Firstly I want to stress that there is absolutely no need to change anything about your little one’s sleep if it’s working for you. However, if your current situation has become unsustainable then it is absolutely okay to make a change and you can do this in a loving, kind and gentle way without ‘sleep-training’ by following these four principles:
PRINCIPLE #1: Be consistent
The most important thing when it comes to sleep is consistency. I cannot stress this enough. Decide on what you are going to change and stick with it. If you are constantly changing your mind and trying different things, your baby will get confused and frustrated.
PRINCIPLE #2: Remain calm and confident
Closely linked to this is remaining calm and confident. This is so important. If you project calm, positivity and confidence about sleep, your little one will sense this and is more likely to be calm and confident as well. It’s an interesting concept known as ‘emotion contagion’; being able to influence others with your own emotional state. It’s natural to feel frustrated about your baby’s sleep habits but babies pick up on nuances and changes in our behaviour or stress levels. It doesn’t matter how good an ‘act’ we think we’re portraying; children can see through it and pick up on our body language, tone of voice or fast breathing. Keeping calm will help your baby adapt to whatever changes you are trying to make.
PRINCIPLE #3: Small steps
The next thing is to break it down into small and manageable steps. If your baby is used to feeding to sleep then being able to fall asleep from awake in the cot is an achievable goal but a huge leap to do in one step. The best thing to do is make a small change that you feel confident and relaxed about and help your baby to accept this before moving onto the next small step. In this way you are making gradual but steady progress towards your end goal.
PRINCIPLE #4: Make sure your baby is tired
Lastly when making changes to sleep, make sure your baby is tired. The best time to make a change is at bedtime as this is when your baby is releasing melatonin, (the hormone that makes you feel sleepy), has high sleep pressure and it’s the end of the day when you are naturally the most tired. You may even want to make bedtime later than usual to maximise on high sleep pressure and help your baby accept the change you are making. It’s also really important to ensure that your baby is getting plenty of exercise over the day so that they do not have excess energy at bedtime. This can mean different things depending on the age of your baby but could include tummy time, rolling, reaching for toys, crawling, obstacle courses, walking or running etc.
Hopefully these four principles will help you on your way to better sleep for your little one. If you would like personalised advice and support with your little one, please check out my 1-1 sleep packages or head over to my Facebook or Instagram pages for regular sleep tips and advice.