Friday, July 1, 2016

Sweet dreams: How to create a baby sleep plan

Article featured in-

OC Family Magazine

July 2016, Page 50

By: Michelle S. Donaghy

After months without sleep, you’re ready to help your baby learn to sleep through the night.  Getting better sleep for your baby, and you, is one of the best things you can do for your entire family.  If your child is 6 month or older and still waking during the night, it’s time to make a sleep plan.  

Sleep 101: 

Sleep is learned!  Sleep is a learned skill and teaching a brand new skill to your baby is no small task.  But you want the best for your baby and are willing to help your child learn this life-long skill.

Sleep Associations:

What are they?  Do you rock or feed your baby until they are completely asleep?  If yes, this is your child’s sleep association.  Sleep learning begins with changing your baby’s sleep association.

Here's how to create a plan:

1 New bedtime routine.   A calm and predictable routine will help your baby, prepare for sleep.  If a pre-bedtime feed is a part of your routine, move the feed to the beginning of the routine - with lights on.  Then continue with the rest of your routine.  Your routine could be pajamas, feed (but not to sleep), followed by (pick one or two): reading books, singing a song, massaging, baby yoga or story time.

2 Ideal bed time.  Identify your child’s ideal bedtime.  For most children it's between 6 and 8 p.m.  Look for sleepy signs such as yawning, rubbing eyes, or fussing.  

3 Sleep training method.  Will you use a gentle method, where you stay with your child while she learns and you gradually fade out your assistance?  Or will you leave the room, to give your child a few minutes unassisted, then every 5 or 10 minutes (when crying) go in to reassure?  Keep each visit brief and do not pick up or touch to sleep.  

4 Start at bedtime.  Bedtime is the easiest time for children to learn to put themselves to sleep!  Put your child into bed while awake - this step is critical to your success!

5 Night feed or none.  Decide if you will feed your child during the night.  Check with your child’s doctor and ask if he needs to eat at night.   If yes, keep it brief, with lights off and right back into bed.

6 Plan Naps. Skipped or short naps will create more night waking and come bedtime, an overtired baby.  Well-napped children sleep better at night!  Children need a nap often in the day and the timing is based on age.  Follow these guidelines to plan your child’s naps.  6-9 months – nap every 2 ½-3 hours, 9-18 months – nap every 3-4 hours, 18-36 months – one nap at noon or 1 p.m.

7 Be consistent.  Once you have started your sleep plan, it is absolutely critical to be consistent!  Every time you give in and assist your child to sleep, expect more tears tomorrow night, success to take longer and your baby to learn to cry more.  

Expect huge improvements in week one and the entire plan to take two weeks – if you have been consistent! 

Michelle SDonaghy is a local baby/ child sleep consultant and certified Gentle Sleep Coach. She is the founder of MSD Baby Sleep Coach ( and has two children.