Are you ready to make some gentle, positive changes to help everyone sleep better? Are you ready to accept some inconvenience for a few weeks? Do you accept that this will not be easy? Sleep coaching is not essential for everyone. If you are happy with the way things are, or cannot face making changes right now, or simply don’t have the energy, then park it, and come back to it if and when you feel the need later on.
However, if you find yourself becoming irritable, miserable, short tempered or depressed then go into this with your eyes open.
Making changes to sleep is hard! Usually, by the time most parents have decided that they want to make a change, they are exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed. They would give anything for a good night’s sleep, or even just 4 solid hours! It would be so good if I could tell you that within a matter of a few days you will have the sleep you need, without any tears at all! Everyone wants a no cry and fast solution.
Because the truth is, in the vast majority of cases, you have to choose between time or tears. If you’ve read anything on my website, you’ll know that I opt for time. Every time! Controlled crying is never a tool in my tool kit, because I simply do not believe in it.
When you decide to implement a change to your child’s current sleeping pattern or routine then there are few scenarios that are quite predictable.
If I have suggested (or you have decided) that your daytime routine needs tweaking, then this may be difficult. If you need to re-organise your naps, or bedtime, then you may have a harder time getting your little one to sleep, at least initially.
You may be more tired, not less tired, initially. Choosing a gentle strategy usually means that you, the parent, take one for the team, so to speak! Your child will be gently supported to go to sleep slightly differently. The logic is that however your child currently falls asleep is probably the way they prefer, or find easiest, or that you find to be the quickest. By definition then, anything else will be less liked, harder and slower. That does not mean it is not working, just that it is different, and change is hard.
Things may seem to get worse before they get better. Often children get unsettled by a change in a familiar routine. Whether it is a new caregiver, a new room at nursery, a new plate for lunch, or a new sleep routine, change is unnerving. Many children will find a slightly different sleep routine hard, no matter how gentle the changes are. Be calm, confident, patient and tolerant of your child during this phase. Being kind but firm is one of the toughest tightrope walks you can do as a parent, but it is the nirvana of parenting and worth aiming for!
You may have to make decisions about your parenting during the daytime, as well as at night. Children expect consistency day and night. Pretty much the only potential problem with attachment/gentle parenting, is that sometimes parents get confused between attachment parenting and permissive parenting. You are not always going to be your child’s best buddy! You and your child will disagree. They will sometimes get mad at you, and you may feel guilty when they cry. But attachment parenting is about attachment, not about absolution from all negative emotions. Emotions are a normal part of life, and it is absolutely normal and appropriate for children to experience a range of emotions – such as sadness, disappointment, anger, confusion, joy and jealousy.
It is not your job to eliminate negative emotion, but to help your child deal with it.
You are likely to experience waves of success and then regression.
Old pattern – getting your child to sleep is either predictable, easy, or quick, although frustrating and exhausting
When you make some changes, however gentle they may be, it is likely to go up and down like this:
Step 1 (usually this is around slowly removing the sleep trigger a tiny bit earlier, while you support your child to go to sleep in another way that is not their favourite way!)
Night 1 – MUCH harder to get baby to sleep
Night 2 – still very hard to get to sleep
Night 3 – often this is the worst (children sometimes ‘test’ to see if you really mean it!)
Night 4 – quite easy to go to sleep
Step 2 (by the way – some children take several more days before they are ready to progress! Do not move on until they are already tolerating the changes)
Night 1 – MUCH harder to get baby to go to sleep
Night 2 – very hard to go to sleep
Night 3 – a bit easier
Step 3 (expect fatigue and frustration to kick in about now – this has been going on a long time, and you can’t see much progress. But you ARE making progress! Honest!)
Night 1 – VERY hard to get to sleep
Night 2 – still some resistance
Night 3 – getting easier…….
and so on! So, you may need to accept that when you progress through the steps it feels like you hit a set-back – but this is because you are changing the rules again. It’s hard for little ones to adjust, and they need more security from you. That’s why it takes longer – they just got used to the ‘old way’ and then it changes again.
So friends, don’t lose heart. Change is HARD! It’s hard for you, and it’s hard for your child, but I like to remind parents that just because something is hard, does not mean it is not right. As long as you are never moving too fast for your child, and staying gentle but firm, you are doing ok.
Stick with it. Be the adult. Remember to keep your sense of perspective and humour, and if you have lost your sense of humour then it’s time to call a friend, or a family member and have a rant or a cry, but hang in there. It will be ok. Be kind to yourself. And good luck.