This post comes courtesy of sleep consultant — and mom — Erica Desper*, who is also the founder of Confident Parenting. She’s offered to help us answer the age-old questions: “How the hell do I get this kid to sleep?” and “Which of the million or so methods deserve my attention?” (Surely I’m not the I only one with eight different sleep books– each with completely differing theories — on my bookshelf, right?) Here’s Erica’s take on all of that.
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Have you decided it’s time for a change in your little one’s sleep habits but feel completely overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice and various methods? Well let me make that simple for you: There is no “right” way! There is only the way that’s best for you and your child. I have helped hundreds of families improve their child’s sleep habits, and no scenario has ever been exactly the same as the next. Here are three things to take into account when choosing a method.
Your Parenting Style
Every parent has a style and core beliefs that make certain methods either appealing … or not an option at all. Since consistency is even more important than what method you choose, it is vital to choose one that matches these so you don’t feel conflicted about the process, which can lead to inconsistency. For parents strongly opposed to letting their child cry or cry alone, co-sleeping or a hands-on, gradual approach to change (such as the fading or chair methods) will be a more manageable choice.
Your Child’s Personality
Children are like snowflakes – no two are exactly the same. So what works for your best friend’s child could be a disaster for you and yours. Often the method that appeals most to us as a parent doesn’t turn out to be the one our child needs or responds to. It is important to be respectful of your child’s temperament when choosing a method, and to implement one that suits your child best to make the process as peaceful as possible. For example, you may want to use a hands-on method like fading (starting off staying with your child the whole time until they fall asleep, and gradually fading your presence and support), but instead find that your child is so overstimulated by your presence that a check-and-console approach suits him best. If, after consistently implementing a method for at least four nights, you see no improvement, then it is likely time to reevaluate and select a method that your child may respond to better. Do be cautious though not to throw in the towel too soon — even with the best method, it often takes four full nights to see improvement. For more sensitive or spirited higher-need children, it can take a week or more.
Each of us have varying amounts of mental, emotional and physical resources to draw on at any given time. When evaluating methods, it’s important to be realistic about yours. If you are seriously and chronically sleep- deprived, then choosing a gradual hands-on method that could span weeks may not be manageable for you. Similarly, if you have multiple children who need your attention then, try as you might, a staying-in-the-room approach will likely be an exercise in frustration. Since consistency is key in improving sleep habits, be sure to choose an approach you know you can follow through with. That being said, if you take on an approach that quickly seems unmanageable, it really is okay to change gears and go with one that is more realistic for you.
There is much to consider and factor in when approaching sleep training. The key is to prepare in advance and have a plan, to choose what feels right in your gut, and to stick with it long enough for it to work. And remember, there is no right or wrong approach…there are simply ones that are “right” or “wrong” for your family.
*About our author: Erica Desper founded Confident Parenting in 2012 as a certified baby and child sleep coach offering private counseling for families in the greater Philadelphia area. Her sleep-saving approach is offered through a variety of packages, including unlimited text and email support. Erica has supported hundreds of families in and around the Philadelphia area and internationally to improve the quality of their families’ sleep. She is also mom to son, Jaiden who, as an infant, was very good at crying and not very skilled in sleeping. For more information visit her site.