“Is There A Way To Teach My Newborn How To Be A Great Sleeper So I Don’t Have To Sleep Train Later On?”
This was a question I received from Fatimah, my first client in Saudi Arabia.
She hadn’t sleep trained her older son until he was a year old. At that point, he was waking up seven times a night to nurse. And sleep training him was excruciating.
Now eight-week-old Farris seemed to be following in brother’s footsteps. Fatimah really didn’t want to endure the same nightmare again.
Also, Farris was heavy, and rocking him and nursing him to sleep multiple times a night was really hurting Fatimah’s back. She has almost no time with her older son because Farris seemed to need her all the time, and she was feeling a lot of guilt about that. And of course, she was exhausted from nursing and not-sleeping all night long.
But she didn’t want to do anything that would harm him, of course. So she scheduled a free call with me, and we decided to move forward in a gradual, gentle progression. Neither of us wanted him to cry for long periods of time. Older babies can handle this but newborns aren’t ready for that.
Newborns have immature nervous systems and often need a lot of help falling asleep…. But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to take over the job.
Here’s some of the strategies we used. None of them involved crying:
Some of the changes she noticed in Farris, “He actually now prefers to fall asleep on his back in his bassinet instead of in my arms. He often wakes up happy now, whereas before, he was really fussy. Sometimes I don’t even realize he has woken up because he wakes up happily, without crying!”
And about herself, “I have so much more energy now that I am sleeping more. I would never have been able to do this on my own. It was scary at first, because I never sleep trained my older son at this age. I am so glad that I could message you with questions, or even just to rant! That really helped.
Farris sleeping independently will make it so much easier for him when I go back to work. I am so excited that his sleep habits will continue to grow and I will never have to sleep train Farris like I did with my older son!
It's also great having some time to relax and connect with my husband in the evenings.
I am so happy I did this!"
If you would like to help gently guide your newborn to better sleep, it is absolutely possible! Better sleep is in your future. Schedule a free chat and let’s get your family the sleep you deserve.
Poor little Elian looks miserable because, well, he is.
He fell asleep in the car at 4 pm and woke up after 5.
No doubt he needed the sleep, but the problem is that the timing was all wrong.
You know how you adult feel terrible if you take a nap at 5 pm? Cranky and groggy and miserable?
That’s how Elian was feeling too. Because the timing was off.
Our bodies produce melatonin at predictable times. For a two-year-old like Elian, his body produces melatonin the middle of the night and again in the early evening.
When we sleep at those times, we generally fall asleep easily and wake up easily (assuming we don’t have other sleep issues, of course). So a toddler who naps in the middle of the day should wake up fairly cheerfully.
When we sleep at the wrong times, we feel terrible.
I didn’t know this when my daughter, Calliope, was a toddler. I loved having long mornings to do things so I would put her down around 2 pm for her nap. And I couldn’t understand why she was waking up absolutely hysterical a couple of hours later. There was nothing I could do to coax her out of it. It was at least 30-minutes of kicking and screaming from my otherwise super chill toddler. It was horrible.
So sticking to a strict naptime schedule may be inconvenient to us parents, but if the payoff is a cheerful, alert child, I think you’ll agree it’s usually worth it. Save your exceptions to the schedule for days you really need them.
If you have optimized your child’s schedule and sleep is still a mess, set up a free discovery call and let’s get your family the rest you deserve.
A parent told me this recently and I had to laugh. And agree.
Every sleep book out there will tell you to put your child down in the crib “drowsy but awake.”
And parents the world over strive for this goal and then wonder what they are doing wrong when they carefully rock or feed their baby to a state of drowsy calm, gently place said baby in the crib… and the baby erupts in angry howls of protest.
Parents, it’s not your fault.
It’s bad advice.
Forget you ever heard “drowsy but awake.” It doesn’t work.
You have two choices. You either feed/rock/bounce/walk your child fully to sleep, or you put them down fully awake.
If you do the former, your child will more than likely wake up at some point, wonder where your loving arms -- the last thing they remember -- went, and start to cry for you to come back and repeat the process. It’s not your child’s fault. He or she just doesn’t know how to put themself back to sleep.
Imagine if you went to sleep in your cozy bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and your soft comforter, and woke up on the hard living floor. You wouldn’t know how to go back to sleep either.
The same is true for your child. If she went to sleep in your warm embrace, she doesn’t know how to go back to sleep without the same conditions.
This is why I always recommend putting your child in his bed fully awake. If this is new to him, yep, he’s probably going to cry.
But not because he’s afraid, or feeling abandoned (pro tip: children can’t even understand the concept of abandonment before late toddlerhood), or in pain, never mind traumatized.
He’s crying because he’s tired and he doesn’t know what to do, becuase you’ve always helped before, and he’s probably angry that you’ve changed up the routine that he liked so much.
Imagine if someone told you, “from now on, you will no longer be having coffee in the morning. Good luck.” You’d be pissed as hell. And so is your confused kiddo. And being that he’s so little, you can’t explain.
Don’t feel guilty. He’ll get over it. The best thing you can do to help him is to be strong and consistent. Don’t cave. Ever. Well, at least not two weeks. Otherwise, all that crying will be for naught. After two weeks, once the new habit is strong, you can make the occasional exception.
I promise that if you stay strong, he’ll get it, and not only that, he’ll be happier than ever!
Of course, if you are able to rock/feed/bounce/walk your child to sleep and she stays asleep, rock on. (No pun intended.) But if that was working for you, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog post.
This is not an easy transition. Be kind to yourself. Know that it's supposed to be hard. Remember when you started a new exercising or organizing or flossing habit? It was super hard at first, right? But then you started to get used to it and little by little, it got easier and easier until it was second nature, at least most of the time.
The same is true for your child. She'll get there. She just needs time and your loving consistency.
You don't have to make the change alone. Let me help. Set up a free discovery call and let's get your family the sleep you deserve. You got this!
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.