Common Questions about Teaching a Child to Sleep

Posted by & filed under Sleep Coaching.

What type of children need sleep coaching?
Unfortunately, not all children are naturally good sleepers. Approximately one in four children under the age of five has sleep problems. Although medical conditions can cause issues, challenges can also be behavioral. Some temperaments are more prone to sleep troubles. For example, it’s common for alert children (those who reach developmental milestones on the earlier side) to encounter more sleep hurdles.

Why is it important to teach a child to sleep?
Sleep is a life skill. Just as each of us has our own unique way to unwind and fall asleep (reading a book, watching TV, taking a bath, meditating), our children need to learn what relaxes them enough to fall asleep (playing with a stuffed animal, singing, sucking fingers).

How old should a baby be before I can start sleep coaching?
For approximately the first four months of the life, a baby needs us to fall asleep. At this young age, it’s totally fine to nurse, rock, hold, etc. a baby to sleep. In fact, most babies don’t fully develop the ability to self soothe until about six months of age. Self-regulation is one of the most important aspects of sleep coaching. Until that time, you can feel confident that you will not be creating any bad habits.

What’s the best way to sleep coach my child?
The best way to coach a child to sleep is the way that fits with your parenting style and unique family dynamic. Perhaps, the most common approach is the cry-it-out (or variations of this) method. However, there are other options. Fading (doing less and less over a period of time) techniques can be very effective for families who want to offer their little ones more support. Sleep coaching does not mean that you have to give up breastfeeding or room sharing. Do your research to devise a plan that works for you.

What would cause my child (who previously was sleeping well) to wake up more frequently? Even the best sleepers may go through bouts of minor sleep adjustments. Developmental milestones, tweaks to routine (consolidating naps, switching to a big bed, travel) and life changes (birth of a sibling, start of preschool) can temporarily disrupt sleep for some kids.

Can I sleep coach my toddler or preschooler to sleep?
Although it’s harder to teach a preschooler than a baby,
because it will take longer to break ingrained habits, it’s certainly not too late. It requires some more discipline (in a warm and cozy way) as they are becoming more physical and verbal and are testing limits. Then, there is also potty training, nightmares and a switch to big kid beds that can complicate the situation. However, with firm (and loving) boundaries and extreme consistency, you can successfully teach your child to sleep.

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