Give your plan 21 days and remember what normal learning and progress really looks like. Nobody has perfect sleep cycles all the time. Be patient. Be a sure, steady place for your little one.
1. Honor your own readiness.
No matter what anyone advises, don’t embark upon this journey until you feel ready, and you are prepared to be consistent, patient and committed to the process, for your child’s sake. Regardless of whether your child is ready or not, any amount of sleep training won’t go well if you don’t feel good about what you are doing. And if you don’t feel good about what you’re doing, you won’t have the confidence needed to provide one of the most important things for infant mental health: a simple, clear and consistent message. Sometimes timing is everything!
2. Create a simple, but well thought out plan.
Put it on paper, or work with a certified child and family sleep consultant to put a plan together for you. Don’t waste your time by reading into all the fads out there! Most of the families who hire me have already read all the sleep training books, blogs, articles and mommy Facebook group postings one could possibly consume, only to be more confused and unsure than ever. The temptation to try a little bit of everything, toss it every 4-5 days when you become impatient and try something new is too great, and will most certainly make your sleep issues worse, not to mention buy your child additional days of struggle as they have to get used to another change.
3. Enlist an accountability partner.
Whether it’s a supportive friend, grandma or your spouse, if you have chosen not to use a certified child sleep consultant. Choose someone who will be faithful to encourage you to stay consistent with your sleep plan and to be patient. Ideally, this person should be comfortable with you expressing your feelings, especially your doubt, anxiety or tears, rather than one who is uncomfortable with your feelings, dismissing them or trying to distract you when you just need to release your emotions. These are healthy, normal feelings around “change” — even good change! Teaching your child, limit-setting or evolving your parenting responses to match your child’s temperament, as well as developing needs for sleep, can be hard emotional work, especially when your child is not particularly happy being outside of their comfort zones until they adjust to new routines. Having healthy support during this time for yourself will in turn give you the strength and ability to provide healthy, consistent support for your child.
4. Give your plan 21 days and remember what normal learning and progress really looks like.
It takes 21 days of perfect implementation of a new routine for any new habit to fully come together and take effect. And since your child is a human being and not a programmable robot, their progress throughout these 21 days will look a lot like ours whenever we are adopting a new lifestyle change, such as a new diet or workout routine. Some days we take two steps forward, then take one step back. Nobody has perfect sleep cycles all the time. Your child will have an “off” sleep cycle, nap or night of sleep once in awhile, but don’t let it discourage you and tempt you to give up and go backwards on your child. Be patient. Be a sure, steady place for your little one.
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Jenni June Certified Child and Family Sleep Consultant, CLC and practitioner member of the National Sleep Foundation and the Breathe Institute in Los Angeles