You are tired! You’re not getting the sleep you need and neither is your child. You want to sleep train, but wonder; “When is the right time to sleep train?”
5 years ago, I was in this place. I had a 5 month old who was waking every two hours in the night. He was only taking two 30 minute naps in the day. He would only fall asleep nursing and would only stay asleep if I laid next to him and didn’t move an inch. Ugh!
I spent my days and nights working to help him sleep only to not succeed, at least for any lasting time. I would get him to sleep, only for him to wake shortly thereafter. I would then start the cycle of working to help him sleep again. In all of this neither of us were really sleeping and exhausted. I was lost on what to do.
In our case, I had reached my breaking point. We hired a Certified Sleep Consultant. I was frankly too tired to go it alone. She helped us to create the right plan for our son that I was comfortable implementing and supported us through the process. In a week’s time, he was sleeping through the night. In two week’s time, he was taking 4-5 hours worth of naps in the day. We were all getting sleep!
So, you’re tired and you are looking to sleep train, either on your own or with support and a plan from a Certified Sleep Consultant – but when is the right time? Here are a few things to consider:
Have you reached a breaking point?
For every family, a breaking point may look a little bit different. Perhaps no one is sleeping well at night. Maybe a sleep crutch like a pacifier is starting to not work as well as it did before. Or the days are incredibly long without naps and your child is overtired and having a hard time making it through the day. Perhaps you are headed back to work and the sleepless nights won’t cut it any longer.
Whatever the situation may be, when you reach your breaking point, this is a good time to start considering working with your child on sleep.
Are YOU ready?
If your child is not getting the sleep that they need, they are ready! That is where, they are always ready for better sleep (after considering their age). It is never too late. They will be grateful for healthier sleep!
However, when you sleep train, you want to make sure that YOU are ready. Yes, you may have hit your breaking point, but are you prepared to face the challenge of helping your child to sleep a bit better? I’ve been down the road on this and it is not easy in the beginning.
The tough part about sleep training is that it is usually the first time that we need to give our children the space to learn a new skill on their own. It gets easier on us as our kids get older and we as parents have more practice on letting go. This first time is tough, but you can get through it. If you need some support to get through it, that is totally ok. I certainly needed it!
Independent sleep is a new skill that they will eventually need to learn. If they are of the right age (see below), then know and be confident that they are fully capable of achieving this skill. But YOU need to be ready to let go a little (with a great plan) and allow them to learn it. You will then be giving them a gift that will last the rest of their lives.
Is your child ready?
I’ve already said that it is never too late to sleep train, but is it ever too early. The answer is: YES! We want to ensure that your child is developmentally ready for doing what we are asking of them – consolidated sleep in both day and night. I suggest waiting until your child is 4-4.5 months from due date.
After this time, we can be sure that their internal biological clocks have developed. This means that they are ready for a sleep schedule. In fact, their body needs a sleep schedule. We also want to ensure that they have the ability to self soothe. Both of these milestones have been met by 4-4.5 months.
I am often asked: “Can you work on sleep if your child is teething or during a sleep regression?” The answer is: YES! Our young babies go through so much change in such a short time. Teeth keep coming into the 2nd year, if you wait for teething to stop, you’ll be waiting until they are 2-3 to work on sleep. Also, sleep regressions are often tied to new skills. New skills can get in the way of sleep. However, a child who has a healthy relationship with sleep will roll through these sleep regressions more easily than an overtired child.
Is it the right timing?
It is always best if when you choose to start working on sleep you can dedicate two weeks to being very consistent with the new sleep plan. This is so that your child can catch up on sleep and adjust to the new way of being.
This does not mean that you need to take time off of work. It does not mean that your child needs to be home from daycare. Real life is real life. However for two weeks it is best to stick to the sleep schedule and to not make exceptions.
After the two weeks, exceptions to the rules are absolutely possible. In fact, I encourage them – in moderation.
We happen to be in a time right now that allows for a beautiful space to sleep train. There’s a bright side to everything right? We have the blessing of being able to spend more time with our families and focus on what really matters most. The list of what matters most is likely a bit different for all, but I think we can all agree that love and health are included in that list. Sleep is a critical part of your child’s health and a skill that they will appreciate.
You’ve got this!