In our previous post on sleep training, we focused on the struggle some families have with allowing their child to "cry it out". We hope this post was helpful to you, but also want to provide you with a follow-up! As behaviorists, we always support taking proactive measures to set our learners up for success (not only reactive measures!) In that spirit, we also want to provide you with some pointers to set your child (and YOU!) up for successful nights of sleep:
1. Bedtime Routine: Create a bedtime routine that supports your child in winding down for the night. Try to include activities that are calming for your child. The goal of the routine is to help your child prepare for sleep and to create consistency so your child knows what to expect each evening. You may even consider creating a visual schedule!
2. Consistent Bedtime: Try to choose a consistent bedtime and wake time for your child, even on the weekends. This will help her body to function on a consistent sleep/wake cycle, which should make both your nights and your mornings a little easier on everyone!
3. Sleep Cue: As part of your bedtime routine, think about including a consistent cue that you are leaving the room and it is time for sleep. This cue can really be whatever works for your family! It may be a particular phrase (e.g. "good night", "sweet dreams", "sleep tight") or some type of action (e.g. turning on a night light, a kiss on the forehead) -- or it can be a combination of these things. Whatever it is, consider keeping it consistent (at least in the beginning) so your child learns that this is the cue for sleep.
4. Special Story Book: Consider creating a special story book for your child outlining the bedtime routine and expectations. You can explain exactly what will happen (e.g. first we will take a bath, then Daddy will read two stories, next you will get in bed, etc.). You may also want to explain what the expectations are on your end (e.g. when Mommy leaves the room, it is time to lay down and close your eyes) as well as what your child can expect (e.g. Mommy and Daddy are right down the hall and will see you in the morning). Sometimes just providing our little ones with information helps them to be more successful!
These are a few basic pointers on how to set your child up for success with sleep training! However, this is certainly not a comprehensive list. Our behavior team is full of additional ideas and suggestions, many of which are discussed in our Sweet Dreams Workshop. For more information or additional support, contact us and/or attend one of our sleep training workshops. We look forward to helping you and your child have sweet dreams!
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