A doctor of chiropractor by training, I found my passion as a sleep consultant. I coach parents with babies from birth to 4 years. Newborn sleep teaching is gentle without tears as you form habits that you can sustain over time. After 4 months of age, sleep consulting is helping parents undo their babies and toddlers learned habits of falling asleep. These often include falling asleep on parents, feeding to sleep, or rocking to sleep. These patterns are usually repeated with night waking and falling asleep for naps.
Timing of Sleep
Analyzing the timing of naps and bedtime is the first simple thing a parent can do to help set their little one up for successful sleep. Most babies up to 6 months can’t stay awake more than 2.5 hours between sleep periods. By 1 year that’s stretched to 4 hours maximum. Keeping them awake too long between periods of sleep makes it harder for a little one to fall asleep and then stay asleep.
A common cause of night waking and 5 am wake ups are a bedtime that’s later than about 7:30 pm. This is related to the “drive to sleep.” This is a biological phenomenon associated with the build up of a protein in your blood that tells your brain when it’s time to sleep.
The Act of Falling Asleep
While the drive to sleep is biological, the way we sleep is a learned habit. Overtime, well intentioned parents have inadvertently taught their little ones to fall asleep on them or while feeding as a way of avoiding tears. Many of my clients are breastfeeding and have kiddos that will only fall asleep at the breast and have to be nursed back to sleep many times in the night.
If you want a baby who can sleep long age appropriate stretches of sleep, they will need to fall asleep at bedtime from awake in the crib. Not drowsy or half asleep. The first time a parent tries this, their child will fuss or cry because this is not what sleep looks like to them and learning something new can be hard. Which we can all attest to.
The amount of tears and protest a child will have to this new way of falling asleep is related to your ability to follow age appropriate timing, your ability to be consistent and your child’s temperament. Some babies older than 4 months are more strong willed than others. Your child might not be who you thought they would be. Your ability to handle the tears might be different than you thought it would be. I’ve had clients who come into parenthood being prepared to be “strict” and “scheduled” and then turn into self described “balls of goo” when they meet their little one. The thought of hearing their baby cry revs up their anxiety and seems unfathomable. That is until they find themselves incredibly exhausted and questioning whether their child is getting enough sleep, and/or if their current way of sleeping is sustainable. Sleep teaching ensues.
Self-talk for teaching your baby to sleep? Yes. There is an old adage that says we don’t sleep teach babies, we sleep teach parents. I advise patients to break the fear/worry cycle with education about sleep timing for babies and the understanding that sleep is a learned behavior. Just as important, I also advise changing the internal dialogue of fear and worry with affirmations, especially during the first few days. I teach people to change the chatter in their head from fear to success, from worry to confidence. Your child, 4 months and older, is capable, you are providing the opportunity for them to learn a life long skill, the ability to relax into sleep.
Affirmations for Baby Sleep
So, what can you say to yourself?
- You are loved, fed, dry, and capable.
- I am giving my baby one of the greatest gifts of all – the ability to put themselves to sleep.
- I choose to think about the positive outcomes of this process.
- My baby can fall asleep quickly and easily.
- My baby can express frustration and still love me.
- I allow myself to let go of the critical thoughts of others around my parenting choices.
- I know what is best for my family.
- I am in charge of the health and well being of my little one. I know what is best.
If you want to make these affirmations 10 times more effective, download the ThinkUp app and record it. in your on voice.
Many more of my affirmations are waiting for you on the ThinkUp app
This blog was written by
Dr. Sarah Mitchell, Sleep Consultant wants you to know you can be loving, attached and well rested.
Mom of 2 sleep taught kiddos
Member of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine