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Can I Sleep Train and Still Have a Life?

Wanting to sleep train your baby but worried you'll be stuck at home for every nap time until the day your chid no longer needs a sleep?

It is definitely possible!

Once a baby has learnt how to fall asleep independently they will no longer be in a sleep deficit. A baby who is sleeping well will not be impacted by a late nap, a short nap or in some cases, no nap at all.

Where there does come an issue is when social commitments hinder nap quantity and quality on a regular basis. You have probably heard that consistent nap times are important. This is because we have internal body clocks that tell our body when to reduce stress and release sleep hormones . If you are constantly changing nap times and durations, your baby is likely to become chronically over-tired. This often presents as a baby who is:

  • Wired

  • Fussy

  • Off their feeds/ food

  • Resisting naps/bedtime

  • Sleeping less

  • Waking more

Let's get down to the important questions...

How long will I need to stay home for sleep training?

Depending on the age of your child, we can look to arrange one nap as an 'on-the-go' nap. This will be the shortest nap of the day and will be next to be dropped. Besides the 1 on-the-go nap, I recommend that parents aim to be home for all other naps for the first 2 weeks of sleep training. This helps the baby become comfortable in their sleep space and makes the process shorter. If you are in no hurry to fix sleep and cannot sacrifice 2 weeks of socialisation, you can go ahead and do the majority of naps on the go. For young babies you might be able to get away with this. Babies under 4 months are pretty good at sleeping on the go. Older babies prefer to stay alert whilst out and about. Many babies over 6 months will only sleep on the go (for more than 30 minutes) if they are absolutely knackered.

Can't I stay out during the day and sleep train at night?

You could definitely try! There are some babies who manage to cat-nap on the go but then sleep a solid 12 hours overnight. These babies are the minority. This may be easily achievable until around 4 or 5 months, then the overtiredness compounds and short naps are accompanied by late bedtimes, frequent wakes or early rising.

From 6 months of age a baby can get away with a short morning and afternoon nap, so long as they get a decent lunch time nap. Achieving a long lunch time nap is hard work. It takes weeks, if not months to come together. Once you have set baby's body clock and perfected awake times, baby will be begging you to be put down for their nap.

What about night time, we want our baby to come out to dinners?

Although the idea of taking a baby out to a family dinner sounds really exciting and appealing, once you have a baby who sleeps at the same time every night, I suspect you'd not to disturb their routine. There are lots of opportunities for children to attend family dinners once they are a bit older (2 years +) so skipping the dinner, making it a lunch or getting someone to mind your bub is definitely the option I would choose. This also depends on the temperament of your baby. For the Mums of active boys (like myself) I'd let the dinners go and chase a different dream.

For young babies (4 months and younger) you will likely be able to take your baby to dinner, again, depending on temperament. Babies at this age will sleep in the pram or in arms unless they are highly sensitive to noise and light.

Another tactic is allowing your baby to nap longer to plan for a later bedtime. For example, if you are always waking your baby from naps, allow them to sleep longer on the days where you have dinner plans.

Parenting is all about personal preferences. If you would like to take your child out until 10pm- fantastic. If you and baby are happy about that arrangement then there is no law stating your baby must be in bed by 7pm. Sleep training is a very broad term and it definitely doesn't mean you have to stop taking your baby out during the day (or night). Whether you would like a routine or just some guidance on teaching self-settling, there is always a way to improve sleep without compromising your lifestyle.

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