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Bedtime – Routine and Persistence!

August 7, 2012

As a parent we’re always desperate to do whatever it takes to get your wee one to sleep!  Unfortunately, the rules for sleep aren’t set in stone for every child.  Sleep is one of the hardest first lessons you will teach your child.  From my experience and other parents I know, I would have to conclude that a lot of how your wee one sleeps follows the parents’ ways of sleep.  If you are an excellent sleeper with very few issues, if any at all, then your child has a high likely-hood their sleep patterns will follow.  If you have always had sleep issues and struggled, then going to sleep may be very difficult to obtain for your wee one as well.  (This is just from observation not from scientific study whatsoever.)  D has had his rough patches but for the most part we have been very blessed with a wonderful sleeper!  In fact, just the other day he slept in til 9:30 am (went to bed at 7 pm), which is VERY rare!!

For the most part, since around 12  months or a little before, he has slept through the night, give or take about 12 hours – straight! Now if you have a wee one under the age of 6 months, it’s really hard to do much regarding their unpredictable sleep issues except tend to their waking needs.  Even over 6 months, tending to their waking needs is a good idea.  However, the time frame after 6 months is when lots of parents will start some form of sleep-training.  After talking with some Moms and doing some research, we chose to try the “cry it out” method, as discussed by Dr. Ferber in his book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.  I was at my wit’s end of sanity of never getting more than 5 hours of sleep at a time and I was ready to try anything!!  Now I just want to state that this is the method that worked best for our family but it may not work for your family.  (I say this because the “cry it out” method is quite controversial among parents.)

Dr. Ferber has some excellent points in his book whether you are an advocate or not of his methods that I believe every parent should practice (in some form) if they want their child to sleep well.  First off is routine, routine, routine!  Create a simple and easy routine that can be used for bedtime and nap time, anywhere you may be – vacation, home, Grandparents house, etc.  For example, for bedtime we do bath, brush teeth, PJ’s, boob, book, and bed.  For naptime, we go turn the music on, boob, books, and bed.  So whichever you may choose, whether it be singing the same song(s) about what your doing, a particular song that helps sooth them, reading books, closing the curtains, etc.  Choose what routine works best and don’t make it too complicated or long.  This routine will be the foundation for your child to know that sleep is upon them – no surprises.  The reason behind having routines is because children THRIVE upon routine, even at the youngest age of 6 months, it’s how they know what “time” it is in their little worlds, so there’s not too many unexpected surprises (at least in this area of their lives).  So whichever routine you find that works, stick with it as much as you can and make adjustments as need be.  But whatever you do, consistency is the KEY to success!

The second major aspect of Dr. Ferber’s method is practicing extending the amount of time going to check on your child after putting them to bed.  So for example, when one starts this process, you go in after 3 minutes, sooth the child by patting their back and telling them it’s ok and it’s time to go to sleep.  Then you wait 4 minutes outside the door, then go check.  Then increase the time up to 7 minutes, as so on – up until they have finally gone to sleep.  So eventually you may find yourself waiting 10 minutes between check ins, etc.  This shows the child that you’re not abandoning them and are tending to their needs still, yet allowing them to work on self-soothing themselves back to sleep.  Teaching your child how to self-sooth to sleep (and back to sleep) is one of the hugest first lessons ever and will pay off ten-fold in the end.

In doing my research regarding which sleep method we thought would work best for our family and our beliefs, we learned about Dr. Ferber and gave it a try but also discovered endless other methods people have published and written about.  So if you and your significant other don’t believe in the popular “cry it out (CIO)” method, know that there are many other options to research and try instead.  In the end, however, there really is no one particular catch-all method/answer and it’s all trial and error.  Each method has it’s pros and cons, depending upon your families’ particular viewpoint, parenting style, and child’s’ ways.  Unfortunately there’s no catch-all method, so if one method doesn’t work after trying it for a few weeks, give things a break and try another way or revisit things after some time.  Just know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel no matter what, it will just take some time and effort for both parents!  🙂

Another thing to keep in mind is that if things don’t work one time, there could be a variety of reasons, whether it’s teething, growing pains, sickness, etc.  So just revisit the plan again when their not sick or teething etc. and hope that the next time things work out better and if not, try another method in a few weeks.

D has been a wonderful sleeper since a young age and we’re so very blessed and thankful for this.  My heart goes out to all the parents that suffer and struggle for many months + and I hope that they’re able to find peace in the best ways to teach their child to sleep longer and better.  Good sleep is such a huge factor in learning and comprehension and as we all know, without good sleep each night, other areas of our day can struggle, including learning and temper.  So, as you venture down sleep training lane, please do seek out guidance from other parents and your pediatrician and keep trucking along no matter what and know that long peaceful nights of rest will soon enough occur.  Persistence in whichever method/way you choose will equal success, stick to your guns, and remember who’s the teacher!  🙂

What are some tips and things that helped you in teaching your little one to sleep soundly longer?  Please share in the comments!  🙂

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