Is my Family Ready for Sleep Training?
When my first son was born, he was an amazing sleeper – we thought we had won the lottery. And then the four month sleep regression hit hard, and he was up every hour on the hour. Getting him back to sleep wasn’t an easy task – we would walk the halls with him, sway him, feed him, and bounce with him on balls.
Nothing would work.
I reached my breaking point one night on a trip to Mexico. Like clockwork, he woke up, and we tried all the tips and tricks to help him go back to sleep.
It did nothing.
Finally, my husband and I took him on a stroller ride at 3 a.m. out of pure exhaustion. And that’s when I saw them: raccoons digging in the garbage can. I remember thinking that, of course, raccoons are the ONLY thing awake at this hour, and I told my husband at that moment, “When we get back home, this has to change. This isn’t working.”
For some families, you’ll reach a breaking point like I did, where you realize that something has to change…that there’s no way you can go another night with how things are currently going. And for others, you may not ever reach that point, but you may be looking for signs that your baby is ready for sleep training to get them on a schedule or to help them develop better sleep habits.
And if you know right away that sleep training isn’t for you, that’s okay! It’s not for every family, and I’m always in favor of you doing what’s best for your family. If that’s you, feel free to check out this post about knowing when your child is ready to drop a nap so that you feel prepared for those milestones!
But if you are looking for help with your child’s short naps, frequent night wakings, bedtime battles, or independent sleep skills without “crying it out,” then I am here and ready for you!
Here are some signs that you may be ready, too.
Sign #1: The timing is right for your
family to sleep train
When you know you’re ready to make changes to your child’s sleeping habits, you’ll want to be able to commit 2-3 weeks with 100% consistency. If you have travel plans, your work schedule is chaotic, or you’re in the middle of some life changes and know that you won’t be able to keep a consistent routine in place, it’s in your (and your baby’s!) best interest to wait.
Children crave consistency, even if they fight you every single night. During the process of helping your child sleep better, a few things have to be consistent night after night. This allows your child to quickly learn their new routine and expectations.
If you’re unable to maintain the same routine or the same approach each night, your child will only be confused and frustrated. And I can’t blame them!
But if you know that you can dedicate your full attention and energy to ensuring consistency, then moving forward with sleep training may be your next step.
Sign #2: Mom and dad have reached a
If you find yourself walking the grounds of a Mexican resort at 3 a.m. trying to get your baby to sleep, it may be time to sleep train. Really, though, if you reach a point where what was once working no longer is serving the family, making changes can make a world of difference.
This will look different for every family, but you’ll know when you’ve reached that point.
Maybe you feel stuck in your child’s room each night laying next to them.
Maybe you’re resentful of your spouse who gets more sleep than you.
Maybe you feel angry or frustrated with your child because you have other things that need to get done, but their sleep habits are preventing that.
Or maybe you feel like your child’s sleeplessness is now impacting your mental health, and the lack of sleep is making it difficult to function.
Living unhappily or frustrated isn’t a way to live, and if you’re at that point with your child’s sleep, taking the steps to improve it now will be better for everyone in the long run.
Sign #3: Your baby is developmentally
Before embarking on your sleep training journey, you’ll want to make sure your child is developmentally ready. Here are a few signs that can help you determine if they’re ready:
Your baby is gaining weight healthily
There are no medical issues or other health concerns going on with your child
Your child is at least 4 months of age from due date
Your baby is staying awake for longer stretches of time throughout the day
There are self-soothing signs, like sucking on their hands or rubbing their face
The 4-month sleep regression has passed
If your child isn’t ready yet, that’s okay! I know the first few months are exhausting and hard, but waiting for your child to be ready for sleep training is vital. If you’re unsure about whether your baby is ready, talk to your pediatrician. They can give you the green light to sleep train, or they’ll tell you when you can move forward with it.
Sign #4: The foundations of healthy
sleep have been established
Maybe your child already has the perfect bedtime and nap routine, but they still take hours to fall asleep.
Or maybe you’ve worked hard on creating the perfect safe sleep environment, but your baby still protests sleep.
If you feel you have already checked off the boxes for what should help your child – you’ve laid that healthy sleep foundation – then sleep training may be your next step.
If you know you still need to make a few changes before starting the process, start with creating a soothing bedtime routine, which is essential for a good night’s sleep as it cues your child’s body that sleep is coming.
Sign #5: Your baby is overtired
If your child is stuck in a vicious overtired cycle, it may be time to sleep train.
When your child is overtired, here’s what that could look like:
They protest sleep and fight naps or bedtime
Your child is cranky after waking in the morning or after a nap
Naps are super short, which is a sign your child isn’t connecting sleep cycles
There are multiple night wakings for no apparent reason (you know they aren’t hungry or uncomfortable)
I know this sign may seem counterintuitive. Maybe you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t my overtired baby just…sleep?”
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. When babies are overtired, cortisol levels can be higher, which interferes with their ability to sleep deep, long stretches. Sleep is so important for your child’s development, so if you know your child is overtired, yet nothing you’ve done is helping, sleep training can be a great solution.
Sign #6: The issues have been going on
for longer than 2 weeks
It’s normal for babies to have erratic sleep when they’re younger, and as they age, it’s not uncommon to still see short naps or frequent night wakings.
However, when the sleep issues you’ve been seeing have been lasting longer than 2 weeks, it’s a good sign that what’s happening is because your child is now used to a certain behavior or habit.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Your child used to wake frequently to eat throughout the night as a newborn, but around 3 months, they started waking less at night. All of a sudden, they’ve been waking throughout the night every hour, and you have no idea why.
Your baby has always been a good sleeper, but now that their new sibling has joined the family, they protest bedtime for hours each night. You have no clue what’s going on, as this seems to be new behavior.
The first explanation for situations like these is that your child is going through a regression. Sleep regressions are normal and common, and can be frequent during the first 2 years of your child’s life.
However, most sleep regressions will last about 2 weeks, and then those sleep issues seem to disappear. If they aren’t disappearing, then you’ll want to take a deeper look at what’s going on, and sleep training can be a great tool to do so.
Sign #7: Your child is dependant on a
The final sign that your child may be ready for sleep training is that they are relying on a sleep association that needs to be removed or replaced.
What’s a sleep association, anyway?
A sleep association is anything that, you guessed it, your child associates with sleep. These are things that your child relies on in order to fall asleep, and if those things aren’t there, they will struggle.
Here are a few common sleep associations:
Being rocked to sleep
Being fed to sleep
Using a pacifier
Sleeping with a lovey
White noise playing during sleep times
Wearing a sleep sack or holding a blanket
Now, you’ll notice that not all of the sleep associations listed are necessarily “wrong.” Having a white noise machine, for example, can be a great soother and can help buffer noise from other kids or a noisy household.
But if your child is dependent on an association that requires you to wake up multiple times, it can become exhausting really quickly.
For instance, a pacifier is fine to soothe your child. But if your baby can’t keep it in their mouth, or they can’t replace the pacifier when it falls out, then they’ll need your help to replace it. And if your child is waking up every hour overnight, and you have to pop the pacifier back in, neither you nor your child are getting the sleep you truly need.
We want your child to feel comfortable and confident on their own without needing someone else to help them fall back to sleep. So removing the association is a good step when it’s actually begun to interfere with your child’s sleep.
How to begin the process of sleep
If you feel at a loss for how to even begin the process of sleep training – maybe you want someone to hold your hand and guide you through the process – I am here to do that.
Or maybe you want to hear from someone who has walked through this very process. My client Nicole shares her story below. Read what she had to say about working with me:
For the first 4 months our son was an extremely challenging sleeper. Before we started working with Andrea he was waking every 20—60 mins and we were rocking him to sleep for hours. More often than not, the moment we put him down he would wake up.
We were struggling so much as a new family of three battling severe sleep deprivation. We tried so many different things to try to get just a few hours of sleep consistently. I was desperate for change but was hesitant and nervous to sleep train. I assumed our son would resist it and continue to challenge us.
I had gotten to know Andrea through the Mama Bear group she co-owns and really trusted her and her expertise. We decided to go for the Elite package for the extra support, accountability, and extended timeline. I was sure it would take the full three weeks to see improvement.
Within ONE night we saw a huge improvement and I was completely blown away. It only got better from there. Our son was taking two hour naps, sleeping 5 hour stretches (we still do 2—3 feeds a night), and falling asleep within minutes of being kissed goodnight and put in his crib. Andrea was there to support us every step of the way! She created a custom plan that we were comfortable with. She answered any and all of my questions and celebrated with us along the way. Working with Andrea changed our family's life and helped me come out of a very challenging postpartum season.
If you are also struggling with sleep I highly recommend working with Andrea. The Elite package is 100% worth it! I can’t say enough good things! As Andrea says — sleep is coming!!
Are you ready to start this venture? If so, book a call with me so that we can get you on your journey to better sleep!