This is Part 1 in a 2 part series. Part 2 is “Am I ready to Sleep Train My Child?”
Before beginning any sleep training, there are several things to check on to make sure your baby or child is really ready to begin.
1. Check in with your child’s pediatrician – You should always check with your child’s doctor to be sure there are no medical reasons why you should not begin sleep training. They can also let you know if they feel that your child should be able to go all night without eating or if they may still need one or two feeds. Even if your child does need to eat one or two times, you can still do sleep training and just work those feeds into your plan.
2. Make sure there are no untreated medical conditions that could affect your child’s sleep – Even if your pediatrician says it is okay to go ahead with the training, you do want to make sure your child is not having any issues with underlying medical conditions. If they have reflux, make sure the medicine is effectively controlling it. If your child has asthma, make sure his or her symptoms are well controlled.
3. How old is your child?– Most people do not recommend sleep training until at least 4 months of age. Personally, I prefer waiting until around 6 months. There are things you can do at younger ages, like making sure naps are close enough together and beginning a bedtime routine. A future blog post will contain more tips!
4. .Make sure your child is eating enough during the day – If you plan on cutting out nighttime feedings, make sure your child is getting enough food during the day. Sometimes eating at night is just a habit, but sometimes it is a necessity because the child is not getting enough calories by day.
5. Check your child’s room environment – Make sure your child’s room is dark enough for naps and for bedtime. Take a look at the room in the middle of the night to see what your child sees. Is there a street lamp shining in their window that is not on when they fall asleep at night? Try to make the room look as similar in the middle of the night as when your child falls asleep. Check the temperature of the room at night as well. Ideal sleeping temperature is between 68 – 72 degrees. Try to mask any outside noises your child may hear.
6. Check Your Schedule – If any major changes will be coming up in the next few weeks, now may not be a great time to start sleep training. Anything like moving to a new home, traveling somewhere, having a new baby in the house, or starting a new school could be major disruptions for your child. This is not to say you cannot make some changes before a big change, especially if they are scheduling changes that are causing your child to be overtired. I just would not start any strict sleep program in the weeks leading up to a change.
7. Is your child comfortable where he/she will be sleeping? – Are you moving your child into their own room or into a crib? Make sure they feel comfortable there. If they scream the moment they are placed in the crib or even in their room, spend some time getting them used to it at a time when they are not sleepy. It will be much harder on your child to suddenly place them in an environment where they are not comfortable and expect them to fall asleep there. Check out My Child Hates Their Crib for some ideas on how to get them comfortable in their room or crib.
Do you feel like your child is ready? Are you and your partner ready? I would love to hear about it!
By Michelle Winters
SleepWell Sleep Solutions