Lydia from The Sleep Code is a certified baby and toddler sleep consultant, helping families locally and worldwide with newborns all the way to preschoolers. She is known for taking a wholesome approach, and tailoring solutions that best suit the baby’s temperament as well as each unique family setting. We chatted with Lydia about a few FAQs a lot of parents have surrounding sleep training…
Don’t all babies naturally know how to sleep?
Some babies are natural great sleepers, and if you are one of those lucky parents you probably won’t be reading this now! However for most babies (especially the curious little ones), shutting off a world full of wonders, self-settling to sleep, as well as putting themselves back to sleep while swinging between sleep cycles throughout the night, these are all skills that require practice before they become a natural at it.
Yes we all have an instinctive need to sleep at some point, yet it takes learning and practice to establish healthy sleep habits for quality, restorative sleep. Just as we all eventually know how to eat, but whether you have picked up on healthy eating habits to sustain good health is another story.
What are the benefits of sleep training?
Let me just begin by saying that sleep training is a very personal parenting choice, and no parents should feel bad for choosing or not choosing to do so. I strongly believe that we are all doing the best we possibly can! Having said so, there is such a long list of benefits to healthy sleep habits which really brings about the passion I have for what I do.
First and foremost, sleep plays a critical role in supporting infant growth and development, as well as memory consolidation which is vital for learning and cognition . In the longer run, having healthy sleep habits and getting an age-appropriate amount of sleep are critical in strengthening the overall immune function and preventing diseases like diabetes and obesity. There is also growing evidence to suggest strong links between ADHD and the length, timing and quality of sleep, where it is found that a significant percentage of young children diagnosed with ADHD are indeed suffering from sleep deprivation, leading to challenging behaviours that actually mimic ADHD.
As for sleep-deprived parents, you must have already felt the impact on your physical and emotional states, and over time these may compound into stress, anxiety and depression. Many parents don’t have the luxury to catch up on sleep “when the baby’s sleeping”, whether they’re working or not.
Sleep training = Cry It Out?
One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that sleep training means letting your baby cry it out, or “CIO”. In fact, CIO is just one out of a wide array of sleep training techniques, and one that sits at the most extreme end of the spectrum. No parent in the world wants to hear their baby cry. But the truth is whichever technique you are using, you are essentially changing the way in which your baby goes to sleep, and initially he will express his frustration through crying - his only way of communication.
Which is why taking a wholesome approach in tackling the roots of your child’s sleep issues, using a strategy that is suitable to the specifics of your child, and having a full action plan is so important in speeding up the learning process, as a result minimising the total amount of crying. Sleep training (when done properly) may be understood as the first day of starting nursery for a child, where it involves a huge change in routine and an extended separation from an attachment figure. Yes, it can be stressful initially, but as long as it is implemented properly, the crying rarely goes over a prolonged period of time and your child is still growing daily in a safe and supportive environment.
Remember that your child is mastering an important life skill in this process - the ability to self-soothe and the ability to sleep independently, and by improving the sleep situation for the whole family you are in fact reducing your child’s risk of exposure to greater stressors.
Hand-picked by Lydia
Here are some of Lydia's favourite products from Petit Tippi
(1) Red Castle The Miracle Blanket
If you have a newborn baby under 10 weeks of age, a swaddle is very effective in containing the Moro reflex and help babies sleep longer stretches at a time. I love how The Miracle Blanket is so easy to use, and those inner flaps can secure those arms down even if you have the most wriggly baby ever! You may consider dressing your baby extra light underneath to avoid overheating during the summer.
Always put your baby to sleep on her back, and once baby is showing signs of rolling over, you would want to transition her to arms out.
(2) ergoPouch Organic Cotton Jersey Sleep Bag (0.2 Tog)
Once your baby has transitioned out of a swaddle, I recommend using a sleeping bag all the way until your toddler moves out of the crib for various reasons:
(1) it can serve as a cue to the brain for sleep;
(2) it relieves parents from the hassle of constantly replacing blankets;
(3) a sleeping bag can really discourage babies from climbing out of the crib (a scary scenario for parents!) once they get a little older.
As a mom of a very sweaty toddler, I am always in search of lightweight, breathable options and this is the lowest TOG rating I have found in the market, perfect for Hong Kong summer!
(3) Airwrap Baby Safe Mattress Protector - Cot Size
There is nothing more tiring than having to change soiled beddings and wake up a sleeping baby in the middle of the night, in cases when your baby has vomitted or wet the bed. During those nights when my mom instinct foresees this happening, I would double layer this breathable and waterproof protector over the mattress, so I could easily take off the top soiled layer and put my baby back to bed with half the amount of effort.
(4) Zazu Sleeptrainer Bobby
Once your toddler has moved to a big bed, and is still a little young to read the clock yet, I recommend using a toddler clock like this cute Zazu Sleeptrainer Bobby to teach them the concept of staying in bed until a preset wake-up time. You might just be able to sneak in an extra hour of sleep yourself!
Lydia Chan, The Sleep Code, fb.me/TheSleepCode, firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. It is advised to consult your paediatrician to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may interfere with your child’s sleep, such as ear infections, reflux, asthma, allergies or sleep apnea, before considering sleep training.