5 Things I’ve Learned as a Child Sleep Consultant
Sitting in the hospital with a brand-new baby in my arms, I remember feeling overwhelmed and insecure. I had just delivered my daughter and had no prior experience caring for a newborn. The thought of bringing her home and being responsible for her EVERY need felt daunting and impossible.
Fast forward, and I now have three beautiful children, and spoiler alert, we made it through the newborn fog. As a Child Sleep Consultant, I have put together five things that I hope will help you throughout your own sleep journey.
1. Follow Awake Windows for the First 6-8 Months
You may have read about the term “awake window,” which can also be referred to as a “wake window,” now, what exactly does this mean? Generally, an awake window starts when your baby wakes up from a period of sleep and ends when they go down for the next period. I recommend following awake windows from the moment you bring your baby home until your child drops to a 2-nap schedule around 6-8 months of age. At this time, you can then move to a by-the-clock schedule. Now you might be wondering…” But when does this “awake time” start?” My answer is that it depends! If your baby is 3+ months, I'd recommend beginning the awake time when you get your baby out of their crib. If your baby is a newborn, aim to start the awake window from the moment their eyes are open. Following awake times helps to ensure that your baby isn’t over-or under-tired, as that can cause issues with sleep. It’s important to note, too, that these awake times can vary from baby to baby as every baby is different. Some may need a bit more or less time between naps. Trial and error can be needed when figuring out what works best for your child.
2. The First 6-8 Weeks of a Newborns Life
In my opinion, the purpose of the first 6-8 weeks of life is for three things. First, for developing a bond with your baby through skin-to-skin and soaking in ALLLL those newborn cuddles. Second, I feel it’s extremely important to establish feeding, which can be challenging regardless of HOW you feed your baby. Sleep WILL come, so take the time to make sure you are confident on your feeding journey and reach out for help to assess oral ties or lactation support. The last thing I recommend focusing on during those first weeks of newborn life is recovery. Whether you are recovering from childbirth or maybe the suddenness of welcoming a foster baby. Caring for both your physical and emotional needs should take priority.
3. Use An Early Bedtime as a Tool
Sleep in the first half of the night has a different purpose from the second half. The beginning of the night is when your child is in their deepest sleep stage, which helps restore their physical body. Spending time in deep sleep is the quickest way to replenish a sleep debt. With this information in mind, shifting your child’s bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes for 1-3 nights can be extremely helpful to combat a short nap day or later than usual bedtime. I recommend only temporarily shifting bedtime earlier to avoid early morning wakes.
4. Consistency is the Key to Success
After years of supporting families with children ranging from newborn to nine years of age, I’ve learned that consistency is the absolute key to success. Consistency in your child’s bedtime routine, chosen sleep training method, and daily schedule can help to keep your child's sleep on track.
Throughout your child’s bedtime routine, it’s important to ensure your child knows exactly what happens during each step. Doing so will help foster your child's sense of safety and familiarity. Next, when implementing a sleep training method (if appropriate!), choose a method you can follow through 100% of the time as your child learns to fall asleep independently. Finally, strive to provide consistency as you tweak your child’s nap schedule, try new awake windows for your newborn, or power through an inevitable nap transition; remember that consistency is KEY.
5. Don't Underestimate the Power of the Sleep Environment
One of my favorite components of sleep is to educate on the environment. This may seem like a mundane part of creating better sleep routines, and I think that’s why I enjoy it the most; it’s often overlooked. Perfecting your child’s sleep environment is simple and cost-effective and can make a huge impact on sleep. When referring to the sleep environment, I talk about three main aspects, the temperature, level of darkness, and addition of white noise.
The recommended temperature for sleep is 65-70° Fahrenheit (18-21° Celsius). A cooler environment can help your child fall asleep easier. I recommended testing the temperature of your child's sleep space during the day and night to gain a true picture of the environment. After you have the temperature recordings adjust your thermostat and/or child’s clothing according to your findings.
Ensuring your child’s sleep space is cave-like dark can be one of the easiest and most impactful changes you can make. Don’t worry about fancy blackout curtains; grab some black poster board OR heavy-duty garbage bags and painter's tape; this can be an inexpensive and quick solution for total darkness. Check to make sure you cover up ALL sources of light and place a towel outside the door, then keep checking the darkness level until you are satisfied. Darkness can be a game changer if your child struggles with short naps and/or early morning wakes.
If your child's sleep space is already as dark as it can go and you’re ready to invest in a portable or permanent blackout solution, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing a SlumberPod. The Blackout EZ Window Solution is a more permanent option. Both are great additions to help darken your child’s sleep space.
White noise is non-negotiable in my books regarding a child’s sleep. My top three reasons for recommending white noise are its soothing capabilities for a newborn, its ability to block out environmental noise, & the clear and consistent sleep cue it provides for children. White noise should be played no louder than a running shower or 50-65db, and you want to ensure the white noise is played for the whole duration of your child's nap and night. Lastly, choosing a white noise machine that plays deep non-looping white noise is recommended.
No matter where you are on your sleep journey or how many children you have in tow, I’d love to help! As a mom of three, I understand trying to juggle alllll the things. Together let's bring you back to feeling rested and refreshed. Remember, you don’t have to reach absolute rock bottom to reach out for support.
Head over to my website and book a free 15-minute discovery call; sleep could be just around the corner!
About the Author
Alyssa is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant and mother of three.
It wasn’t until the birth of her daughter that she truly understood sleep deprivation and the toll it can take on one’s mental health, relationships, and family life.
After hiring a Sleep Consultant to help her own daughter sleep. She then discovered how life-changing it is to be a well-rested family. Thus began her fascination with the science of sleep and healthy sleep habits.
Alyssa now runs her own consulting company and has helped many families become well-rested again.
Her goal is to teach families the importance of safe sleep practices, while at the same time educating and empowering families with the tools required to help their children receive quality sleep.