Sleep Training... one size fits all?

I think not…

… and I would be weary of any book, article, website, blog, sleep coach, etc. that tells you there is one particular method that works for every baby.

As a mother I figured out rather quickly that my two children were very different by nature. Their genders were different (that was rather easy to figure out…), their temperaments were different, their appetite needs were different, their scheduling preferences were different, their stimulation thresholds were different, and yes even their sleep issues were different.

As a sleep coach I witness the amazing differences between babies on a daily basis. Every baby is unique – truly. How someone could think that there is one particular sleep training method that would work for every single baby out there is beyond me. Not only is every baby different, but every parent is different, every family is different, and every circumstance is different.

You have to choose the right sleep training method for you (that’s a big all-encompassing “you” that includes the parents, the baby, the siblings, the house/room layout, the timeline constraints, everyone’s tolerance to change, etc.).

There are literally countless sleep training methods out there – I’m not sure how any sleep-deprived parent is supposed to sort through all of that information and figure out which method is the right one for them.  Let me help you narrow down the field.

A lot goes into my decision making process when selecting a sleep training/self-soothing method for my clients. 

Here are the first three factors I initially evaluate to help me decide which methods might be a good fit:

 

1) Your baby’s age:

There are some methods that are not recommended for children under a certain age – typically about three months, and some methods are not recommended for children until they are over six months old. That is obviously something to pay attention to as some of these methods require the baby to be old enough to cognitively understand what is going on. However, another thing to consider is that the younger your baby is the more quickly they typically learn to self soothe.  When your baby is younger you are able to teach them good sleeping habits from the beginning versus having to break bad habits later on. This means you may not be met with as much resistance to change, which means your baby may learn how to self soothe more quickly. If you are shying away from one of the more “aggressive” approaches due to your fear of massive resistance, this fear may not carry as much weight if your baby is on the younger side.

Note: I do not advocate pushing babies to sleep through the night before they are ready. Most pediatricians recommend waiting until babies are 3-4 months old and/or 15lbs before they are encouraged to sleep for 11-12 hours stretches without night feedings. When doing sleep training with younger babies, the goal should be to regulate the night feedings (so that they are not every 60 minutes all night long!) and to help teach your baby how to self soothe at the beginning of the night so that less parental intervention is needed prior to periods of sleep.

 

2) Your baby’s temperament:

If your baby is easily over stimulated you will want to choose a sleep training method that gives them more space. Some of the more “gentle” approaches recommend you stay in the room with your child while they learn to self soothe. Some of these approaches also suggest that you pat/rub/rock your child.  Here's the thing - if your child is over stimulated by your presence and/or patting and rubbing you will want to steer away from these approaches as it will only create more crying, confusion, and resistance.  

There are some sleep training methods that recommend you pick your baby up, soothe them for a couple minutes, place them back down in the crib, and repeat this cycle until they fall asleep. I have used this method with many clients, and I have seen this work wonders with some babies. However if you have a baby that you feel would be over stimulated by your presence and even further stimulated by being picked up and put back down over and over again, this is not the method for you (or your baby!).

 

3) How soon you need more sleep:

While I will not say that more gentle sleep training approaches ALWAYS take longer to work than more their more aggressive counterparts, I will say that this is typically the case. If your child’s sleep issues are tolerable and you are not a total zombie, a more gentle and slower moving approach may be just fine. However if you are walking through life not knowing if it is day or night - not knowing if it is happy hour or coffee hour - you may want to consider an approach that typically works a little more quickly.

If you are experiencing post partum depression, anxiety, irritability, etc. due to lack of sleep this is also something to factor in when selecting a sleep training method. Often a lack of sleep exacerbates these feelings and emotions. Choosing a method that works more quickly may be imperative.

 

Bottom line:

After you evaluate the initial three factors listed above you should be able to narrow down the field a bit. Like I said, a lot goes into my decision making process when finding the right method for each of my clients, more than these initial three factors. But this should help guide you in the right direction.  There aren't really any wrong answers here… its more about finding the method that is the best fit for you (and that’s that big all-encompassing “you” again…). But remember, the right method for you is not necessarily the right method for your neighbor, friend, or sister. This is a personal decision that you need to make for yourself and for you family based on the factors and circumstances in your life. 

Want some help choosing which method is best for you and your baby? Let’s chat! Shoot me an email and we can get things rolling: amy@mbfcommunity.com