Before using a sleep intervention, try to wait until your baby is least 2-3 weeks past the onset of any indication that he has entered the four month developmental stage. Of course it is also fine to wait longer. Most of the research supports sleep coaching babies after 6 months of age. If waiting is not an option, starting off with the sleep basics for a week or more can help you get improvements in the short term and try to take baby steps until your child is at least 18 weeks of age. This will help the sleep coaching to be a gentler process for both baby and you.
Step 1: Before you begin sleep coaching:
- Check with your Health Care Professional to determine:
- If sleep coaching is appropriate
- If there are any underlying medical concerns
- How many night feedings she feels your baby needs (remember your opinion counts too)
- Determine if your baby is developmentally ready for sleep coaching at this time. Even if everyone tells you that this is a good time to teach your baby to sleep better, it is important to determine if your child is developmentally ready. Babies who are sleep coached too early will take much longer to learn the skills and they are more likely to cry longer and harder without showing signs of self-soothing. It is always better for baby and a gentler process if you wait until he is developmentally capable of learning self-soothing skills.
- Consider your baby’s temperament. Understanding your child’s temperament will help you choose a sleep coaching technique that is better suited to your child and may give you an idea of how to implement your plan.
Step 2: Use the following factors to determine if your baby is ready for sleep coaching:
- Does your baby take a long time to get used to changes? (may need to take gradual steps)
- Is your baby very sensitive or clingy? (Baby may need help feeling confident at bedtime and comfortable with crib and room first)
- Is your baby extra alert, social or curious? Does your baby show intense reactions? Is he highly distractible when nursing or feeding? (may not do well with a face to face technique, may need extra help to quiet his busy mind)
- Is your child fairly easy going? (will likely do well with any technique)
- Is your baby very active? (may be very wiggly and futz about in the crib more before falling asleep. May need more of a wind down time before bed. May be easier to put down asleep or very drowsy for younger babies)
- Is your baby slow to warm up to new situations or is he clingy or pulls back when faced with new people or situations. (May need longer bedtime routine or last steps in his room to give him time to get used to the idea of falling asleep)
- Is he very persistent and remain focused on a task or learning a new skill? (You may see that he continues to practice new skills such as rolling, crawling or sitting at night, causing frequent night disturbances. Offering lots of opportunity to practice in the daytime will help)
- Do changes cause your baby to get upset, clingy or protest? (May need to be nursed or comforted for a long time before he can settle at night and have a calming and predictble bedtime routine. May cry when he wakes if his environment or location has changed)
- Is your baby very sensitive to sounds, textures, lights as well as your mood? (More sensitive babies may have more disturbed sleep when teething. You will need to read her cues to determine what makes things better and what worse. Environment must be just right in order to fall asleep and stay asleep. Make sure you calm yourself before bedtime so you can download that calm into your baby. She will pick up on your relaxed and positive attitude and get the message from you that it is safe to sleep)
Step 3: Choose a Sleep Coaching Method:
The type of sleep coaching method you choose depends on a number of factors: The age of your baby, your baby’s temperament, and your parenting style. Click here for Sleep Coaching Techniques for 5 Month Olds