Why my LAST resort would to do “sleep training”.
There is something that I regularly hear and speak to parents about which is around the advice of “sleep training” your baby at night only. This is something I cannot wholeheartedly agree with. Instead of focusing only on night sleep, and the in complete isolation of their naps during the day. For me, this makes little to no sense. I wish to at first, look at and examine the amount of sleep they are achieving and regularly get within any 24-hour period. This is also irrespective of whether either the parent or I feel that the baby is actually fully ready to sleep train during the night.
The theory behind this should work, and I completely understand these theories and reasonings behind this. I truly do. This being that the justification of the whole sleep hormones and the babies own circadian rhythm all working in the favour at night all comes in to play. So it is suggested by these thoughts that sleep should be easier for your baby to achieve then than it is during the day… Yep, for sure, it all sounds right and reasonable. Providing one main key component is there, they are ready to actually sleep better at night.
To explain this better let me expand on this with one of the most often asked question I get asked while I am helping families with their sleep programs.
“Should I be fixing my baby’s sleep during the day as well as at night?”
What we need to know and understand that there are really strong link between daytime and night-time sleep. While these are differentiated within your baby’s brain. They’re also still linked very intrinsically. You will know this yourself by the fact that if your baby or toddler has been extremely overtired, you can pretty much guarantee that the sleep they have that night will be lousy. Of course, this then means your baby is now starting the day off being already overtired. With this then coming on to leading to the situation of poor naps occurring and the cycle being. Continuing between bad naps & lousy night sleep. The opposite is equally true if you find your baby is having too much daytime sleep or is napping too late in the day. Then they have no choice but to naturally sleep less at night. Simply because they are not tired enough to be trying to have a fully restorative sleep. (if this is you then I would also suggest reading this article which includes more information directly related to over and under tiredness).
The art of getting the right amount of sleep can be really tricky to actually know. Being able to know what is the best amount of hours your wee one should be napping. On top of that, your baby sleep is a wonder that changes at a very fast pace. So today, the napping pattern your baby will not be meeting their needs and no longer, the same as the naps they had a few weeks ago no longer are meeting their needs now.
Now I imagine the scenario occurs when your baby has been waking a lot during the night. You now find yourself to be at a loss as to exactly what happened and why this has occurred. You find yourself to be tired and utterly exhausted. What do you do? You decide to seek some free or even paid advice, to be told you should immediately start sleep training. By doing this it will magically teach your baby at night to sleep through. They say this is DEFINITELY due to a settling issue that their night waking is off. So, find yourself doing it. I did it too. With my eldest daughter. You are the same as me, and many other parents out there, You do not want crying. I mean who does want actually have to hear their baby cry. Then they landed to phase – you are told it is inevitable. The honest answer is, that in this case or certain methods, it will most definitely be the case – crying! But there you are following the guidance given, by working on baby’s night wakings by doing whatever sleep training method they have advised you to do. This could be a controlled cry, use of a verbal reassurance. A check-in method with a pick-up put-down. However, what you are still left wondering is why is my baby resisting this so much? Why does this all take hour upon hour all night long? For you to only find that you have given up as it becomes all too stressful on both of you OR if you are made sturdier stuff that it does eventually work, only after many nights occurring with lots of frustration and many tears having…
I ask you, did anyone ask you at all about your baby’s naps during that whole process? Did anyone suggest that in fact your baby’s night waking? This being simply caused and dye to the fact that their daytime naps were a bit off pattern. Instead of firstly trying a little tweak to their nap hours. Which is a very simple and easy thing to do. This would also have involved no crying or anxiety on either you or the baby. Instead, this simple change would just see if it could make a difference. But NO – instead, jumped straight in by diagnosing and then “fixing” baby’s night waking in total isolation. In this situation, you will have found your baby will have been crying for the majority of this process. This was not simply because they were being “naughty” by refusing to respond to the current style of sleep training. But, in actual fact, was due to mainly one of two reasons. Them simply not being tired enough to go back to sleep or the opposite, from them being overtired. So this then topped with cortisol, the stress hormone, flowing around their little body, it would be going to make it extremely hard for any sort of self-settling to occur on its own.
So, in my opinion, this situation is not fair of us as parents and carers to expect something of our baby that is almost incapable of them actually delivering this. It does not matter the amount of actual sleep training that is done, sleep not occur if your wee baby is not physiologically ready for sleep. So to me, this has to the main place we would start with and look at?
It is true, eventually, your baby will most probably be “sleeping” throughout the night. Or so you are lead to believe… You will not have to notice those long wakeful periods of silence from your baby in the middle of the night (being the result of imbalanced naps in the day), however, after all the sleep training, your baby now knows better than to cry for you.
It’s all got to be a bit of a morbid and devastating read now, isn’t it?
I’m truly sorry for this, however, it is something which really tugs at my own heart strings. More importantly, this is where all the bad press starts and comes from about sleep training. It is exactly this way and methods of doing things that ruins the theory of sleep training for the rest of us out there who do understand and implement the holistic approach to baby sleep.
So instead this is what I do:
I focus on naps. It is actually, the primary focus of my sleep companies programs. To be honest, I don’t ever push for the “sleeping through the night” thing to occur quickly. This is due to there being a dozen others factors that happened in the first place for this to have been lined up in this way and the biggest one is then getting naps back on track. To put it simply, if naps aren’t spot on, then sleep training is going to be a VERY tricky and stressful scenario which is completely unnecessary. Therefore, this is where I start with naps.
In my sleep programs I provide you with a guide to the perfect nap hours and timings appropriate for your baby’s age. Remember as I mentioned before it is all ever-changing and this has to be very age specific. The program gets all this in place before we are looking at deeply nights! I have found many babies then begin automatically sleeping a lot better during the night simply because naps are now structured better and naturally which in turn promotes a good night’s sleep. Once naps are then spot on, I begin looking for the other reasons that can cause night wakening’s. Here is where there can be a whole array of factors that I help you achieve these by ensuring they are ticked off a list, ruled out completely or making improvements upon them accordingly. A few examples of these can be feeding or apply the introduction of a solid into their diet, the sleep environment, address habit waking which starts to occur in older babies. Once I have looked at and address all of the main reason and factors I will only then would I ask or expect you to then move into any sort of self-settling and/or the “sleep training” territory. Once and only once I am confident that your baby will be completely ready and there is no chance of anything such as over or under tiredness going to have a negative impact on the whole success of it. I have found that in this situation babies respond with a much better result to our gradual sleep methods due to them being perfectly ready for it.
With babies, Sleep training, and most definitely at night, is usually the last area we will focus on. Sometimes, in fact, in many occasions, the answers a baby’s sleep is most definitely much simpler and involves fewer tears from either your baby or you when you use my gentle family focused sleep programs.