I had my first daughter on a Tuesday, and I can honestly say that I was already exhausted within the first 24 hours of motherhood. Yet, I thought I was ready and well prepared. The nursery was complete; I had a million baby clothes, purchased all the "must-have" items, and was a labor and delivery nurse. – I totally had this!
🤦🏻♀️The naive 2016 version of myself thought that the labor and delivery process was the most challenging part of motherhood. 🙄😂 (Yes, you can all take a second to laugh with me.)But think about it, the courses offered to first-time moms revolve around breastfeeding, basic newborn care, and labor. No courses talked about newborn, infant, and child sleep.
After working five years as an L&D nurse, I figured I had enough information. So, I honestly thought, okay, I'll lose some sleep, but I did not realize how much sleep would be lost. But I was NOT prepared. After being awake for 36 hours straight, I entered motherhood, and I already felt lost and inadequate.
But do you know what?
Sleep exhaustion led me to my sleep consulting business and the ability to help you with your little one's sleep troubles. For that, I am very grateful. In this post, you'll learn four things that will help everyone in your family sleep better and hopefully help you make time for yourself every day.
To understand how to fix your child's sleep struggles, we must first understand why sleep is essential.
Did you know that your little one's brain grows by 1% every day in the first three months of life? While your baby is sleeping, his brain processes the newly learned information. The right amount of high-quality sleep helps your baby sort through the knowledge he has learned and stores what is essential. Essentially, rest reinforces and enhances learning.
Your baby is using a ton of energy during this development period, and missing sleep opportunities can easily lead to an overtired, cranky, and irritable baby. 😬
🤷🏻♀️For adults, being overtired seems like something you accept. Like that pesky old habit you can't shake. However, not getting enough sleep can have significant health consequences for children (and adults).
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a quarter of children under five years of age are not getting enough sleep, leading to problems with the immune system, anxiety, depression, and the possibility of future heart and blood vessel issues. (🤔Think: diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure)
🤭Yikes, it's not as easy to brush off lousy sleep when you put it in those terms.
Which leads me to my next point how do you know if your child is getting enough sleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep needs vary, but most children will fall within an age-appropriate range on average. Below is a handy chart highlighting the National Sleep Foundations recommendation, which can provide you with a guideline for your child's sleep needs.
So what does all this have to do with your child's sleep troubles? I'm glad you asked! Now that we established that sleep is essential and know how much sleep your little one requires, we can figure out a plan to help fix your family's sleep troubles.
But first, do you know why you want your child to sleep better?
How would your life be different if you were no longer worried about your child's sleep troubles?
I'm not going to lie; I was the first to roll my eyes when someone started talking about "mindset." But when it comes to sleep training, understanding why you are doing it is critical to your success. Your "why" goes beyond because Danielle wrote down some research statistics that seem impressive. Your little one's sleep is super important, but not at the expense of your health, sleep, or sanity. So lay it all out and figure out the nitty-gritty of what it would mean to you if your child:
- Slept twelve hours in a row at night
- Took consistent scheduled naps
- Was happy and genuinely enjoyed their awake time
🙌🏻 BONUS POINTS if you thought about how a consistent sleep schedule would give you time during the day that solely belonged to yourself! #metime
Did you discover why sleep is crucial for you and your family?
Here Are Four Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Better:
Make Sleep a Priority
Making your child's sleep a priority is a must. Prioritizing sleep will set boundaries that protect nap time and bedtime. In addition, a consistent sleep schedule will ensure your little one gets the rest they need, which will help with:
Eventually, there will be a little wiggle room to add in special events when your little one is well-rested. (Like the occasional later bedtime in the summer when everyone is having a lot of fun!)
Set a Consistent Wake-up Time
Standard wake times for babies and children range between 6-7 a.m. I know that is extremely early. But it is biology, and there is not much we can do about that. However, if your little one is waking before 6 a.m., there are ways to eliminate early wakings, which I will cover in a future post. (I promise)
Consistent wake times help your child develop a daily schedule that builds associations and establishes routines. In addition, these daily patterns develop your little one's confidence in themselves, and repetition builds trust as they start to anticipate what comes next.
Learn Sleepy Signs
Knowing the difference between early and late sleepy signs is crucial.
Understanding the difference between early and late signs will help you gauge when to start your sleep routine. Starting the sleep routine before your child is overtired is key to helping them fall asleep easier and remain asleep.
Early sleepy signs can be subtle and take time to recognize. By watching the clock and making yourself aware of age-appropriate waketimes, you will be able to develop a sleep schedule that keeps your child well-rested. (🙌 and less cranky)
Sleep Train After Four Months of Age
NOTE: If your baby is under four months of age and sleep feels chaotic, it's 100% NORMAL, and you are doing a great job. Your baby's internal clock (circadian rhythm) is not mature, and I do not recommend sleep training until after four months of age. If I could, I would send you a truckload of Starbucks. But, I promise you this is normal, and it will get better.
People either ❤️LOVE or 💔HATE sleep training. I am not here to change anyone's mind. Instead, my goal is to help you develop a sleep plan that works for your family.
What I will say is that sleep training is more than the method. It is about establishing routines, being consistent in your approach, setting expectations, and trusting that the process will work with time.
Ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Can I lay my child down in their safe sleep space awake?
- Can my child fall asleep without me?
- Am I happy with our sleeping arrangement? (Back to your why)
If your answers are a resounding NO, you may want to investigate which sleep training method works best for you and your family. Then, pick an approach you can be 100% consistent with because consistency is an essential element in sleep training success. Below are four methods I have used to provide my clients with desired results.
- Pick up/Put down (Most parental involvement)*
- Chair Method
- Extinction (Least parental involvement) *
Choosing which one is right for your family is a personal decision, and you are the expert when it comes to knowing your child.
It is less confusing for your kiddo if you move from a method where you are more involved in the falling asleep process to one where you are less active in the falling alseep process.
In this post, you learned why sleep is essential, age-appropriate sleep requirements, and how you can help support your child's sleep needs by encouraging the development of self-soothing skills through sleep training.
💗Please let me know if you found this post helpful by jumping over to Instagram and following my account @danielle.kamar. Also, be sure to send me a DM and tell me why this was helpful for you, and if you have any specific sleep questions, let me know. Finally, if you would like further help and are interested in working 1-on-1 you can book a free 15 minute discovery call here.