Lifestyle

The 5 C’s of Child Sleep Success with Katelyn Thompson

Today, we’re introducing Katelyn Thompson of Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions, a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She’s passionate about helping other parents get the sleep they and their children need while being gentle and responsive and keeping the parent-child bond secure. She will be sharing periodically on the blog ways to encourage just that for you and your little one! We’re kicking off with 5 foolproof ways to gain successful sleep… let’s dig in!


1. Consistency.

This is the top non-negotiable of helping your baby learn to sleep! If you have the best bedtime routine, the perfect method picked out, your partner is totally on board and your little is ready for more independent sleep- but you do not have consistency- you are setting yourself for frustration and wasted time! Children are ultra-adaptable and will soon pick up and learn to love a new routine, but it only becomes a routine if you are consistent every single night and day for at least two weeks.

 

2. Calming Sleep Environment.

Make your child’s sleep space a haven of comfort and calm! First, do a safety check to make sure there are no hazards in their room. Secondly, use blackout shades or curtains so that street and car lights cannot come through the windows. Even a small amount of light can suppress melatonin production! Next, make use of a calming sound machine. If you don’t have one, there are a ton of great apps you can use! Make sure jammies and sleep sacks are cozy and warm enough for the temperature in your house. If your child has become attached to a lovey, make sure it is in the crib. Finally, I love to use lavender essential oil in a diffuser in my child’s room. Studies have shown that lavender promotes calm and sleep.

 

3. Confidence.

Sleep coaching can be tough for the first few nights, so decide why this is important to you and your family, and what your goals are, and be confident in them!  Think about how much happier and healthier your whole family will be when you are all sleeping better and are not overtired. Read the research on how important sleep is for your child’s physical and neurological development. Your baby will pick up on your emotional state, so feel confident and calm and remember you are giving your child a gift by guiding them toward more restful and independent sleep.

 

4. Create a Solid Routine.

A good bedtime routine should be no more than 20-30 minutes long, and consistent every single night. I love to start our routine out with a bath, followed by the final feeding for the night (bottle or breast), jammies, and a song or prayers. Following this routine, lay your child in bed drowsy but awake.

 

5. Cut out Sleep Props.

Nine out of 10 times, a child’s sleep issues stem from the use of a prop to get them to sleep. This could be a pacifier, bottle, nursing, rocking, bouncing or any number of tricks we use to get our little ones to sleep! The trouble with props when a child is older is that they have never learned to fall asleep on their own, so when they wake through the night they are constantly needing us to provide their prop to get them back down. Eliminating the prop and allowing your child to fall asleep independently in their bed or crib is the cornerstone of better sleep for the whole family!


Check out Katelyn’s website for further sleep resources and more about her story.


 

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Comments (20)

  1. These are so great! I will implement these ideas whenever we have another child. I think #5 is a big one to keep in mind. For the first several months of my son’s life, I would nurse him to sleep-which worked out great at first, because it was a “foolproof” way to get him to sleep, but as he got older, it became very difficult to manage his bedtime routine because he would always want to nurse in bed continuously and not actually sleep. It was kind of scary to change up the bedtime routine, but I was amazed (and relieved) to see how he was able to adapt as long as we were consistent!

  2. Goodness, I was reminded of the need for consistency today! We got home from errands a little late for nap time, and the rest was history. Sad history.

    Thanks, Katelyn, for these reminders! I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

  3. Thank you so much for this advice!! We are preparing for our first little one (to arrive in October), and I have been trying to soak in as much advice and info as I can!

  4. If my son falls asleep nursing that is a prop but then do I wake him up to put him in his crib. How do I stop him from falling asleep while nursing? What if he’s not done eating? When I put him in the crib do I let him cry it out?? He’s 8 weeks old.

    1. Hi there! Thank you for this question! I don’t recommend any kind of sleep training- even gentle- until after 3 months. There are several reasons for this. 1. Your baby is in the “fourth trimester” which means they need lots of closeness and love to get acclimated to the world around them. 2. As a nursing mama, these first few months you are establishing your milk supply and if you choose to do so you should nurse on demand. 3. An 8 week old hasn’t fully developed a circadian rhythm (that is, a biological sense of night and day, and the realization that night means sleep).

      However, there are some gentle tips and tricks you can use to set your baby up for sleep success in the future.

      1. When you nurse, as you see your baby falling asleep, gently break their latch and lay them down. You can pat them or rub their bellies or gently rub the space between their eyes (babies love that for some reason!) If your baby fusses and looks sleepy, don’t worry, but if your baby cries you should pick them up and continue to nurse. Once you see they are falling asleep, try again to lay them down. Repeat, but don’t push it if it is making them upset. The goal would be to help “coach” them to fall asleep without nursing eventually.

      2. Make sure your baby gets plenty of sunlight and time outside during the day, and keep her environment dark and calm at night. This will help develop her natural circadian rhythm.

      3. Make sure you are using age appropriate wake times so that your baby is napping regularly and doesn’t get overtired (which will make her wired and unable to sleep, causing you to have to nurse over and over and over again.The appropriate wake window for an 8 week old is only about 1 hour-1 hour 15 minutes. Try to make sure she is not awake consecutively for longer than this amount of time throughout the day.

      Between 3 and 4 months old, if baby is still not sleeping well, it may be time for very gentle sleep training! Until then, try the tips above to work on putting good habits into place, and hang in there!

      -Katelyn

      1. My little one just turned 3 months and his sleep is worsening. At 4-8 weeks he would sleep for 1 long stretch at night of up to 6 hours. Since 9 weeks at least 5x/week he is up every 2-3 hours to nurse. The hardest part is he has severe reflux and the doctor told me to keep him upright/elevated for 30 minutes after he eats. So he ends up falling asleep during that time. What is gentle sleep training I can try for him?

        1. Hi there! From one reflux mom to another- hang in there. My son had bad silent reflux, and it was a very difficult situation for all of us! Nothing got better for us until he went on reflux medication. I can’t speak to the medical side of things as that is not my place, but I can tell you that my pediatrician told us that they often nurse constantly to try to soothe the reflux, but especially at night when they spend so much time lying down it can sort of flare it up. Deciding with your pediatrician, regarding your baby’s weight gain, growth and health, etc, when it might be in your best interest to night wean or cut down to one feeding. At 3 months it is a very case by case basis on whether this is a possibility. Obviously, once there are no feedings or less feedings, the reflux and sitting up issue will be less of a factor and then you can choose a method to gently sleep train. So sorry you are going through this! It will get better!

          -Katelyn
          Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions

    2. Although I am not a cry it out advocate, my doctor did not recommend allowing my baby to cry it out before 4 months old. An 8 week old baby needs as much love and cuddles and help as you can give. Try to remember your baby is that, a baby.

      1. Hi there! I am not an extinction/cry it out advocate either 🙂 I think I would be pretty disingenuous to say as a sleep consultant that I will teach you the cry it out method when there are only two steps! 1. Shut the door 2. Walk away. Not a whole lot to teach 🙂 I don’t work with clients until after three months, and even after that, no matter what age, I never recommend CIO. My methods include lots of parental presence and comforting, always. This article was a very general rundown of some tips for people whose babies are developmentally ready! I am really looking forward to sharing more on other topics in the future and more specific tips for specific age groups! Thank you for your interaction- definitely cuddle those babies!

        -Katelyn
        Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions

    3. Please never ever let your baby … infant ‘cry out out’. There are ‘gentle parenting’ Facebook pages. Looking at the article I’d say this is for 18 months or over. Whilst consistency is important it’s not always possible if baby poops and needs to be changed. I don’t agree with not rocking or soothing baby to sleep actually. Do some research this is not a good article imo.

      1. Hi there! I think we probably agree on more than you realize 🙂 I never recommend crying it out to any of my clients. As in the comment above, there is not a whole lot to teach! My gentle methods include parental presence and lots of comforting, at an appropriate age. I have done plenty of research as I have a degree in child development 😉 and I am incredibly sensitive to the importance of parent-child bond and secure attachment. This is why I believe cry it out is not the best approach. As with any skill, we should always provide gentle loving support to our children until they become more comfortable and proficient in independent sleep.

        I also do believe, however, that mothers’ mental health is incredibly important to the whole family and not all moms are able to function properly sleep deprived until 18 months. I believe in striking a balance by trying to meet each family members’ mental, emotional and physical needs. Also: consistency means in regular circumstances when baby is not sick or with a dirty diaper, of course. An example of inconsistency would be causing confusion for baby by sleep training for two nights, then getting tired on the third night and feeding six times.

        This article was a very general rundown of some tips for people whose babies are developmentally ready! I am really looking forward to sharing more on other topics in the future and more specific tips for specific age groups!

        -Katelyn
        Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions

    1. Hi there! Yes, any gentle methods can be modified while room sharing or bed sharing. They usually take a bit longer as they are more gentle.

      – Katelyn
      Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions

  5. Hello. I have a two week old. For first week, we were on a consistent routine – she’d wake up and we changed diaper, breastfed until she fell asleep and then we’d put her back down. Then I read that feed-to-sleep is discouraged. Plus, no opportunity for Timmy time or other interaction. We’ve been trying now to feed first, then change diaper, have some awake time, then go down. Only problem is that she fights going down, often demanding more breast (for a quick feed that lulls her to sleep). I try not to let her stay awake long, but by the time she’s been fed and her diaper changed, it’s already almost time to go down and she’s usually not ready/sleepy. I’m not sure what to do to make this transition easier and I feel like I get conflicting advice anytime I search for answers. Please help. Also, I swaddle her when putting her down but not usually while feeding. This makes it hard to seamlessly respond to her if she wakes up and wants to be fed. Instead I have to take her out, feed, then wrap her up again and repeat over and over. Is that ok? Any advice is appreciated!

    1. Thank you for the question! And congratulations! Simply put: at two weeks old, baby is boss (a tiny, adorable, exhausting boss). It is wonderful that you have started to experiment with a loose eat-play-sleep schedule and have tried to work on your little one falling asleep in other ways besides nursing, but if she is clearly wanting to nurse again to help fall asleep, that is okay (and encouraged!) Especially in this time where your milk supply is being established, feeding on demand is great. I don’t want you to stress too much about baby falling asleep at the breast.
      Two things you can do to help cement good habits for the future: 1. make sure that baby is getting at least 15 minutes of sunlight per day and is in a busier/brighter atmosphere during the daytime, and a dark quiet atmosphere during the nighttime. This will help develop her circadian rhythm which helps a ton with future sleep! 2. Continue to gently experiment. Will baby fall asleep with dad rocking her? Will baby fall asleep in the swing or bouncer? Will baby fall asleep if you remove the breast right before she falls asleep and then fall asleep in your arms? If any of these things distress her, just do whatever you need to do to comfort and don’t worry. But by experimenting and helping her practice falling asleep in a variety of environments, you are setting her up for a better ability to fall asleep independent in the future. If she is having trouble sleeping or if her habits deteriorate after three months of age, you may want to look into some gentle sleep training. But for now just do those little things that you can and enjoy the cuddles. Good luck!

      -Katelyn
      Sweet Pea Sleep Solutions

  6. I have a 4 1/2 month old girl who has reflux and a milk protein allergy. I also was recently diagnosed with PP cardiomyopathy. So we have had to suddenly temporarily stop breastfeeding to let her gut rest. She sleeps better with the hypoallergenic formula. However, she naps about 30-45 min every 90 min during the day and only sleeps 3-4 hours tops at a time at night. I have to bounce her to sleep sitting on a stability ball. While that’s been great for my weight loss (lol!), I’m exhausted. One pediatrician said she won’t be developmentally ready until 6 months, another said she can sleep train now. There is so much confusing conflicting information out there!!! I don’t know when to start but I’m afraid that her props (feed to sleep and the bouncing) are only going to have to continue or are going to be super hard to break. Any suggestions??? Please?!

  7. Help!! Currently our 7 1/2 month old son still wakes up to nurse 2-3 times a night and I am in desperate need of any tips that can help impro

    He was exclusively breastfed until 6 months, upon which we have started just one solid feeding a day.

    So I do ALL of these things at bedtime. We have implemented a very consisted bedtime routine with him since three months old when he started daycare. Bath at 6:30, followed by lotion and pajamas, I nurse him one final time, then books, songs, and he gets laid down awake no later than 7:00 pm. He has a little llama lovie in his crib with him but that is it, and always gets himself to sleep no problem with no fussing!

    The issue is he will be up at least 2-3 times beteeen 7 pm and 7 am and does not go back to sleep unless I nurse him and his longest stretch of the night is not long at all…anywhere from 3.5-5.5 hours.

    Our daughter did not sleep through the night until 10 months when she weaned, so I am not expecting him to sleep all night long and can definitely handle 1 or 2 night feedings.

    Also– he is in the 70th percentile for height and weight so that is not an issue at all.

    Thanks so much!!