Experts make their living by helping parents get their babies into a healthy sleep routine with custom plans, phone calls and overnight stays. We asked four seasoned coaches to pull back the sheets on their snooze-inducing wisdom.
Create a united front
‘Often it’s the dad who wants the mum to stop feeding the baby to sleep, while the mum feels in her gut that the baby still needs night-time feeds,’ says Kim West, author of Good Night, Sleep Tight. ‘I’ve also had scenarios where Mum wants to get on a better schedule but Dad really can’t take the crying,’ says Kim. Parents need to get on the same page – put some time aside to discuss a plan you can both support.
Don't respond too quickly
Your baby’s sounds might just mean she’s mildly frustrated or settling in her sleep – and checking on her can make the problem worse, especially if she wasn't awake to begin with. ‘After the baby turns four months old, we teach parents to take a breath before deciding whether to go in,’ says Jennifer Waldburger, co-founder of Sleepy Planet, a sleep-coaching service, and the co-author of The Sleepeasy Solution. If your baby is crying out because she is in pain or true discomfort, you’ll know by her loud wail, which will ramp up instead of quieting down.
What worked for another baby might not help yours. ‘For every child I work with, I take into account her temperament, the parents’ personalities, and their lifestyle,’ says Brooke Nalle, founder of Sleepy on Hudson, a sleep-coaching service. ‘I may coach the parents to stay in the room while soothing their child back down, because some babies need to have a parent there. We work on gradually spacing out the soothing until the baby learns to do it on her own.’
With other bubs, Brooke might have the parent leave the room after saying goodnight. 'Sometimes having a parent there is the worst thing you can do, because it overstimulates the child.'
Start a bedtime routine
Hold off on sleep training until baby is three months or older, sleep experts advise, but create a healthy bedtime routine and naptime rituals from day one. ‘Dim the lights 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime to help bring your baby’s cortisol levels down,’ advises sleep coach Ingrid Prueher. Then give your baby a bath and her last feed of the day, followed by a bedtime story and a song. Do this consistently every night, and it will be easier for you to sleep train your baby if the time comes, Ingrid says.