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Sleep, Baby, Sleep: Tips straight from the sleep pros

Posted by Mom Friends on

After having a baby you may feel like you’re permanently singing so long, farewell to a good night’s sleep.   

But fret not, having babies doesn’t mean you’ll never sleep again. Yes, newborns can wake up often to feed, and teething babies are not usually great sleepers, but sleep consultants are there for parents and babies when times get tough! We chatted with two sleep consultants from Ottawa and Toronto to share some tips and tell us about how they support families. Here are pro tips from certified sleep consultants Kim Davis of Babes & Beyond and Rosalee Lahaie Hera of Baby Sleep Love:

Sleep training; What is it?

“First, if you don’t have an issue with the way that your baby sleeps, neither do I – and neither should anyone else, in my opinion. If nursing, rocking, bouncing etc. to sleep is working for you and your baby, then keep up the great work! I help parents teach their little ones independent sleep skills. In general, I prefer to use terms like “sleep learning” or “teaching independent sleep skills” rather than “sleep training” – only because I find that the term “sleep training” can often get wildly misinterpreted. Teaching independent sleep skills means taking your baby through a very calming, relaxing bedtime routine, laying them down *awake* (this is key) in their own sleep space, and helping them learn how to fall asleep without becoming distressed. Once they have these skills, nighttime wakings are greatly reduced or eliminated, because when your baby happens to stir during the transition between sleep-wake cycles later in the night, they know how to get themselves back to sleep.” RLH

Babies sleeping through the night seems like the dream! At what age is it reasonable to hope my child will sleep through the night?

“Yes…it is amazing when your baby sleeps through the night! This means that the parents will become well rested which is so important for the family unit to function. It really all depends on the child. Many families see their baby start sleeping through the night as early as 4 months of age and other families do not see this until much later. Many things need to be taken into consideration such as the weight of the baby, if there are any sleep associations, what method (if any) of sleep training they are using and if there are any night feedings happening.” KD    

What would you say is the most important factor for babies to sleep through the night consistently?

“There are 3 main keys to helping a baby sleep through the night. The first is a perfectly sleep-conducive environment. After 8 weeks old, babies’ day/night confusion has resolved. At that point, it’s important to start putting them to sleep in a pitch-black room, that is on the cooler side (20-22 degrees Celsius), with continuous white noise running. Make sure you have a white noise machine that can stay on all night long, not turn off after 45 minutes. Position it as far away from your baby as possible, at a ‘medium’ volume level to avoid any issues with hearing or auditory development. The second is following age-appropriate wake windows. At the newborn stage, babies are able to handle only about 45-60 minutes of awake time. This increases month by month by about 15 minutes. Forcing a baby to stay awake longer than they’re developmentally able to only encourages short naps, difficulty settling at bedtime, nighttime wakings, and early morning wakings. Finally, the MOST important factor is to lay baby down awake at bedtime. You can sign up to download free sample sleep schedules for babies 0-12 months old.” RLH

Sleepsacks seem to be all the rage right now. What are your thoughts on sleepsacks?

“I personally love sleepsacks.  I used them for both of my children until they were toddlers.  Safety is the utmost importance for me. Sleepsacks allow parents to keep their baby warm and safe at the same time. They come in different material and sizes so they can be used all year round and up until they are toddlers. The toddler sleepsacks are wonderful as they have holes for the child’s feet which gives them more room during the night and prevents them tripping in the sleepsack when they are learning to stand and walk.” KD

What is your advice to parents who are anxious about babies crying it out to get them to sleep?

First, there is big range of approaches that you can take to improve baby’s sleep and teach them independent sleep skills. There are gentler, more gradual approaches that parents can use if that’s what feels right to them. You don’t have to let your baby cry it out. All of the methods that I use with my clients are gentle, meaning that they include lots of parental presence, comfort and responding. At the same time, if you want to change their sleep habits, then changes will need to be made. That means that we have to keep giving a baby enough of an opportunity to learn these skills, and that may be frustrating for them. To me and the families I work with, the most important thing is that they are not feeling scared or abandoned. Also, remember that not all babies cry through this learning process (yes, these babies do exist!).” RLH

I heard naps are good (for parents and babies)… what would you say to parents to help their babies nap?

“Sleep begets sleep! Naps are so important during the day. When a baby is having great naps, they will in turn have great nights. One of the main goals is to have your baby well rested before bedtime so they are not overtired, which can lead to bedtime battles (at any age). At an early age, you want to keep in mind the baby’s wake time during the day. Many babies cannot tolerate extended periods of wake time and will become overtired. This creates a vicious circle and a sleep debt will build up. Usually babies around 6 months of age (every child is different) can tolerate being awake for a little longer and their naps can start being more on a “schedule”. You can start having their naps fall around 9am and 1pm with a “Bridge Nap” being around dinner time to help with bedtime. Parents should watch for sleep cues which will help them find their baby’s natural sleep window.” KD

I’m thinking of reaching out for sleep consultant services.  What is your advice for finding a good consultant to work with?

“Every child and family are experience different challenges and a good sleep consultant should be able to develop a sleep plan that is specific to your family’s needs and parenting beliefs/philosophies. Having an initial consultation will help determine if your family is need of a sleep consultant and if the person is a good fit for your family. You are putting your trust in this person so take the time to get to know them a bit before rushing into purchasing a sleep package. Do not be afraid to ask around and get referrals from other families. Ask about the consultant’s availability, if they were able to answer their questions along the way and if they needed or were able to make adjustments if things did not go as planned.” KD

“Always reach out and have a conversation with any sleep consultant that you’re considering working with.During your initial call together, you should have enough time to explain your baby’s sleep habits, history, any medical issues or health concerns, their schedule and routines (if any) and your sleep goals for them. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit or if the approach doesn’t align with what you’re comfortable with, then move on. There is a lot of trust involved in this process, so you should feel very very comfortable with this person before moving forward. It is also extremely important to check that your consultant has the training and credentials to support what they will be recommending for your family (for example, ensuring that your consultant is certified).” RLH  

Now that you are enriched with all this great info and resources, we know that one day your baby will sleep like a baby, as they say!



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