Announcing the newest arrival to the Dream Team family. Watch the Dream Sleeper book trailer here!
EXCERPT: Chapter 3 – Setting the Stage
Even if you can’t bear to hear your baby cry, you’ll do her a huge service by following the instructions and tips in this chapter. It’ll lay important groundwork for creating a great sleeper and most likely improve your child’s current sleep situation. It may not be enough to teach your child to sleep eleven to twelve hours a night, but you should see some improvements if your baby is more than four months of age.
Keys to Zzzs
- Clear the clutter. Too many things in your baby’s crib can distract him.
- Darken the room. Sunlight, even in small amounts, can keep your baby awake at naptime.
- Add white noise. It drowns out distracting household noises that can interfere with sleep.
- Introduce a lovey. It’s more than just a security blanket.
- Monitor the temperature. Some rooms can be too hot or too cold; you want one that’s just right.
If you’re prepared to follow our plan in Part Two, think of this chapter as the mandatory (and incredibly helpful) study session before your child’s first major exam. Of course, this isn’t a test, but the important tips and instructions in this chapter are the magic that will ensure your family success in teaching your child how to love sleep.
If you do some preparation, perhaps moving a crib and buying some equipment, and possibly push off sleep teaching for a few days while you get ready, you’ll ensure you’ve gone the extra mile to make learning to sleep as easy as possible for your child.
One more thing before we get started: you can start doing this homework for children of any age (minus the lovey) and for almost any method you use, even some cosleeping lifestyles. Our prework is universally helpful.
Revamping Your Child’s Sleeping Environment
Many first-time parents fantasize about creating the perfect nursery for their child. We create a magical babyland with miniature-sized monogrammed pillows, sweet stuffed animals, and adorable organic crib linens. We fill the crib with interesting toys, so when our baby rouses in the middle of the night, he might decide to entertain himself. And we think if we make this room so lovely and yummy, our baby will relax and enjoy bedtime. In fact, he might not even realize he’s alone at night. Right?
Unfortunately, this process of creating a perfect baby space in our home is more for us than our baby. It’s a loving ritual we do to symbolize the space we’re about to make in our hearts and lives for our new child. The more effort we put into making our baby’s nursery, the more comfortable we feel about this new chapter in our lives.
But the truth is that a perfect-looking nursery doesn’t matter to children when they’re young. To really make a big difference in your child’s sleeping space, we suggest you think about your nursery as a classroom versus a showroom.
Independent sleep is a learned skill for many children, and their bedroom or nursery is where these lessons will be taking place. Your strategy is to set up this space to make learning as easy as possible.
Clear the Clutter
When children are very young, they rely heavily on visual cues to know what you expect from them. So if you put your baby down to sleep in a crib full of soft toys and stuffed animals, she’ll understandably believe it’s playtime, not sleep time. Also, young children are quite easily stimulated. A mobile that spins and blinks lights in sync with classical music may look pretty tame to you, but to an infant, it’s like having her own private laser light show right there in her crib. The same goes for crib aquariums that play music and glow while plastic fish swim around. Try sleeping next to a flat-screen TV that plays music videos all night long, and you’ll understand that it’s not so restful.
In addition, babies move while they sleep, so there’s a chance your baby might accidentally roll into or onto an electronic crib toy and turn it on. That’s the baby equivalent of when you forget to turn off your phone and a text message indicator goes off in the middle of the night. You’d turn such distractions off at night, so it makes sense to apply the same courtesy to your baby.
At the end of the day, children don’t need artificial entertainment to keep them busy in a crib. They’re naturally curious and will find something to do if they’re not exhausted; they might grab their toes or look at their fingers, for example. Your child’s crib should be clear of everything except for one age-appropriate sleep lovey.
Here’s what we recommend you remove from your baby’s crib:
- Crib aquariums
- Crib mirrors
- Plush toys that crinkle, light up, play music, or vibrate
- Stuffed animals
- Pillows and blankets
The idea is to make your baby’s crib comfortable, safe, and boring. When your son doesn’t see toys, he’ll know it’s time to sleep, not time to play. Your goal is to make the crib look like a spa, not the local playground.
EXCERPT: Chapter 8 – Keeping Emotional Issues in Check
Before you start our sleep teaching plan—or any other sleep teaching method—it’s important to remember that your child will likely struggle at some point in the process. Babies are understand- ably frustrated as they learn to sleep in an entirely new way. Remem- ber that frustration with change is normal and is actually a key part of the human learning process.
No one likes frustration, but we can learn to appreciate it. Frustration pushes us to problem-solve and leads us to new under- standings, from the negative, “Arrrghh! This change stinks!” to the more positive,“What can I do to make this situation better?”
Reminding yourself that you’re allowed to be uncomfortable part of the time is a good idea, because it’s going to help you to remain more patient when your child becomes frustrated during sleep teaching—or, really, at any other time.
You Don’t Have to Be Afraid
There are countless reasons we encourage you to wait before starting sleep teaching with your child. Feeling afraid of what may happen isn’t one of those reasons. If your approach to sleep teaching is well rounded (and we believe ours is) and you’re consistent, you’ll start to see progress quickly—for some, almost immediately.
If you want to understand how much of an impact proper instruction has, imagine a lovely spring day in your neighborhood. You see your neighbor in his driveway with his daughter, Tess. He’s introducing her to a new training-wheel-free bike. As you watch this special rite of passage, you notice that Tess is very wobbly and a little nervous at the start of her first lesson. But her dad keeps encouraging her and praising every small bit of progress she makes. Although Tess is far from mastering bike riding the first day, her dad is very proud of her efforts. He gives her a huge hug of congratulations when the lesson is over.
The next day they’re at it again. Tess is still struggling, but she’s getting a little steadier, and Dad is cheering her on every step of the way. By the next week, Tess is almost ready to join the professional BMX team. She is much more confident and owns her new skill, going over bumps and turning circles. She has learned how to do it all by herself and is very proud.
Now imagine a different version of that same scenario. This time as Tess’s dad wheels out her new bike, he looks reluctant and somewhat unsure about how this lesson is going to go down. In fact, he tells her he’s not sure she’s ready, that she might fall, but they’re going to “give it a try, I guess.” While Tess struggles to balance and pedal without her training wheels, her dad cringes every time she struggles. Whenever she starts to wobble, he rushes over, grabs the handlebars, stops her, and gives her a worried hug of reassurance. When she doesn’t master riding her bike the first day, her dad decides she’s not ready and puts things on hold for a few months.
This is an absolutely understandable situation; we’ve all prob- ably done this to our children in some form. But knowing that Tess could have had a positive experience instead of a negative one is disappointing, to say the least.
Riding a bike and learning to be an independent sleeper are the same in that both are learned skills that take practice and patience. Most parents would never expect their children to master riding a bike the first day. Yet we see many parents who do expect their children to learn independent sleeping within a day or two. Although many parents will see dramatic results in the first few days, it sometimes takes several weeks, or even months, for children to become true masters of this new skill.
When you decided to have a child, you signed an invisible yet rock-solid contract to become your baby’s biggest fan. Have you ever seen cheerleaders lose their cool when the team is down? No: they wear their faith as a badge of honor. And if you practice having that same faith in your child, there is no limit to what she can achieve. Steadfast and unwavering strength is within you, but it’s also a skill that needs to be cultivated. We realize this is not always easy. But remember that giving your baby a chance to show you he can do it without you will start a new kind of relationship based on support and mutual respect.