If you started TODAY with making sleep changes, you could have an independent sleeper by Independence Day! Say what?!? That’s worth all the fireworks in the world.
If you have a “bad sleeper” on your hands, it isn’t that your little one is less in need of sleep or more prone to waking up, but they have learned to depend on outside assistance (aka a sleep prop) to get to sleep at bedtime and when they wake in the night.
Spoiler alert… No one really ever sleeps through the night, but that doesn’t mean that your 2-year-old needs to be waking YOU up every two hours. You can teach your kid how to sleep better, no matter how old they are!
Prop free sleep
Everybody, regardless of age, wakes up and falls back to sleep multiple times a night between sleep cycles. Any time you ever hear someone say “my baby sleeps through the night”, it’s a lie. Their kid certainly wakes up between sleep cycles, BUT unlike your little one, theirs can get back to sleep without help from mom, the boob, the pacifier, or a ride in the car.
Once your little one has figured out how to get to sleep without assistance from outside sources, he will start stringing those sleep cycles together effortlessly; and that’s the secret to “sleeping through the night”, as most parents understand it.
So, though we can’t teach a child to never wake in the night, but we can teach your kid how to sleep independently.
Let’s start by defining independent sleep — this skill is learned when little ones fall asleep without needing to be fed, rocked, cuddled, or otherwise assisted in getting to sleep. So... If you are ready to drop the props, read on!
Is your little one ready for independent sleep?
The answer, yes! The short answer here is that sleep is a skill which some little one possesses really early and some take a little longer to learn. As a parent, you have the choice (and ability) to support your little one in learning the skill whenever you are ready!
Guess what?! Sleep is no different than #allthethings we teach our kids in that it is a learned skill. It is most definitely a basic need, and oftentimes it is one that they need to be coached into. So go forth and teach your kid how to sleep, mama!
It is never to early to start off on the right foot when it comes to safe and healthy sleep habits. There are even things that parents of newborns can do to set the stage from early on. My biggest piece of advice for any age sleeper is to be sure that eating and sleeping are two separate parts of your day.
Three tips for successful teaching sleep independence
1 -- Know your plan:
It is hard as heck to know what to do in the middle of the night when your babe won't fall back to sleep without being rocked. But it is even harder if you don’t have a plan for how you are going to comfort them without the paci. So -- find yourself a plan that feels comfy!
2 -- Be consistent:
Once you’ve selected a plan (thanks to Pinterest, Google, or your trusty sleep expert), stick with it! It is most fair to your little one and yourself to leave any mixed-messages behind you and focus one consistent plan!
3 -- Get yourself a buddy:
Accountability really does help, especially when the going gets tough. Think about why people with workout buddies are more likely to complete a training program. If there’s a mom in your Stroller Strides class that is about to sleep train, team up! Or get your hubby on board. Or even consider hiring a sleep coach like the Sleeper Teachers®! Your long nights won’t seem quite so bad when you have someone cheering you on... Pinky promise!
What if my little one can’t learn sleep independence?
If you are more than 1 week into your “sleep teaching” technique and not seeing results, I suggest finding a different plan. You don’t want to keep trying something if you aren’t seeing results. Since we live in a time of information overload, it is pretty easy to find a plan on Google and not know if it is the right one for you.
So, if you are more than 7 nights in and not seeing significant success (cutting of night wakings, dropping of night feeds, decreased time it takes to fall asleep), reach out to a sleep expert via blog, book, or phone call, and get yourself some help!
Signs of success for sleep independence
You will know your little one is picking up the skill when:*Sleep cycles are being connected and naps are longer than 40 (or so) minutes!
*Bedtime protest is 15 minutes or less and the baby is able to fall asleep from awake!
*Your little one is falling back to sleep in the middle of the night without intervention from you.
*Night feeds start to drop without having to pull them for babies over 6 months and/or 15 pounds.
*Baby is happy upon waking up and can sustain their entire awake period happy content!
*Signs of overtiredness are decreasing during the day.
Once a few of these fall into place, celebrate because you are well on your way, mama!
Cheers to freedoms that we have, and don’t fret too much about keeping everyone up too late for fireworks... There is always tomorrow to get back on track!
Brittney Stefanic is a certified whole-family certified sleep consultant and founder of Sleeper Teachers®. She gets that when you are at the end of your rope with sleep struggles, you are ready for a change as soon as possible! As an educator, she believes in the power of teaching and loves to support families in meeting their sleep goals through her customized sleep plans. You can follow the teachers on Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @sleeperteachers for access to free sleep tips and tricks, and other opportunities for sleep Q&A sessions.