Saturday 16 February 2019

Sleep plans for 2019

Let this year be the one where you get the sleep situation in your household sorted. Lucy Wolfe offers her guidelines

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Stock image

There is no better time than the start of the year to begin to work towards great sleep for you and your family. I have put together some suggestions that might help you get started and to ultimately stay with your intentions for glorious sleep in 2019.

It can be hard to get focused when you are already tired from lack of sleep but that cycle can be slowly unravelled by you and for you if you can begin to make some changes.

1 Get Started

Avoid putting off beginning to help your child and your family sleep better. If your baby is at least 6 months of age then it is possible to gently and considerately help them go asleep with greater ease and stay asleep for longer durations too. Although I do feel before 6 months is too early, I don't feel that it is ever too late. You can work on some sleep shaping strategies for under 6 months but focus on sleep learning from 6 months+ to any age.

Each age range comes with its own set of challenges, so don't worry about that. Obviously, don't start when actively teething, but don't defer to teething either as that will happen for at least the first 2 years. Don't start when your child is unwell or if you are due to travel, but definitely don't keep putting it off and remember that small adjustments can make a significant difference to the quality of the sleep that you all get. It is never too late; everyone can be helped to sleep better.

2 Devise a plan

When you are focused on achieving better sleep, approach it as you would any lifestyle change or adjustment. Understand that it will take time so it can help to write out both your end goal and intermediate goals; but more importantly how you intend to get there.

For example, your end goal may be to sleep in their cot, in their own room and through the night if age appropriate. But maybe begin with getting them used to their cot in their own room and reducing the current wakes from six to three. Break your goals down to achievable bite-size portions.

Also, commit to writing how you are going to do this. Write in the start date, the feeding and sleeping routine that you intend to follow and the approach that you will use. Jot down an idea of the bedtime routine process, which night you will start and what parent does what.

Understand that progress will not be linear and it may get worse before it gets better but that is all in the learning; if you continue to journal and write a sleep diary then you will be able to clearly identify the improvements that you are making week on week. I firmly believe that it takes 3-4 weeks+ to establish your sleeping patterns. During this time be kind and compassionate to yourself and to each other and continue to review how far you have come - do this weekly as day by day you may not see the positive enhancements that you are actually creating.

3 Lay a foundation

Before you begin, make an effort for both you and your child to be extra well rested. Do what works - rock, roll, feed, bed-share and build up their and your sleep reserves. The more rested your child can be in advance, the easier the learning process will be and the more open to change they will also be.

Make sure that your child is getting enough outside activity and fresh air. An hour a day is the recommendation, so I suggest 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. This can help get you out of the house and get some headspace but also will help to fill your child's sensory diet and regulate their sleeping patterns.

Create a suitable sleep environment, make sure that it is adequately dark; blackout blinds and a night light are a good solution for night-time and day-time sleep. Make a special effort to avoid hall lights and bathroom lights overnight as this can have a negative impact on your child's sleep.

4 Ask for help

Draft in support if possible. Share the load as you begin to make changes. Take it in turns, if applicable, and be kind to each other as you work through the problems. Ask for help with older siblings (any assistance will only be needed at the very start until you get into your new sleep groove with your soon-to-be great sleeper). Go to bed earlier yourselves. As we accept that parenting is challenging then doing so on fractured sleep is even more difficult. Factor in a few early adult bedtimes, too, in an effort to get more sleep yourself.

5 Don't compare

Avoid making comparisons between your friends and neighbour's baby and yours or even your own older children. All children are different and comparing yours to another will only make you feel like you are a failure and undermine your self-esteem. Just as all babies are different, all parents' perceptions can be too, and what you find draining, another may be tolerant of, but you can slowly work through this and it can and will start to look better. Even if you feel you have tried everything, there will be a solution to the issues that you experience. Regular wake times together with early bedtimes, enough sleep by day, are all necessary components to moving towards better sleep, but so also will be the level of parental input required at bedtime and you may need to assess that as part of your plan. You will get there.

6 Be predictable with your responses

If you are using my stay and support approach, gradually work through the stages to sleep. Make sure that you have a clear response plan for a teething or sick period so that you don't fall back down the crack. If you can, stay on task within the parameters that you have agreed, then post-sickness and teething the better sleep will re-emerge.

Do make a plan for sleep for 2019, take it slowly, be realistic and try to stay positive. Have faith in the plan that you have created and your child's inherent ability to sleep better, deeper and more. Good luck.

Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, H.Dip RM is a Sleep Consultant, Author of the bestselling book 'The Baby Sleep Solution', creator of "Sleep Through", a natural bed and body sleep spray and relaxing rub, and mum of four. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See sleepmatters.ie |087 2683584 or /lucy@sleepmatters.ie

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