Setting Up A Sleep Plan: Part 2 - Building your action plan
Welcome to part 2 of the 3 part series “Setting Up A Sleep Plan.” If you have not read Part 1 yet please do as this will help you decide if you are ready to start a plan! Being ready needs to be the first step so that you can be confident and successful.
This post is about how to build your action plan. After you have decided that you are ready we need to figure out when we are going to start and make some of the little changes that will help make sleep coaching more successful. This is a very important step of setting up your sleep plan. When building a sleep plan for families that I am working with this would all be included as step 1 in the plan.
1. Grab a pen and paper! You want to write everything down so that you can keep consistency. Go through this blog and write down what you need to do to set everything up.
2. Choose your start date. First, we need to decide on a time where you can designate a solid 2 weeks to making changes. Often times babies have improved quite a bit after 1 week but we want to give it 2 weeks to let the body balance out all the new patterns. Some things to consider:
Pick a day where you have 2 weeks following to work on your sleep plan.
Maybe reschedule appointments or scheduling conflicts during that time to make sure if there is an off day you can stay as close to on track as you can.
Pick a time where you are not home alone (if you can) as having support can make it feel easier. This can be your partner, a friend, grandma, ect!
3. Decide where you want your goal sleep location to be. This is always part of step 1 for me because if you are making environmental changes such as moving from the parents room to their own room then we want to give your baby a chance to feel good about this new space. If you want the end goal to be in their own room then move all sleep to this location.
If you are co-sleeping right now you could move co-sleeping into their own room on a mattress so they can get used to the new room with your support.
If they are in a bassinet/play pen beside your bed then you can move the bassinet/play pen into their room for a few nights to let them get used to the new room.
If they are in their own crib already then just solidify all sleep being in that location by having all naps and night sleep in that location when you are at home.
If you bring baby into your bed at night because you are tired from getting up a hundred times then at this point you would go to them and keep them in their own room. Even if this means co-sleeping or holding them in there. We want to eliminate your bed at this time if the end goal is in their own space.
4. Make the room they will be sleeping in DARK! Darkness signals the brain to release sleep hormones and light does the opposite. We don’t want light levels signalling our baby to be awake.
Pitch black is best!
Cover monitor lights with a piece of tape.
Make sure no light is sneaking in around the shades for naps. Bring on the tinfoil or cardboard!
5. Set up your white noise machine. Using white noise can help set up room consistency for your baby which in turn helps them feel safe. This safe feeling helps them transfer through sleep cycles which is what we want them doing instead of waking up for our help all night.
We want the sound to play for the whole nap and all night. No timers!
Turn it on during the sleep routine and off during the wake-up routine.
Pick a sound that is constant meaning the tone stays the same: heavy rain, static, vacuum, white noise.
Read about partial awakenings here to understand the sleep cycles.
6. Set the temperature. It is really hard to sleep in a location that is too warm. We as adults have trouble sleeping as well if it is too hot or we have a fever. 19-22 Celcius is a healthy room temperature for sleep.
7. Work on setting up appropriate timing. Sleep training will NOT work if your baby is overtired or if they are not tired enough. Finding a healthy balance is key so that the body can fall asleep quickly and respond best to sleep coaching methods. I often encourage families to work on timing of sleep for a few days BEFORE implementing the sleep coaching method. This means you would work on timing as you continue to use your sleep props so that your baby has a chance to even out sleep with your help. For example, if a baby is waking up really early in the morning then setting up a healthy schedule may help with that first before doing sleep training to work on independent sleep. This means you will still be helping your baby a lot as you adjust the schedule.
Need help setting up some timing? Read here to look at some sample schedules.
8. Build strong routines. This is so important because each step in your nap and bedtime routine actually act as your baby's clock telling the brain they will be sleeping soon. This means that when you are going through your routines your baby is producing more sleep hormones.
Write your routine down!!!! We want it exactly the same every day
Nap is a shortened version of bedtime routine and so it usually consists of the last few steps of bedtime routine.
Keep the sleep prop in place at the end of the routine for now as you solidify a routine so your baby has time to associate the new steps of the routine with sleep. This way when you eliminate props to fall asleep later there are other cues in place to help encourage sleep.
Need help with a routine? Read some tips here.
9. Get your baby used to feeding at different times versus only to sleep. This step is for families who feed their baby to sleep and would like to make a change. As I outline in Part 1 of this series, we do NOT want to be eliminating daytime calories but instead sometimes shifting the feeds to earlier in the routines so that baby can learn to fall asleep without it. Step 1 is the gentle part of this:
Offer your baby a feed right when they wake up from a sleep period (morning and after each nap) or in the middle of an awake time.
Continue feeding to sleep during this step but just offering at an alternative time so that when you eliminate the feed to sleep their body is used to getting calories at another time. Remember, we are moving calories, not eliminating them!
Once I begin using a sleep coaching method to eliminate the feed to sleep I try and have the feed ending at least 20 minutes before sleep time. This way they still get their calories but it is far enough away from falling asleep to help with eliminating that association if that is what you are working on.
10. Pick your sleep coaching method! Part 3 of the series will be discussing the different methods!
I always encourage a family to work on these foundations for 3-5 days before jumping into sleep coaching. This way the new patterns become consistent and your baby can adapt to the new cues in the environment and in their routines. Setting up the base can make it so that the sleep coaching is the icing on the cake! It seems like a waste of a couple of days but patience is key my friend.
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