Is now the right time to teach your baby to sleep?

If lack of sleep has you considering a sleep coach or sleep consultant, you may be wondering this very thing: is now the right time to teach your baby to sleep?  Is there a right time, or a wrong time? Are the planets accurately aligned to make the investment worth it?

When it comes to teaching your baby to sleep through the night (and yes you can do that without having to leave them alone to “cry it out”), there are two things I can pretty much guarantee you:

  1. It’s going to be a challenge.
  2. It’s going to be eminently worth it.

Today, I’d like to offer some tips for deciding whether or not now is the right time to teach your baby to sleep. And whether you’re ready to take this challenging, but oh-so-rewarding journey.

It’s a tremendous decision

Having worked with numerous babies from 3 months[1] on, I want to tell you that I’ve never worked with a family whose baby went right down easily on the first night and just magically slept through from then on. Yes, some older babies and children have slept through the night on night one or two; however, most families start seeing results on night three or four. And it is a process from that point on. I’m not going to lie to you, night one can be a trial.

Families don’t just do this for fun. Parents want to set their child up for a lifetime of good sleep (especially if parents are poor sleepers themselves) and there is often a real issue that needs to be solved for all parties to be able to get more sleep.

Despite the challenges, every family who has seen the process through has felt like they had made a tremendous decision once their baby had learned to sleep through the night.

The benefits to the whole family are almost indescribable. Its life changing.

Yet, like many big decisions, there are times that are ideal and times that are less so.

Is now right for you?

Is it time for you to teach your baby to sleep, or is it best to wait a bit? Here are 7 tips for knowing whether the time is right…

1. Will you be around?

If there is a silver lining out of this Covid-19 situation, it is that since lockdown many parents are currently either working from home or not working at all. This fact, while not always one you may be thinking of first, does present more opportunity to be home while you show your little one how to sleep independently.

I usually recommend that at least one parent is home for two weeks so you can focus on sleep, so if you’re working from home or still on maternity leave, this can be a great opportunity to take the plunge.

I typically don’t advise parents start within two weeks of traveling. So, if you’re planning on being a tourist in your own country, wait until you get back home. And at least time zones aren’t an issue for most of us at present.

2. Is the timing right for baby?

The best chance for a quick and effective solution to your baby’s sleeping issues is to implement the changes when they are healthy and thriving. If your baby is dealing with reflux or colic, you’ll want to get that sorted before you start working on sleep.

There will likely be some fussing and protest in the first few nights, and we want to make sure it’s only due to the change in their routine, not because of actual discomfort. It’s not easy to learn something new if you’re uncomfortable. If your child is healthy it is much easier to pinpoint the reasons for their fussing, and you then know it will blow over quickly.

3. Is your partner on board?

If you’re raising your baby with a husband or partner, it’s important that you are both committed to the process.

It can be a trying ordeal for the first couple of nights and if your partner doesn’t think it’s a good idea, there will likely be a point where they manage to convince you to give in. And that’s when you resort to whatever “sleep prop” you usually use to get your baby to sleep.

Before you get started, make sure you and your partner have both signed on and you can rely on each another for support. The feeling when you’re both on the same team is often one of relief!

With a customised sleep plan, even Dads will know what to do (when they sometimes feel useless otherwise). When you are both on the same page it can actually build up your relationship; this is especially important if the lack of sleep has worn it down.

4. Can you stand a couple of nights without a lot of sleep?

I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Changing someone’s sleep habits is almost never met with a lot of enthusiasm for the first night or so. It may be that nobody gets a lot of rest for the first 48 hours.

If you have an important meeting or a major event coming up in the next few days that you need to be in peak condition for, you might want to wait until next weekend to get things underway.

5. Are the symptoms of sleep deprivation starting to show?

Are you starting to feel depressed, moody, forgetful, unmotivated, clumsy, or unfocused? Is your sex drive starting to wax and wane? Have you noticed an increased appetite and a craving for carbohydrates?

These are all symptoms of sleep deprivation and they really are no laughing matter.

Society tends to make light of the whole, “exhausted new parent” persona, but the more we learn about the health effects of sleep deprivation, the less of a joke it becomes. If you’re sleep-deprived or feel like you’re on the verge, now is the time to take some action.

6. Is their sleep space ready?

Exceptions can be made in certain situations (and can be age-dependent), but I really do find that putting baby into their own room is the best way to help them learn to sleep independently. Is it time for your little one to move?

There are a few decorating guidelines to help your baby get the hang of this sleep thing as quickly as possible. Their room should be:

DARK: as dark as you can possibly get it. Put up some blackout blinds or, tape up some garbage bags over the windows, or purchase some Sleepy Sunday blackout sheets from me. Your MacGyver DIY may not pretty but 100% darkness will really help with daytime naps.

BORING: Get rid of any mobiles, musical aquariums, or light-emitting devices that claim to help baby sleep. (I can assure you, they don’t.) An ideal nursery is flat-out boring. Baby should recognize it as a place to do nothing but sleep. If you can, keep the toys and stuffed animals in another room.

7. Don’t wait for the “perfect” moment

In saying all of the above, you do not have to wait for the perfect moment. Life is not perfect.

It may be that now is NOT the ideal time to take the initiative to help your baby sleep through the night. And you do need to factor the above in, because getting started and having to stop because of some bad planning is likely going to cause confusion and minimize your chances for success.

But, at the same time, remember, there is always going to be something that isn’t ideal.

Rolling over, teething, crawling, and other developmental milestones, should not impede baby’s ability to sleep through the night. Developmental changes are not going to stop popping up until your little one is ready to leave high school.

Is it time?

So now that you’ve thought about it, if you feel like the time is right and you’re ready to get started, let’s get going!

Get in touch and we can start putting together a plan for your baby right away. If you’re ready to know more, book a free 15-minute sleep evaluation call today.

I know it’s a big decision, but the outcome is almost indescribably wonderful for the whole family.

I’m ready when you are.

Kim x

P.S. If you’re not quite ready to get started, how about following along on Facebook or Instagram in the meantime. Or sign up for my newsletter. Sleep tips never hurt, right?

[1] Note that a baby less than 3 months of age is considered a newborn (in the 4th trimester). While you can start setting up healthy sleep habits over this time, a newborn is unable to self soothe, and will still require night feeds. Indeed, a baby may still need a night feed until developmentally ready to give it up – there are ways to develop good sleep skills around feeds.