Letting out a big sigh, a new mother decides it’s time to face her baby’s bedtime. Bedtime often requires multiple attempts at putting her son down before he finally sleeps… and in between attempts she’s stuck walking back-and-forth, trying to get him tired, for ages. And that just kicks off the beginning of another night in a string of weeks (or months… ) of really rough sleep. She’s looking for answers for ways to make this easier. But when she asks around and checks different resources, she gets answers that totally contradict each other. Sound familiar?
That’s why sleep consultants are such a big deal—people want information from experts who know sleep science and know what works for real families.
Jenni June—a well-known Certified Sleep Consultant, Lactation Consultant, parenting consultant and mother of four—shared what she considers to be the key to infant sleep. And, it’s not just about putting them down awake from day one and cry-it-out (CIO) sleep training (although CIO has its place).
The biggest key to success with infant and toddler sleep is good sleep hygiene.
If really good sleep hygiene is in place, then a sleep training method (i.e.: cry-it-out) may not ever be necessary. Good sleep hygiene can also help to correct really early wake-ups. These are Jenni June’s trademarked four pillars of sleep hygiene:
- Establish a sleep environment conducive to sleep. The child’s room should be dark, because when it’s dark our body produces the most melatonin (the hormone that makes us feel tired). Jenni suggests a cooler temperature (68-71F) can also help to boost melatonin production. Play some white noise to help drown out sounds around the house. Otherwise, keep the child’s room quiet and free from stimulation.
- Know your baby’s tired cues as opposed to over-tired cues. Your child has natural sleep and awake cycles, and there’s a sweet spot for when you can get them to go to sleep most easily. The perfect sleep window is only a few minutes long though, so watch closely to be sure you don’t miss it! To identify your child’s tired cues, look for slower motions, heavy eyelids, staring off into space, less talking, a small yawn, disinterest in what’s going on nearby, and just becoming super-chill. On the other hand, if you see your child rubbing their eyes, arching their back, squawking, or becoming irritable, roudy or uncooperative, they’ve probably already become over-tired.
- Perform a consistent pre-sleep routine. Having a predictable pre-sleep routine signals to the brain that sleep is about to come. It’s a good idea to really try to limit screen time before bedtime and nap time, as the blue light from the screen awakens your child’s brain. Instead, ensure your child has a good solid food meal before naps and bed (for babies who are on solid foods). Play some soft music during mealtime and the pre-sleep routine to help your child relax. Then, switch to just white noise, when it’s time for sleep.
- Time your child’s sleep with their natural biological rhythms. If your timing is right, that will do a lot of the work for you. On the other hand, if your child is already over-tired, they won’t have the hormones present to fall asleep easily. If you can anticipate the timing of your child’s tired window, and lie them down then (before they become over-tired), you’ll have less resistance because they want to sleep too.
Thank you to Jenni June for taking the time to share these helpful tips. Visit Jenni’s website for more info on her tips and services. If you enjoyed this article, please follow Mama Lovejoy on Facebook or @MamaLovejoy1 on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or Periscope, and share the info with your friends!