As parents of little ones know, sleep is a precious commodity. Maybe your baby or toddler has never been a great sleeper, or maybe they’ve just started struggling with sleep. Either way, chances are if your child isn’t sleeping, neither are you.
Rest assured, (pun intended) there is hope. We spoke with sleep expert Tracie Kesatie, M.A., a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, mother of four, and the founder of Rest Well Baby. Tracie has her master’s degree in counseling and has been a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach since 2014. In addition, she is a graduate of The Infant Mental Health and Development Foundation Program from The Wonder Weeks Academy and a member of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants.
In addition to her formal training, Tracie’s hands-on sleep training experience began in 2006 with the birth of her first child. That’s when she experienced how healthy sleep habits can lead to a happier home. We asked Tracie for her advice on how to navigate your baby or toddler’s sleep so everyone can rest a little easier.
I’ve heard I should “train” my baby to sleep, but how?
Training your baby to sleep is all about creating good habits for you and your baby. That’s why it’s important to start early with sleep training and stick with it. “The keys to success when sleep training both during the day and at night are commitment and consistency.” Kesatie shared, “You want to find a method that fits your parenting style and stick with it. I always suggest to start sleep training at bedtime on a good nap day. Nighttime sleep tends to be easier than daytime sleep and bedtime is the best time to practice self soothing. If your little one is in the middle of a sleep regression, you may want to wait until it subsides before starting sleep training.”
My baby was sleeping well. What happened?
If your little one suddenly won’t fall or stay asleep, it can be very distressing. Losing out on precious sleep is hard on your child, but it can be equally difficult for parents and other children in the home. If your child suddenly has difficulty falling or staying asleep, either at naptime or in the evening, they may be experiencing sleep regression. According to Kesatie, “A sleep regression is typically a time when your child is going through a growth spurt and their brain is developing, adapting, learning and making new connections. As a result I actually think it should be called a progression, because really it’s a sign of a step forward. During this time your baby or toddler’s sleep patterns can shift. Sleep regressions are completely normal and not every little one will go through every sleep regression.”
Common signs of a sleep regression include:
- New and more frequent night wakeups
- Difficult and/or shorter naps
- Increased fussiness during the day
- Changes in appetite
It’s been weeks. Will sleep regression ever end?
Yes! There is light at the end of the tunnel. “Sleep regressions will pass. The key is to stay the course and try to maintain your healthy sleep habits.” Kesatie advises. “If you need to offer a little extra comfort and support during these periods that’s okay… you just want to try to not create any habits that you ultimately do not want to have in the long run. If sleep does backslide during a regression, then once the regression has subsided you can work on getting sleep back on track by following your little one’s normal sleep habits and routines or if need be, by doing sleep training.”
Unlike teething or developmental milestones, which can be somewhat unpredictable, sleep regression tends to show up at specific ages. According to Kesatie, “Sleep regressions tend to happen at 4 months, 6 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months, 2 years and 3 years of age.” Once you know when you might expect your baby’s sleep to regress you may be able to plan for it. It may feel a little bit like when you had that sweet newborn but hopefully less exhausting. Kesatie informed us that “Sleep regressions can last anywhere from 1-6 weeks, but more commonly 2-3 weeks.”
Are any sleep products worth adding to my parenting toolbox?
Whether you’re trying to survive sleep training or sleep regression, Tracie Kesatie recommended a few products to help make your life a little easier. “For babies under 4 months of age I think using a swaddle can be really helpful when it comes to the Moro Reflex, which is when babies startle themselves awake. A sound machine can also be comforting.”
Tracie Kesatie is dedicated to helping families with babies, toddlers, and young children learn healthy sleep habits through education, reassurance, and compassionate support. This article was brought to you in collaboration with Tot Squad. Follow Tracie on Instagram or book her with Tot Squad.
Courtney Harris is the author of this article. Connect with her at linkedin.com/in/