http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-newborn-baby-sleeping-parents-hands-concept-image25972524Sleep Training your baby…that use to sound so strange and foreign to me, until I ended up needing it!  With my first baby I read so many books and wanted the very best for my child, but I was still lost.  In my culture many parents are not strict about bed times with children and do not enforce it.  It is not uncommon for kids to stay up until the parents go to bed.  So with my first I would try to put her to sleep early but it just never worked, she would cry and if she did fall asleep she would wake up in an hour and cry some more!  So I resorted to just letting her stay up until I fell asleep and she would sleep in the crib beside my bed.  She would wake up every 3 hours and cry and I would have to comfort her or give her some milk.  I was exhausted and starting to feel the effects of sleep deprivation.  Later we moved into a bigger place and lost the pieces of her crib so she ended up sleeping in our bed.  When I finally got the crib set up in her own room, I tried to teach her to sleep there…and everything I tried just didn’t work!  I didn’t know what to do, I was frustrated, tiered and confused.  Then I heard that a friend of mine had become a sleep trainer to help families train their little ones sleep through the night.  I really loved the idea of my little girl sleeping through the night, but I was also hesitant.  Like I said before, my culture is very laid back, but close with their children.  If a baby cries you run to the baby and pick them up and comfort them.  It is not uncommon as well to sleep with your children in your bedroom until they are older.  So a part of me loved the idea of sleeping and having sanity, but another part of me was scared that I might in some way hurt the bond with my baby.  I had heard that many people would just let the baby cry it out and then they would learn to sleep on their own.

I really didn’t like that idea at all, it just didn’t go along with my personality type.  So when I talked to my friend Nadine about Sleep training I kept telling her that I did not want to do anything where my baby would have to “cry it out”.  She was very informative and patient and formulated a plan that went along with my preferences.  Since I didn’t want my baby to be left alone crying, the method we did together did take longer, but it was what I needed at the time.  She learned to sleep on her own, and take her naps (which she was not doing) and it was great!  She was almost 2 years old before I discovered Sleep Training and I really wish I would have known about it before.  I saw a big change in her behavior and how she had been so sleep deprived for so long.  Even now I can tell if my kids start acting up, it usually means that they need to rest and sleep.  It’s amazing what sleep can do for our children, we take it for granted sometimes.  With my second I thought I would be able to sleep train him by myself, but it didn’t work!  Again I ended up getting Nadine’s services in Sleep Training because I needed her support and guidance.  Every child is different and what I did with my daughter didn’t work with my son, so it was great having an expert to help along the way.  I am so grateful that my children have a sleep schedule and can get the rest their bodies need.  As a family we are flexible to what things come along in our life, but we try to stick to the basics of what we have learned.  Nadine taught us so many great tricks to help our babies learn to fall asleep and stay asleep! Even though my kids are a little older now, I still love using the Slumber Sound Machine as it blocks out any outside noises that might interrupt sleep.  I thought since Nadine’s services helped me so much I would ask her some common questions you might have and posted it here:

Why did you decide to become a sleep trainer?

What got me interested was dealing with my daughter when she was a baby.  I had lost full control over her sleep and as a result, it felt like our family was falling apart little by little.  I was so exhausted, my entire existence became consumed with trying to get her to fall asleep and to stay asleep.  It had completely taken over our life.  Our daughter had taken over our bedroom, and eventually, my husband had to move out of our bed because it became too crowded and was affecting him severely with being well rested to go to work during the day.  Our family was becoming in crisis and we needed help immediately.  I had read a lot of books, but couldn’t make peace with any of the strategies.  One day, I found an online sleep training service run by a woman who had been in a very similar situation to me once.  She now was a sleep trainer and she literally rescued us!  I was so inspired by what she had done, it resonated with me at the time to look into pursuing this career option to help other families as well.  So I began the journey to becoming a sleep trainer and I’ve loved every minute of it!

Why use a sleep trainer, can’t babies just figure how to sleep on their own?

At the beginning when a baby is between 1-3 months old, parents have different experiences with their babies.  Some find that their baby sleeps beautifully on their own through parts of this time frame, while others go through more struggles.  However, more than often is the case that once the baby becomes stimulated by his/her surroundings…usually by the 2 month age range, that new born bliss time of falling asleep on a dime goes out the window, and now, the baby requires assistance to fall asleep in a non stimulating environment.  

 If you just let a baby get very sleepy by keeping them up wont they just be so tiered and sleep better?

No, quite the contrary!  The longer you leave a baby to remain awake past the sleepy zone period, especially when they start to become over tired, this state rather prevents a baby from falling asleep, thus producing the typical scene of a cranky baby who is clearly exhausted, but just wont sleep.  It’s not that the baby is being stubborn, rather, his/her body wont allow him to fall asleep due to the havoc that over tiredness causes on the system.  It’s a messy scene and one that almost every parent has witnessed.  It’s always best for baby to be put to sleep when they are experiencing gentle signs of tiredness rather than exhaustion.  A well rested baby is a happy and calm baby.  
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What things would be involved in sleep training?

It all depends on the family’s needs and the baby’s needs.  First, I like to do a ‘fly on the wall’ exercise where I get you to show me what a day in the life is like in your home around the baby’s schedule.  So I have you do a full logging for about 48 hours.  I also get you to fill out a detailed intake form so that I get to know all that you know about your baby’s sleep and behaviour, along with any other questions related to sleep issues such as the sleep environment and what kind of schedule your baby is on.  Once I get back the intake form as well as the logging details, I am able to see where the problems are and what is the best solution for your child.  This is a combination of adjustments made in the schedule, sleep environment, as well as how to put your child to sleep.  Sleep training is part of this sometimes, not always.  It can be as simple as learning how to put your child down to sleep and that’s all your child ends up needing with the other adjustments we have made already.  In some cases, we need to do sleep training to help your child’s mind to adjust to a new way of sleeping without mommy helping him/her to sleep through the night.  This can be done in a very gentle format where you are there interacting with your child through the training to various degrees, to more conventional training where the child is given the opportunity to learn to sleep on their own from the start.  There are a variety of sleep training methods I make available to the family.  Sometimes we start with one method, and then we cross over to another at a certain point.  What is always considered is the child’s well being and what will work well for the parents involved in the sleep training.  I am right there by your side ‘virtually’ through the whole process, either online, or telephone.  You are never completely alone.  
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How long does it take to train a baby to sleep?

Depending on the training method, combined with the child’s personality and age, it can vary.  Also, it depends on the parent doing the training.  Sometimes, the child is like a rabbit with how fast they can adjust to change, whereas the parent is the turtle….sometimes it’s the opposite.  The range can take anywhere from 2-3 days to as long as 2-3 weeks.  On average though, the worst is over after about 3-5 days.   Again, it really does depend on the method being used and the cooperation of the parent in the method. 
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Any simple tips parents can do right now to help their situation?

Most definitely!  

1.  Keep your child’s bedroom cool.  Most parents make the mistake of thinking a warm bedroom is the way to go, where in reality, this can rather slow down your child’s progress with falling into a nice deep sleep for the night.  Your child will sleep best with a room temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius, combined with being dressed warmly in either a cool cotton full length P.J. along with either a warm fleece sleep sac, or if they are old enough, you can forget the sleep sac and have them under a warm blanket with just the P.J..  For newborns and infants, either use the sleep sac, or you can have them wear a fuzzy winter P.J. as the only night wear needed and of course, according to being cautious with S.I.D.S, follow guidelines on using blankets after your child passes the critical phase.  
 
2.  Keep your child’s bedroom pitch black if they have not shown any signs of fear of the dark….this works really good for children who are having a lot of sleep problems.  Get a black out material for the windows.  Some children do fine with only 80% dark, while some require 100%.  As the child gets older and gets afraid of the dark, you can look into night lights that shine down to the ground vs up, and place it somewhere hidden to minimize light in the bedroom.  As a rule of thumb, keep the bedroom low in stimulation at bedtime.  Darker the better.  
 
3.  Do not wait for your child to enter into full exhaustion.  Mild signs of tiredness at an early evening time frame mean that your child should be in bed within the hour.  Avoid leaving your child to stay awake far past this point, as then they will be over tired and unable to fall asleep until very late in the evening when their bodies hit a crash zone.  This is very hard on their systems and can create behaviour problems and cognitive delay (whether noticeable or not) later in life as studies have shown.  

Does doing sleep training mean that I am going to let my baby just cry it out?

No, sleep training does not have to mean automatically that we will do the cry it out method.  There are many options to consider before going to this far extreme.  The child’s personality combined with the parent involved might require that we use a gentle method which will work beautifully after a week or two.  Sometimes, it only takes some adjustments in the schedule combined with the sleep environment, and baby is sleeping like a log!  Cry it out is one option which we try to avoid.  However, when and if it is used, I make certain that it’s done in a very loving way where due to the time frame mixed with the sleep environment, it will not go on for a long period of time more than likely.  For many parents who do not know any better, they try cry it out with their baby, but because they aren’t aware of all the factors needed to provide a conducive sleep environment for their child, the child ends up being put through a gruelling process of having to cry for hours before they fall asleep.  Where as if the parent had been led in the right direction with the right tools, cry it out would rather only need maybe 20 mins to an hour max in some cases…….it really all depends on the child.  

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Will I notice a change in my baby’s behaviour once they start being sleep trained? 

Sometimes yes, there might be a change due to the baby going through an adjustment in learning to sleep on their own without being constantly touched throughout the night or upon waking.  This adjustment period is natural and should not be made into a big concern when the sleep training is done correctly and within a couple week period.  
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What age can I start sleep training?

This is a tricky question…….for example, a 2 month old certainly wouldn’t receive the same training that a 4 month old would receive….but you can still help a 2 month old with very light and low key training that does not involve heavy training by any means.  Its more of an introduction to learning to fall asleep on their own that you are introducing to a young infant, but there are no forced methods happening at this age.  By the 4 month mark, the baby’s system has started to completely shift over to where they require a very specific sleep schedule.  Alot of parents notice at around 4 months that all ‘heck’ breaks loose and they have no idea why.  They blame teething…..which might be the case, but more than likely, in general, at the 4 month mark, baby is over tired because now, he/she is not requiring a schedule dependant on their sleep signs during the day, but rather, on their circadian rhythm which now needs an ‘on the clock’ schedule.  Sleep trainers who know their stuff can help you quickly with this little disaster and get you and baby sleeping soundly in no time at all!  If you feel uncomfortable training your child at the 4 month mark, then I wouldn’t suggest waiting much past 6 months, as then it will become harder to help your child as quickly as when they are younger and less set in their ways.  Again, there are gentle forms of sleep training methods that can be applied if its even necessary at all.  Some children simply need the right sleep environment created, combined with the right schedule and they are good to go!  
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Once my child is school age, do I still have to worry about a sleep schedule for them?

Absolutely!  As long as a child is growing and developing, they will always need a sleep schedule.  To help them with brain function and physical development, they are depending on getting a full nights sleep.  After the 5 year old zone, I’d avoid puting your child to bed past 8pm during the school age years before they hit teenager.  Then at that point or the pre-teen point, staying up later is ok, but again, sleep will always be a major part of development and brain function.  
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For more information on getting help right now you can contact Nadine at www.dreambabysleepsolutions.com

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