The subject of sleep can often feel undefined or opinionated, and sleep certainly varies by individual. These regular rest patterns change as we develop and age throughout our lifetime. For children, sleep is an undoubtedly important aspect for both mental and physical developments. The earliest years in our lifetimes are the most turbulent in terms of sleep changes, durations, and needs. Scroll down to learn more about sleep needs by age….
Kids Sleeping Tips
You have followed all the steps, and maybe done the Shuffle for a week here and there. You have a baby who sleeps well. Then it happens. The dreaded sleep regression. Common at many ages and for many reasons, baby sleep regression is the single most popular baby sleep topic at Sleeplady.com. We have put together a handy list of articles with great advice. If you’re struggling with a sudden setback, scroll through for an article that is age-appropriate now. If things are going well, bookmark this page for later — there’s bound to be a moment in the future where you need a little extra help getting back your restful nights….
My husband Ken and I have often shared parenting stories back and forth with our friends, because what parent honestly has it all figured out? What parent can’t take some comfort in hearing another parent’s horror story, and even better—championing a parenting success! Our girls are 7 and 9-years-old now, but we still refer to their potty training as “the dark months”. And their crib-to-bed transition is still our favorite success to date! So how did we transition from crib to bed without any tears?
Healthy Sleep really is a fascinating thing. It has the ability to help the body grow, heal, rejuvenate, and reset. When I was pregnant with my first child, I started to think more about sleep and its effects on our bodies. I, myself, have always been a night owl and never really required more than 5 – 6 hours of sleep per night. On the other hand, my husband requires at least 8 hours of sleep per night to function well. Being a pregnant mama, I was very concerned about my baby’s growth and development and the possibility of disruption if he/she didn’t get the required amount of sleep. …
If you are a parent who strongly agrees with nighttime parenting or sleep training, then this proposal is for you.
As I was driving home from my son’s most recent doctors visit, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions after his pediatrician told me that I should consider sleep training my baby. At first, my thoughts revolved around the notion that sleep training contradicts my beliefs on nighttime parenting; but after much reflection, I found that notion to be false. Lets define the purpose of nighttime parenting and sleep training….
Sometimes it seems like babies and young children grow up in the blink of an eye. They leave behind one skill and gain another as fast as you can get out your camera. While they are growing, their sleep needs change too. Your three naps-per-day infant grows quickly into a one-nap toddler, and gradually shifts towards getting all of their sleep overnight. It can be hard to keep up with their sleep schedules when they are always changing, so we have put together a handy list of sample schedules for each age group. These are the same schedules you can find in your pediatrician’s office, courtesy of The Sleep Lady. Scroll down for sample sleep schedule broken down by age….
Just a caveat before we start: If you started sleep training at 4-months and it worked well without a lot of stress, this article isn’t for you. For some families, with predictable, mellow babies or family needs that require big chunks of sleep right now, sleep coaching at 4-months may be a good option.
However, some parents may feel pressured by sleep advice books who say to start sleep training at 4 months, or even now  (some say even earlier ) or experts who warn that if you don’t do it now, it will be much harder — maybe even impossible — later. Other parents may have tried to follow the advice from books and found that there was a lot more crying and not much progress on lengthening sleep.
This article is written by Macall Gordon for The Sleep Lady
For more on this topic, check out the full Sleep collection
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There are reasons why sleep training at 4 months can be difficult. Or, in some cases, unwise at this age. Further, the push to start sleep training early is actually not borne out by existing research on sleep. While it’s true that if you do nothing at all, research shows that sleep problems will persist , there is no research that clearly demonstrates the need to start this early or whether it’s problematic to wait until 6-months.
Why is sleep training so difficult at 4-months?
Brain Growth & Development.
The biggest culprit is The 4-Month Regression — a massive jump in both physical growth and brain development that can result in feeding disruptions or bursts, more fussy behavior, and more disrupted sleep. In fact, sleep will be a little more disrupted around all of the big developmental milestones that happen into the second year. For many babies, sleep isn’t always something that stays fixed. It can be full of ups and downs as little ones mature across those first two years.
Feeding at this age can also still be quite unpredictable and varies a lot between individual babies. Frequent feeding at this age can be normal, or a sign of an underlying physiological issue like silent reflux or an organic feeding difficulty . Further, babies’ tummies at this age are small. There are limits to how long they can go without a feed. There are limits for moms, too. In fact, some research showed that feed spacing was related to a higher rate of lactation problems and stopping breastfeeding . At this age, milk is a potent sleep-inducer. Attempting to lengthen the feeding interval past what the baby can tolerate can result in a lot more crying. Ruling out feeding or reflux issues with a healthcare provider or lactation consultant can give parents good guidelines for how to manage bedtime and nighttime feeds and awakenings.
Silent Reflux or Milk Allergy.
Parents we see often say, “My baby doesn’t have reflux because they’re not spitting up.” If your baby cries a lot, doesn’t tolerate lying on their back, arches during feeding, or doesn’t seem to sleep well anywhere, you may want to investigate whether your baby has reflux that doesn’t result in spitting up. A baby in pain will not be able to sleep well and may need a lot of parental help with soothing if they’re not feeling well.
Basic self-soothing abilities are still forming.
Parents are frequently told that if you leave the baby to cry, they will learn to stop signaling for help and will instead, self-soothe and return to sleep. “Self-soothing” is not a skill that infants are simply born with. Their ability to calm themselves down when they are distressed develops gradually over the first two or three years.
Between 4- and 6-months, the brain undergoes a massive burst of synapse growth as important skills and abilities are established . Self-soothing is not merely a matter of stopping crying and going to sleep, but involves a complex system of skills including reorienting, distraction, soothing, and finally, sleep, and requires help from specific parts of the brain that may not be “online” at this stage.
Four-month-olds only have a few tools in their “self-soothing” toolbox. These very basic abilities help them tolerate only very small amounts of distress before they need help calming down . At this stage, they may be able to turn their head to view their hands or turn away from what’s bothering them, but they don’t have the skills — or the brain structures — necessary to calm down from more intense distress. This may be why you find that trying to do sleep training at 4-months results in more crying and less sleep training success.
The skills that babies need to manage sleep and crying are more firmly in place after the 6-month mark and they will continue to expand across the first few years.
There is no research that clearly demonstrates the need to start sleep training early, or whether it’s problematic to wait until 6-months.
What do we know about sleep training before 6 months?
There is virtually no research on sleep training that involves crying at 4-months. The vast majority of research on infant sleep training has been focused on toddlers and preschoolers . Even staunch cry-it-out researchers do not study infants under 6-months .
Existing research on behavioral approaches to improve sleep in younger infants, typically focuses on prevention of sleep problems which may include helping parents understand cues and appropriate sleep hygiene, and only very limited practice slowing down their response to bedtime or nighttime fussing — as little as 1-2 minutes . To date, only one study has used very limited crying with a group of 4-month-olds . In this study, infants still woke during the night at the end of the intervention.
It may result in frustration and poorer parental confidence.
Jumping to sleep training without looking at development, feeding, temperament, etc. may set parents up for negative experiences. Toughing it out with a lot of crying when the baby may be developmentally unready or has a feeding issue can result in a lot of parental guilt and anxiety . Parents may wonder why the approach isn’t working like the book said it would. It doesn’t help that a lot of advice can make it sound like continued night-waking is parents’ fault. Parents may end up feeling that the intervention isn’t working because they aren’t doing it right. Instead, it may just be too soon to begin. It’s okay to stop and try again after 6-months.
There are many gradual ways to work on sleep. It’s important to choose something that’s developmentally appropriate and works with your own values and goals.
The parenting road is long. There is no scientific reason to rush to start sleep training. Research suggests there are lots of good reasons to wait until they’re closer to six-months.
What you can do at 4 months
Focus on getting good daytime feeds.
Try to nurse/feed in a quiet, darkened room so that your baby can focus on feeding, and not all the interesting things that he/she can now see so much more clearly because of development in the visual portion of the brain. A check-in with a lactation consultant if your baby is very fussy can be a good idea to help with any underlying feeding issues.
Get daytime naps in any way that works.
Babies under 6-months can only stay awake about 90-minutes at a time. Good daytime naps will help encourage good nighttime sleep. Holding or feeding to sleep or using motion (swing, carrier, etc.) is okay for now. It won’t be a lasting “bad habit.” You can fade out of all of these ways to get your baby to sleep and transition to a firm surface once your baby has passed through the 4-month sleep regression and is closer to 6-months.
Practice “drowsy but awake” at bedtime, but don’t expect results.
You can practice putting your baby down to sleep before they’re totally out and see if you can soothe them the rest of the way. If it doesn’t work well, don’t worry about it and just try again another time. Just practicing this skill will help once you start coaching in earnest.
If your particular situation requires that you to work on sleep now, go slowly until the regression is over.
Try a gradual approach and carefully monitor how much and how intensely your baby cries. There are gradual options for this age. Consider contacting a Gentle Sleep Coach to give you support and help problem-solve your options.
Once your baby is older than 6-months and if they’re still waking more than you’d like, you can make changes knowing that your little one is more ready and able to learn to manage their sleep.
For more on this topic, check out the full Sleep collection
This article was written by Macall Gordon, a Gentle Sleep Coach, for The Sleep Lady
Macall Gordon has a B.S. in Human Biology from Stanford University and a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology from Antioch University Seattle. Her graduate training included infant observation, attachment, emotional regulation, child development, and family systems. She has also conducted and presented research examining the research underpinning existing infant sleep interventions at child development and infant mental health conferences around the world. Her other research has examined current sleep advice and its impact on parenting experiences with managing their baby’s sleep. Macall is an Adjunct Faculty at Antioch University, Seattle, teaching research in the graduate program in Applied Psychology, Counseling & Family Therapy. She is also a WA State Certified Counselor (#CL60604117) approved by Washington State to work with parents and families.
Featured Contributor: Kim West, LCSW-C The Sleep Lady
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years. She is now the world’s foremost expert on child behavioral sleep and on a mission to help 1,000,000 families find sleep by 2020. With trained Gentle Sleep Coaches® (19 countries worldwide), free articles and guides, e-courses, and the bestselling book Good Night, Sleep Tight — tens of thousands of families from all over the world have found sleep again with The Sleep Lady’s gentle, proven sleep methods.
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 (FOOTNOTE ABOUT SLEEP PROBLEMS PERSISTING)
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Traveling is one of the best ways to bring a family closer. Not to mention its ability to widen your and your children’s perspective of the world around you. There is no denying that kids can be a handful at bedtime. However, a new environment and the excitement of the trip may cause your kids to feel even more restless than usual. Here are ten easy tips on how to help them sleep during the trip….