Today I'm going to give you THE most important ingredient in baby sleep training success. It's the thing that gets the results and imprints the behaviour.
And that ingredient is ... CONSISTENCY.
It's like any new hobby or diet or exercise regime we may take up, it can have novelty factor to start with. Sleep training is exactly that, a novelty to start with and then we hit our stride and we go, "Yes i can do this. It's really easy, mind over matter. What was I worrying about?"
Then we hit day 3/4 or day 5 if you have a toddler with a big entrenched sleep problem and it hits the skids. It throws us and we never saw it coming. We are totally blindsided.
We need to look at the process of change and how that makes a baby feel. I’d like you to think about how change makes you feel as an adult. It will help you understand the changes in your baby’s world so much better.
Most of you will feel uncomfortable with change. That’s why you live in the same house, keep the same job, go on holiday to the same places etc. Change makes some of you feel vulnerable, scared and a little stressed. There are active thrill seekers who thrive off stressful events and changes but they are in the minority. Babies belong to the group of people who dislike change. Routines create security by decreasing cortisol the stress hormone. Once cortisol decreases then the feel good hormones, the endorphins start to rise.
That is exactly relatable to any big life change of which sleep training is the same to a baby. Babies resist change because it feels unsafe, new and not what they usually get. Of course, they’re not going to welcome it. Babies don’t know the benefits of self-settling and re-settling and how good sleep is for their overworked little brains which are navigating the developmental processes.
It follows a typical patternDay 1 they protest a lot.
The first time you implement the change will be the loudest cry you’ve probably ever heard. As the day and night proceed it will lessen as long as you are persistent and consistent.
Day 2 can be an easier one as baby has decided that it’s OK they can do this.
Then day 3 and 4 come along and there is often escalation of behaviour and by that I mean loud crying. That’s when most parents decide that sleep training isn’t working. In fact, it’s actually got worse! I’ve heard this said so many times. Then you decide to try another method, stick to it and again you reach day 3 or 4 and escalation occurs again. Then you may decide that sleep training really is most definitely not for you or your baby. It just isn’t their thing.
I have a feeling though that if you knew this, that you’d have stuck with it. Knowing there is a science behind sleep training and it follows a typical pattern helps you, the parent see it through. Once I explain the science and reasons behind the escalation behaviours most parents decide they can do it. It stands to reason that if you see something getting worse rather than better that you’d discontinue it. This is where sleep training is different. It’s based on behavioural psychology. So by thinking about how you, the parent has coped with and viewed change in your own life, you can directly relate to what is happening for your baby and how your baby is feeling.
Babies will escalate if they’re not getting what they want and that is what they are used to. I liken it to being used to the five star concierge and they have gone on holiday and been replaced with the three star concierge. Of course they’re not going to be happy. Would you at 6 months old be happy with being offered water or a brief cuddle in exchange for six to seven breast feeds a night and fed and cuddled to sleep? Exactly, no you wouldn’t. So now you can see why babies escalate behaviours and cry and protest a lot when you take their night feeds away and only give a brief cuddle.
So by being consistent with your sleep training method and being persistent - not giving in - within seven to 10 days most babies will have amazing sleep habits. Toddlers can take a little longer as their behaviour has been entrenched for much longer.
I find once parents start seeing results it gives you the strength to carry on. It's like weight loss, the pounds come off and reinforce your behaviour to continue. However, gain weight and you're likely to have a weak resolve and have a cheat eat!
Feeling supported is key to seeing sleep training through. This is why I hold your hand through the process with regular, phone calls, text messages and emails. I used to be a labour ward midwife where I'd coach mums through labour. This is sleep coaching, similar but different! The rewards of a sleep through feel as good to me as bringing new life into the world. I'm sure the parents out there would agree.
And CONSISTENCY is king.