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6 secrets I’ve learned as a baby sleep consultant

Here's what *actually* works for most families.

secrets of a baby sleep consultant

Have you ever stopped to think about what the definition of sleep training really is?

Unfortunately, several incorrect sleep training stereotypes exist—from shutting the door on a newborn 8-week-old baby for 12 hours, to eliminating all night time feedings, to surrendering your family values to a sleep trainer who stays overnight at your home for several weeks—we've heard it all.

With all the different parenting philosophies and advice, it's easy to get lost in a whirlwind of information. No matter what sleep preferences you believe in for your baby, read on to learn what sleep training really is, and what it doesn't have to be.

Here's what I've learned about what sleep training really means, and what actually works for most families.


1. 'Sleeping through the night' is a misnomer

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"Sleeping through the night" is the single biggest misnomer in the realm of sleep training. In reality, no human goes to sleep and stays asleep all night. Babies and adults alike usually wake up between 3-6 times each night!

When a person (baby or adult) is an independent sleeper, that means they are able to put themselves to sleep from these normal nocturnal arousals. However, a child will only know how to put themselves back to sleep throughout the night if they are able to fall asleep 100% on their own for all naps and at bedtime.

2. Babies may still need nighttime feedings

Sleep training does not necessarily equate to baby sleeping through the night without any nighttime feedings—and sleep training certainly does not mean elimination of nighttime feedings if baby is hungry.

Regardless of the information learned from countless baby sleep books, fellow parents and strangers at the grocery store, the fact remains: A child's parent and pediatrician are most equipped to decide whether or not that child still needs a nighttime feeding(s).

And parents know their baby best. If a baby is waking in the middle of the night due to hunger, a feeding should be given. For the overwhelming majority of babies over the age of 4 months, more than 1-2 nighttime feedings are not necessary. If your child is a healthy weight and their pediatrician has okayed fewer or no nighttime feedings, parents can rest assured that most or all of baby's nighttime wake ups are not directly due to being woken up by hunger.

Finally, if a child is truly waking up due to hunger, then they should feed and fall immediately back to sleep, putting themself to sleep through the rest of the night with relative ease.

If a child is still waking repeatedly at night, it is likely that few or none of the feedings are due to hunger and are instead due to the fact that baby is relying on the feeding to be put back to sleep.

3. Sleep consultants don't normally invade your home all night long

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Another common sleep training myth is that hiring a sleep consultant means the consultant stays overnight in your home and gets paid every hour through the night to work their so-called magic, and teach your baby to sleep through the night. This definitely does not have to be the case.

The vast majority of sleep consultants have one in-person or video conference consultation, usually in the light of day, followed by turning back a personalized plan and being available for follow-up support. A good consultant can gather all the information they need about your family from whichever initial questionnaire they have you fill out, combined with the hour long consultation.

The best consultants are available for heavy follow-up support, especially via text and email, so that they can answer questions, spot issues and tweak the plan if needed.

4. Sleep training doesn't mean crying it out all night

The biggest elephant in the room when we talk about sleep training is crying it out, or the "CIO" method.

No parent wants to hear their baby cry, especially with all the contradicting and often misleading messages regarding the potential harm it may cause for baby.

In my extensive experience working with babies, protesting during sleep training is usually because baby is frustrated they aren't getting help to fall asleep. In most cases of sleep training for infants and toddlers, some form of checking in and comforting baby during the falling asleep process is possible.

During sleep training, parents usually commit to not physically facilitating their child to fall asleep, but visits and comfort are almost always okay.

Remember that when a baby is given the necessary space to learn what it feels like to take control over their body and allow themself to fall asleep, they will eventually (and usually quickly) learn how to fall asleep on their own.

5. Newborns cannot follow rigid sleep demands

In most cases, it is not advisable to consider sleep training a baby younger than 16 weeks of age.

Sleep training a baby between 4 to 6 months usually yields the fastest results with the least amount of overall crying, but it really is never too late, nor is there any age above 16 weeks in which it is inappropriate, to sleep train a baby.

The reason we avoid sleep training newborns is because newborns are not always cognitively capable of falling asleep without assistance. Even in cases where a very young infant is able to fall asleep unassisted, they are usually not cognitively able to sustain a regular sleep schedule with regular naps. Meaning, even if a 2-month-old can fall asleep without help, they are not usually capable of abiding by the wake times or nap lengths necessary in order to successfully sleep train.

6. Good sleep routines are not about harsh rules

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A sleep consultant's main role is to guide parents in how to help their child learn to fall asleep without assistance.

If techniques or advice recommended by a sleep consultant make mom or dad feel uncomfortable, the sleep consultant should be prepared to make adjustments according to what works best for the family.

In fact, a good sleep consultant should tell you in significant detail exactly what their sleep program is like before they allow you to hire them. Even when I have clients reach out to hire me on the spot, I always call and speak with them first, outlining my methods and going over what they can expect, so that they go into the process with eyes wide open.

If a parent is not comfortable with a certain consultant's style, they should keep searching until they find someone whose techniques they feel comfortable with and with whom they feel they can develop a good rapport.

No matter how you slice it, sleep training comes down to one thing: helping your child learn to fall asleep wholly unassisted.

That means going down with their eyes wide open, and falling completely asleep without the help of a parent, caretaker, or other prop such as a swaddle, pacifier or moving car.

Sleep training may take dedication and persistence, but the benefits of having a baby who knows how to fall asleep on his own at bedtime and nap times, and fall back asleep when awoken, is the secret ingredient, and the correct definition of sleep training.

With the proper sleep training methods, the phrase "sleep like a baby" takes on a whole new meaning! Zzz's...

From the Shop


True

These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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