Never Wake a Sleeping Baby!...???

There are pieces of advice that all of us parents have heard at one time or another after we have babies. 'Never wake a sleeping baby' is probably right up there with 'keep them up longer and they'll stay asleep longer' and other similar gems of sleep wisdom. While the 'never wake a sleeping baby advice' is quite harmless compared to some of the other 'helpful' advice out there, it is still not the whole truth. In this post, I will debunk this rumor and look at the times that it is absolutely a good idea to wake that sleeping baby.

Wake your sleeping baby if....they are a newborn.

Day/night confusion occurs often with newborn babies. We know that light (artificial or natural) helps to set our body clocks, but in the womb, baby is exposed to very little light. Also, your baby is more prone to being active when you are resting (i.e. at night) and sleeping while you are moving (i.e. during the day) as the rocking motion of you going on with your day-to-day life lulls your unborn child to sleep. With these two factors at work, children will often be born a bit confused about when they should be awake more frequently and when they should be sleeping longer stretches. So, with all newborn children, I would recommend waking them every 3 hours during the day for a feeding. There is no need to keep them awake after the feed if they fall back asleep, but this helps to a) make sure they are taking in enough calories during the day to sleep longer at night and b) exposes them to light during the day to help re-set their body clock.

Wake your sleeping baby if... too much daysleep = not enough nightsleep.

Naps are very important for all children. Getting adequate rest during the day is crucial to a child's physical and mental development. However, nightsleep is far superior to daysleep and should be protected at all costs. If you think your child may be sleeping excessively during the day which in turn is leading to lower than average nightsleep (i.e. much lower than 11 hours for most children) then you may want to look at capping naps during the day. What would 'excessive daysleep' look like?

3 months and under: any single nap longer than 3 hours
4 months: any single nap longer than 2.5 hours and/or more than 4.5 hours of total daysleep
5 months: any single nap longer than 2 hours and/or more than 4 hours of total daysleep
6 months: any single nap longer than 2 hours and/or more than 3.5 hours of total daysleep
7/8 months: any single nap longer than 2 hours and/or more than 3.25 hours of total daysleep
9-13 months: any single nap longer than 2 hours and/or more than 3 hours of total daysleep
13+ months: more than 3 hours of total daysleep

Some babies have higher sleep needs than others so don't look at capping daysleep unless you are noticing a direct effect on nightsleep.

Wake your sleeping baby if... you are holding off a nap transition.

Nap transitions can be a really stressful time in a baby's (and your!) life. They often lead to early bedtimes, early wake-ups, and overtiredness is almost always inevitable. One way that we can make sure that these nap transitions are less taxing is if we are holding it off for as long as we can. Nap transitions are something that we never want to rush into. Dropping naps before a child is truly ready can be disastrous for both day and nightsleep. One of the easiest ways we can hold off a nap transition is by waking baby in the morning and/or from naps in order to keep the last nap for as long as we can. I would recommend trying to keep 3 naps until as close to 8 months (adjusted) as possible and 2 naps until as close to 18 months (adjusted) as possible.
Let's take a 7 month old, for example. We may have to start waking our 7 month old up at 7:00am to ensure we can fit in 3 naps before 5:00pm. We might also have to start waking this baby from their 2nd nap at 2:00pm to ensure we can fit in a 3rd nap from 4:30-5:00pm.
For a 17 month old, we might have to start waking this child at 7:00am as well, and then waking from the first nap after an hour to ensure we can fit in a 2nd nap from 3:00-4:00pm. Holding off these nap transitions helps to avoid a cycle of overtiredness and promotes a smoother transition.

Wake your sleeping baby if... the last nap is running too late.

As I mentioned above, protecting nightsleep at all costs is very important as allowing baby the opportunity to clock 11-12 hours of nightsleep (excluding time awake for nightfeeds) helps ensure your child is well-rested. To protect that nightsleep, in addition to making sure that naps aren't excessive, we want to avoid baby napping too late in the day. When a nap runs too late in the day, it encroaches on nightsleep territory. This can cause a too-late bedtime (resulting in insufficient nightsleep), nightwakings, sleep-cries, and potentially an early wake-up the next day (again, resulting in insufficient nightsleep). 
Waking baby from their last nap of the day to protect bedtime is a must. What time should we be waking them by? For a baby that is between 3 months and 8 months of age, you want to ensure that naps are finished by 5:00pm.  For a baby that is  8 months (or whenever they transition to 2 naps) and older, naps should be finished by 4:00pm.  For children that have transitioned to 1 nap, this 'nap cut-off' may be even earlier than 4:00pm depending on how long of an awake time they need before bed (i.e. for a 2 year old, sleeping until 4:00pm would likely mean they aren't falling asleep for the night until 9:00pm, so you'd likely want to end naps by 3:00pm to ensure a relatively early bedtime).

For more of these 'Sleep Wives Tales', check out my blog post here, where I debunk 5 more of these rumors about baby sleep!

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

My Top 10 Twin Sleep Tips

Say that 5 times fast!
I wanted to give some love to my twin families - there's a lot of you out there! At any given time, I am working with at least one twin family (I think my record was seven sets of multiples at once - wowza!) I can still remember my first twin case and how nervous I was. I don't personally have multiples so how the heck am I going to help a family with two babies!? Well you know what? A lot of the same rules still apply with multiples vs. a singleton child. There are definitely some difference and a lot of extra factors that come into play but I've actually come to find that my twin babies are my best sleepers. They are so adaptable and resilient - they've had to be! They have to be able to sleep through their siblings' noises and that can be a lot of noise! With that, I wanted to offer up my TOP 10 TIPS on twin sleep to help you amazing moms and dads out there get a few extra winks tonight:
**note that while I've consistently written 'twin' babies throughout this article, these tips apply to all multiple families - twins, triplets, quads (this is the sound of me bowing down to you, by the way).


This had to be my #1 tip, there's just nothing else that compares to the need for white noise with twins. White noise has not only been shown to reduce stress in children and help them sleep, but it also works really well to block out sound. Now, usually we're trying to block sound from the house from reaching baby but in the case of twins, we're trying to block sound from one side of the nursery to the other side. White noise is a very effective way to help Baby A sleep through Baby B's noises, and vice versa. In fact, with twin families, I actually recommend double white noise in the babies' room (for example, a white noise machine and a noisy fan). You would place one source of white noise (noise machine) halfway between the cribs and the other source of white noise (fan) on the noisiest wall of the nursery (for example, a wall that's adjacent to your living room, kitchen, a noisy street, etc.) Using double white noise really helps to muffle sounds coming from inside and outside the room so our babies can sleep peacefully day and night.


I can imagine that when you are pregnant with twins, you envision the sleeping arrangement your children will have. Will they share a crib for the first few months? Will they start out in separate cribs next to each other? Will you start them in the same room but split them up eventually? Now, what you envision might not be exactly what ends up happening (lots of families who contact me end up resorting to sticking one baby in another for naps or even naps and nights because Baby A naps much worse than Baby B) but if you decide after the 16 week mark to sleep train those babies, sleep train them where you want them to be sleeping eventually. Even if you're worried that this will = less sleep for Baby B - go for it. This helps them to become acclimated to each other's sounds (and you're using double white noise now, right?) and it avoids yet another transition down the road when you do decide to move them back in together. Maybe you're okay with them being separate for naps and only together at night - it's completely up to you and what works best for your family. What's important is making sure where you start is where you want to end up.


I'm not sure how any family with 2+ babies can make it through a day without writing everything down but I'm surprised to find out that some don't! Heck, I have to write things down with only 1 baby or I forget what time they woke up, what time I have to put them down, etc. Especially once you decide to make sleep a priority and really focus on establishing healthy sleep habits for your babies, keeping a sleep log is of utmost importance. This really helps you to see patterns, progress, where things need to be tweaked, and helps you to stay on track. On my sleep logs, I recommend families include:
- Morning wake-up time
- All feedings (breast/bottle/solids)
- Mood before naps (happy, tired, fussy, alert, yawning, etc.)
- Put down times for naps, asleep times, and wake-up times
- Mood upon wake-up from sleep (did they wake up happy? Crying? Babbling? Fussing?)
- Bedtime put down and asleep time
- Any nightwakings, nightfeedings, sleep-cries


Now this tip is not only for your babies' sake but for your own sanity's sake. I remember when my son was 9 months old and my daughter was 3. He was on a 2 nap schedule and she was on a 1 nap schedule. This meant that I had a child sleeping from 1000am-1130am, 100pm-300pm, and 300pm-400pm. OY! That gave me a window of less than 2 hours in the morning, 1.5 hours in the afternoon, and a few hours in the evening to actually leave the house. It was TOUGH. Now, this is sometimes life with two kids of different ages and with different sleep needs but this is an example of why keeping your multiples on the same sleep schedule is so important - to avoid having one baby sleeping This becomes especially important if you decide to sleep train - I recommend to my families that you always wake the babies within 15 minutes of eachother. If Baby A wakes at 700am, we wake Baby B at 715am. If Baby A takes a 30 minute catnap, unfortunately, we wake Baby B at the 45 minute mark. With time and consistency, most multiples end up 'syncing up' their schedules and while it's unfortunate to short-change one child, in the long-run it's worth it. This is another reason I say it's okay if they are waking each other up from each other's sounds - we want them on the same schedule anyway so they are doing the dirty work for you!


In the beginning months when the babies are young and eating frequently throughout the night, it makes sense to feed Twin A when Twin B wakes for a nightfeeding. This avoids one child being awake all night (hey, the opposite of Tip#4!) so it helps buy you and your partner more sleep. But once we start to focus on the babies sleeping longer stretches at night, you want to give both children the opportunity to sleep through (whatever that means for their age). This means only feeding the child that wakes up and allowing the other child to wake naturally when they are hungry. Another option that can work amazingly well for many families is establishing a dreamfeed early on. This can help your babies' long stretch of sleep coincide with yours. Note that I don't recommend starting a dreamfeed with older babies that are not sleeping well at night (i.e. if you haven't started one yet and your 4 month old twins are not sleeping well at night and are waking 3+ times, a dreamfeed is not a good option for you. A dreamfeed is a better option for newborns (0-3 months) or for babies 4 months+ that are already sleeping fairly well at night).


Okay, okay, you don't have to if you don't want to but I would really, really recommend it. First and foremost, sleep training does not = cry it out. There is a stigma about sleep training and it entailing hours of dreadful crying while we sit back and think about how terrible and awful we feel about the whole process. It doesn't have to be like that. There are many gentle approaches we can use with young and older children alike to help them learn that oh-so-important skill of independent sleep. While it's true that sleep training twins is often more challenging than singleton babies, it is far from impossible. Yes things take longer to come together. Yes the gentler methods are often much more difficult when there's two babies to consider. But as I mentioned above, my twin babies are often my best-sleeping babies. Parents are usually more motivated because they lack the time/energy/patience to deal with sleep issues x 2 and they also are much more aware of the need for a solid schedule and foundation for sleep for their children. So if you find yourself at that 16 week mark and things just aren't going your way -  don't be afraid of change. While the prospect of less sleep is  daunting, it's short-term pain for long-term gain. The positive changes that you and your babies will experience from sleep coaching are endless. If you feel you can't go it alone? I'm here for you moms and dads :)


This is a short tip but it's a question I get a lot.  We always want to follow the babies' adjusted age when it comes to sleep scheduling. While 38 weeks is full-term for twins, I would still consider these babies two weeks early. This applies to starting sleep training (at 16 weeks adjusted), when trying to figure out the babies' schedule, sleep needs, amount of awake time, or even when anticipating sleep regressions or leaps.


There's always one of them. One twin who is just a teeny bit more finicky than the other. One twin that puts up a little bit more of a fight. One twin who is just a little bit more sensitive to sleep. I can usually identify the 'Sensitive Sleeper' with ease by just reading the Intake Forms I receive from my families. Once we identify which one of the babies is the Sensitive Sally, we stick closer to their schedule. What do I mean by that? For young babies especially, 15 minutes can make or break a nap or bedtime. Putting them down just 15 minutes early can result in 30 minutes of playing/hanging out/laughing/whatever else those crazy babies can do while lying awake in a dark room (!?!). Put her down 15 minutes too late? Crying/yelling/I-can't-handle-life screaming. So you now know we are to be waking the babies within 15 minutes of each other but what does that mean for the timing of the next nap? How do we know what time to put them down? Let's take twin babies who are 6 months old (adjusted), for example. We know that at 6 months of age, the babies could probably handle about 2 hours of awake time between 1st and 2nd naps. Baby A woke up at 10:00am from his 1st nap and we woke Baby B woke up at 10:15am. We know baby B is the sensitive baby so we'd count our 2 hours from the time she woke up, so as to avoid one of the above situations arising.


The biggest difference between sleep training a singleton baby and sleep training multiples is the time it takes to see full progress. Many families ask me, "How long will it take until I see results?" and while there's no for-sure answer to this question, this is a general guideline that most babies follow. Depending on the age of baby, method used, consistency of parents, etc. progress generally goes as follows:

  • 3-5 nights - baby is now 'sleeping through the night' for their age

  • 7 days - baby is now falling asleep within 30 minutes for all sleep times with some combination of babbling, fussing, soft crying

  • 10 days - baby is now showing progress with longer naps although things may still not be consistent

  • 2-4 weeks - baby is now showing consistency with naps (consistency meaning, for example, nap 1 is always the longest nap, nap 2 is over an hour but shorter than nap 1, nap 3 is 30-45 minutes long). Nap lengths may not be exact day-to-day and that is normal

Now what about for twins? I'd say you could multiply that time by 1.5 or even 2. Nighttime can take 5-10 nights to come together, the babies may take closer to 10-14 days until they are falling asleep easier for sleep times, longer naps may emerge after 2 weeks instead of a week and a half, and true consistency may not materialize until 3-8 weeks instead. But do not let these numbers deter you! As I mentioned above, many times my twin families are my quickest studies, and while these things take time (sleep training is a journey!) the end result is well-worth the effort.


As I mentioned above, many of the same principles apply to twins and singleton babies alike. The following sleep concepts are the same across the board:
- Swaddling newborns (especially those preemie twins - they need that snug feeling!)
- Super dark bedroom
- Feeding upon wake-up from sleep (i.e. an 'EASY' routine) or at least separating from sleep by 30 minutes and some sort of activity
- Consistent sleep routines (nap and bedtime)
- Early bedtimes 
- Avoiding the overtired state
- Not rushing in 
- Using all the tools in the first few months - you are in survival mode!

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Hello Spring! Surviving the Spring Forward

Ummm weren't we JUST falling back? Time flies! Daylight savings time begins on March 10th in Canada and the US and it's the time of year all of the parents of early risers look forward least for a few days.

What to Do?

This time shift definitely has less of an impact on our children's sleep than falling back in the Fall [although this time change is actually harder on our bodies since we are losing an hour of sleep]. If your child is already on a good sleep schedule, your first option is to not make any in-advance changes. For a child who sleeps 7:00pm-7:00am, their new wake-up time will be 8:00am (woop!) and there isn't much of an impact here. Your bedtime will be shifted an hour later but the effects of the time change are only apparent for a few days, maybe a week tops.

For children who are already on a later schedule (think 8:30-8:30 or the like) the sleep-in will result in an even later wake-up and subsequently, an even later bedtime. What we can do in this case is split the difference of the wake-up time. Wake your child up 30 minutes early on the day of the time change, so as not to rob them of too much nightsleep, but also not to let them sleep in too much resulting in a way-too-late bedtime. 

If you're really keen on keeping your child on the same schedule, you can wake them 1 hour early on the day of the time change so as not to see any lasting effects from the time shift (however if your child has a very strong internal clock, you may find them still not able to fall asleep until their 'usual' bedtime). The key also during this time change is not to use too early of a bedtime. If on Sunday your child happens to have a really crappy day of sleep and you’d normally have them down for an early bedtime [say 5:30pm] keep in mind that this is now actually 4:30pm so you may be better off sneaking in another nap to avoid a total meltdown with a too-early bedtime.

If you are looking to take advantage of the time change for baby who is an early riser, there are a few important things to remember:

1) The time change doesn’t actually re-set a child’s internal clock, but it does make the child’s wake-up time by the clock later, so in order to make this stick we need to make sure there is ZERO light in the bedroom in the morning [and remember the sun is now coming up an hour earlier so it’s very likely there would be sun streaming in at this time if you don’t have the windows blacked out properly!]

2) Do not wake your child the day after DST [obviously!] and just follow your new schedule the next day, with naps now occurring one hour later than usual. LOTS of sunlight in the evening helps lock in that new schedule!

3) If on this new schedule your child is still sleeping the same amount of hours as before and you are confident that it’s enough sleep for them, you’re set! We did it! Hurray! But if you suspect your child is still not getting enough sleep [let’s say if before the time change they were sleeping 7:30-5:30 and now they are sleeping 8:30-6:30 which is a better morning wake-up time but perhaps not enough nighttime sleep, which can be evidenced if your child wakes crying in the morning] then now we try to shift things a bit earlier very slowly to see if we can boost that 10 hours to, say, 10.5 or 11 hours. We do this by moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier every 3 days and watch how it affects morning wake-up time. So for example, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after the time change you try bedtime at 8:15pm. If wake-up time remains 6:30am then on Thursday, Friday, Saturday you try 8:00pm. If wake-up time remains then for the next 3 days you try 7:45pm. If at some point the wake-up time creeps earlier, you know you’ve pushed too far and you’ll want to go back to whatever bedtime was maintaining the 6:30am wake-up time.

This is an important time to make sure your child's environment is conducive to sleep. It will gradually begin to get lighter and lighter in the evenings so that cave-like sleep space becomes even more important. As always, I highly recommend my Blackout EZ window covers as an awesome and affordable way to get baby's room as dark as possible.

Happy Spring everyone! 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting now in Kamloops, BC. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Why Sleep Training Doesn't Work

I would say about 85% of families that contact me for a sleep consultation have tried some form of sleep training on their own and failed...sometimes miserably. Oftentimes, these parents will say to me, "I've tried everything" which I consider a challenge. There are usually many things that families don't consider or aren't doing properly when putting a sleep training plan into action. It's not that these families are intentionally sabotaging themselves, it's just that, especially with those children that are more 'sleep-sensitive', the stars almost have to be aligned in order for this difficult process to be successful. Below, I've included the top 8 reasons that sleep training fails, and what we can do instead to help make it a success!

Sleep Training Fail #1 - Starting with a nap


With any of the families I work with, I always recommend that when starting a sleep coaching program, we begin with nighttime. The reason for this is that your baby's drive to sleep is much higher at nighttime, thus ensuring that sleep will overcome your child more easily. At nighttime, there are less distractions, there is less room for error, and there is more sleep pressure (and your baby's circadian rhythm, or biological clock) driving your child to sleep. At nighttime, when your baby's drive to sleep becomes overwhelming, she will flip from 'wake' to 'sleep' like a switch. This same phenomenon does not occur during the day and your baby can easily fight sleep all day if she wants to. 
While it's true that we can sleep train for only nights and not naps, I personally do not recommend sleep training for only naps and not nighttime. Chances are you will have much more success with getting your nights straightened out, which will give you the confidence to pursue nap coaching once you are ready.

Sleep Training Fail #2 - Feeding too close to sleep times

I've said it once (or maybe more than once), I'll say it again - feeding too close to sleep times, even if your child is not falling asleep eating, can hurt sleep. While it's true that with newborn babies, our goal is to 'tank them up' to sleep longer, once a baby is past the 16 week mark (a.k.a. the age where we can begin gentle sleep coaching), we want to focus more on healthy sleep habits to help baby sleep longer vs. stuffing their bellies to try to get an extra hour or two out of them. To be honest, if you are getting much more than 2 wakings at night at 4 months, or much more than 1 waking per night at 6 months+, those wakings are not likely hunger-related (I am assuming a healthy, well-fed child) so no amount of food before bed is going to make these wakings go away. Instead, we want to direct our attention to ensuring that the feeding-to-sleep association is completely removed, that 'food' and 'sleep' are two completely separate events to the child, and are in no way related ("I do not need food to sleep, I can sleep on my own!") We do this by making sure to follow an E.A.S.Y. routine (with nursing/bottlefeedings upon every wake-up instead of right before naps) and moving the last feeding of the night to the very first part of your bedtime routine (i.e. before the bath). I'll stress this again because it's very important - even if your child is not falling asleep eating, if the feeding is occurring too close to the timing of sleep, it can still cause an association.

Sleep Training Fail #3 - Drowsy but awake

This fail is related to the above and is another big reason sleep training can be unsuccessful - helping your child to the 'drowsy' state. Whether it be feeding too close to sleep times that is making your child drowsy or you are rocking/bouncing/shushing your child until drowsy and then putting them down, this can actually interfere with your child's learning of how to sleep. I'm sure you have heard from many different people to put baby down 'drowsy but awake' and this couldn't be more true for newborn babies (0-4 months of age). Putting baby down in this state from a very early age can help you to avoid ever needing to sleep train (WIN!) but once we make the decision to help our baby learn to sleep independently (after the 16 week mark), you want the child to be falling asleep completely independently - from the wide awake (but calm) state.
Why does drowsy but awake work against us? When a baby is in the 'drowsy' state, they have actually already entered the first few stages of sleep. This drowsy state is similar to back when you were in class and you started nodding off - you could faintly hear what the teacher was saying but you weren't really retaining any of the information. This dazed and confused state is how a baby feels when we are putting them down drowsy. We plop them in their cribs and they suddenly jerk wide awake, completely unaware of how they got themselves in the crib. They are still going to associate 'falling asleep' with wherever they became drowsy, and therefore when they wake (if they do indeed end up putting themselves to sleep) they are going to need you to recreate those same conditions that helped them to 'sleep' (or to 'drowsy').
To achieve the 'wide awake but calm' state, simply go through your child's normal sleep routine (if it's a nap, this routine should only be about 5 minutes long and might end with a song or two in the rocking chair) aiming to help calm them and prepare them for sleep - not to get them drowsy. While you might think that getting them halfway there will help lessen the amount of crying that will ensue, the opposite is actually true. 

Sleep Training Fail #4 - An overtired baby

Making sure you are well-educated on the amount of sleep your child needs, how long your child should be awake at any given time, and what a typical daily schedule should look like for their age is extremely important before implementing any sort of sleep training plan. While some overtiredness is inevitable while sleep training, not giving your child enough opportunities to sleep, keeping them up much longer than their recommended awake times, or putting them to bed way too late, will be disastrous for sleep training.  No amount of sleep training will work on a child who is overtired and whose schedule is not meeting their needs. Simply sleep training without any plans to establish an age-appropriate schedule for your child can result in lots of unnecessary tears (for both parents and child!) Babies are a lot of work, they take up a lot of our time and are very inconvenient at times, especially when their sleep needs are so high, but respecting a child's need to sleep (and sleep often!) is well-worth it, I can promise you that. So before you plan to sleep train, take the time to devise a nap schedule for your child, put a few days aside to devote all your attention to the process (a long weekend works great for working parents) and try not to listen to others who say your child, "doesn't need to sleep that much". 

Sleep Training Fail #5 - No support

Sleep training is tough. It's hard. It's never fun. But the pain is worth the prize when you have a child that falls asleep easily, stays asleep longer, and truly LOVES to sleep. Having someone supportive on your side through this process is extremely important. It might be your partner, a friend, your mother, an aunt, uncle, a sleep consultant ;), etc. Whoever it may be, you need someone to be able to vent to, to cry to, to help you be strong. Setting boundaries for your child is all about being consistent and sleep training is likely the first boundaries you are having to set in your child's life. Change is not easy, especially for babies, and there is bound to be some protest to these changes. If you don't have someone to lean on during this process, it can make it very difficult to follow-through with the 1000% consistency that you need in order to be successful. Your supportive person should be on the same page as you with the process, you don't want to be trying to convince this person that what you are doing is right or trying to validate your actions the entire time. You need a rock.

Sleep Training Fail #6 - Lack of consistency

As I've mentioned already, consistency is key. No matter what method you choose, from the super ultra gentle to the more direct, as long as you are 1000% consistent, you will see results. As humans, we are programmed to want quicker results, to see some concrete progress within a short period of time, which is why the gentler sleep coaching methods can be tougher for parents - simply because they take longer to work. But again, if you are consistent, things will come together for you. I always encourage my families to try any one method for one week. If you are making sure not to make any of these sleep training mistakes and are completely consistent for a full week, your child should be well on their way to great sleep within that time. Switching up the method too much (especially going from something more direct to something more gentle) or throwing in the towel multiple times can be confusing and unfair to the child. Make sure that when you begin, you are fully committed to the changes and that there's nothing going to stand in the way of you being successful (like too many activities scheduled, family in town visiting, travel, etc.)  I generally recommend that my families are able to dedicate at least two weeks (and preferably a month) without any major disruptions.

Sleep Training Fail #7 - Fear of the early bedtime

I talk about early bedtimes a lot. There is no time that is more important for an early bedtime than during sleep coaching. Naps will almost always suffer during sleep training, at least for the first few days. The best thing for your baby on a day of craptastic naps is an early bedtime. There is no advantage to stretching your child to an 'appropriate' bedtime when said stretching will just result in your baby becoming overtired and waking crying every 3-4 hours all night long because the bedtime was too late. How early is too early? For a child that is still waking to eat at night, the earliest I recommend putting baby down is 4:30pm. For a baby that is sleeping through without feedings, the earliest bedtime I use is 4:45pm (and these are put down times). Do not fear the early bedtime! It will be your best friend on days where things just don't go your way. To prepare your child for an early bedtime, make sure you are completing your full bedtime routine (bath included) as this will help signal to your baby 'bedtime' vs. 'just another nap'. Contrary to popular belief, if your child wakes up 45-60 minutes after an early bedtime, it often means that bedtime was still too late, and not too early. If your baby does wake, treat it like you would any other nightwaking according to your sleep coaching plan. Avoid taking the child out of the room or feeding them back to sleep as feeding at this time a) can create a habitual waking very quickly and b) will set the rest of your night up to be fragmented with every 3-4 hour wakings.
The timing of bedtime is especially important on the first night of sleep coaching (remember, because we always start at bedtime). Stretching bedtime, even by 10 or 15 minutes, can result in much more crying and protesting (as an overtired child has a build-up of stress hormones in their body, which makes sleep very difficult).

Sleep Training Fail #8 - Method does not match family

There are many different methods we can use to help baby to sleep. From those deemed 'no cry' (spoiler alert: there will still be tears) to the more 'let cry'. How do you choose which method is best for your child? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are my parenting philosophies? You want to pick a method that YOU are comfortable with and that YOU can be consistent with. Sleep training will always take you out of your comfort zone but doing your research and picking a method that is best aligned with your unique views on the subject is very important.

  • How severe are my child's sleep problems? If your baby's sleep issues are substantial (rely on many props to fall asleep, has accumulated a large sleep debt) you may want to consider a more gradual approach to help baby learn to sleep. If your child's sleep issues are minor and only some small adjustments need to be made, a more direct approach might be in your best interests.

  • What is my baby's temperament? If you have a very easy-going and adaptable baby, you'll likely have success with any method you decide to use. Children that are more 'sensitive' or 'alert' may need less stimulation/parental intervention in order to be successful within a reasonable amount of time. Remember, the process is not necessarily 'gentler' for the child if intervening too much is making it more difficult.

  • How old is my child? More 'direct' approaches are often not recommended for babies under the age of 6 months (i.e. Extinction-type methods) but there are many gentler options for babies between the age of 4-6 months (or after 16 weeks of age, adjusted). For toddlers/preschool-aged children who need a parent to help them fall asleep, gentle approaches are often recommended so as to help avoid episodes of separation anxiety.

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!