room sharing"- where you keep your baby in your room in a crib or co-sleeper for months or even a year. You can easily feed your baby, it gives you the peace of mind of having her close by, and you don't have to worry about the safety challenges of bedsharing. Most importantly, you can begin to put your baby down "drowsy but awake" at naptime so she can learn to put herself to sleep independently and you are still near by. This will make the transition to her own crib and room one day much easier!
#4 Newborns sleep all the time and know what they need. You don’t need to schedule their sleep times.
Sleep Lady: Even very young babies benefit from scheduling and consistency at night time and nap time. It cuts down on their crankiness and crying, and lays the groundwork for learning how to sleep through the night once they’re a little older.
#5 Children know when they’re sleepy and when they should go to bed.
Sleep Lady: Not once they learn to fight sleep for your company! Children need our direction and guidance with a soothing bedtime routine to help them slow down and transition to sleep. Once you get your child on a consistent schedule, you can plan your own day better and can count on having a happy awake child.
#6 Some children, including babies, don’t need as much sleep as others. Also, some children just aren’t as good sleepers as others.
Sleep Lady: Very few children need less than the average amount of sleep for their age. They need enough good quality sleep to grow and learn at the incredible rate they do! They need us to protect their need for sleep. Yes, some baby’s temperaments make it more challenging to learn to go to sleep but every child can learn this essential life skill.
#7 If I let my child "cry it out" at bedtime, I can do whatever it takes (rock, walk, nurse, bottle feed , etc.) to get him back to sleep in the middle of the night.
Sleep Lady: Once your baby is over 6 months of age, you must be consistent at bedtime AND all night wakings. If he becomes accustomed to being fed, rocked, walked, etc. during the night, that is what he will need and expect each time he wakes up in order to go back to sleep. He won't understand why you are doing it sometimes and not other times.
#8 If I feed my baby late at night, he will sleep longer.
Sleep Lady: A baby will sleep for a longer stretch when he no longer needs to eat at night AND if he knows how to put himself back to sleep without being fed.
#9 Feeding my child formula rather than relying on breast feeding in the evening will help her sleep longer.
Sleep Lady: It may help her sleep longer since formula takes longer to digest, but it won’t make a difference if she doesn’t know how to put herself back to sleep without nursing or bottle feeding.
#10 It doesn’t matter where my baby sleeps – in a stroller or riding in the car is just as good as at home. Sleep is sleep.
Sleep Lady: Motion lulls babies to sleep. However, it keeps them in a light sleep – not the restorative deeper sleep they need. If your baby does fall asleep while riding in the car or stroller, transfer him to his crib as soon as you can. Or, you could just park the car in your driveway and flip through a magazine or pay the bills while he snoozes. An occasional motion nap is not a problem. You just don’t want it to be the only way your baby can go to sleep.
#11 Dads can’t help much with a baby’s bedtime routine if a baby is breast-feeding.
Sleep Lady: Even if you’re breast-feeding, there’s no reason to ban Dad from the nursery. After you nurse, hand him the baby for burping, swaddling, and the rest of the nightly ritual. He’ll probably come up with his own versions of soothing techniques. While Dad finishes up with the baby, you can spend quality time with your older kids, if you have them, or just put your feet up and relax. You deserve it!
#12 It will spoil my baby if I go to him every time he cries.
Sleep Lady: Taking care of your baby’s needs isn’t the same as coddling. If you don’t respond to your baby, he may get the message he’s not important. It’s vital to developing a secure attachment – in other words, he’ll know that when he cries someone always comes. And a secure attachment is key to healthy self-esteem later in life. So when your baby cries, give him a few seconds to settle down, then check to see what might be bothering him.
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