The Ins and Outs of Sleep Training - an Interview with Snooze Fest by Jayne Havens
Q: What are some of the main reasons why babies don't sleep through the night?
A: The first thing to note is that no babies sleep through the night. All infants, as well as toddlers, big kids and adults wake throughout the night. The difference is that some know how to fall back asleep without assistance and others need some help. For an infant that is waking periodically throughout the night, it’s likely that they are either hungry, or simply do not know how to fall asleep independently. Sleep training, the act of teaching your baby to fall asleep and to fall back to sleep independently, will drastically help with those night wakings!
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges when sleep training your baby?
A: The biggest challenge with sleep training is usually the crying. No parent wants to hear their baby cry. As a sleep consultant I try my hardest to manage expectations around the crying and to help my clients understand what their baby is communicating during the process. For example, with a baby that is typically rocked or fed to sleep, if you tried to place her into the crib calm, relaxed and awake, it’s very likely that she would begin to cry as you were lowering her down to the crib mattress. The parents haven’t even put her down and she’s already crying. That is simply the baby communicating her preference that she wants to be fed or rocked to sleep. As the parent, you are not abandoning your child, or even letting them “cry it out”. You are simply putting them down and they are expressing a preference to remain in your arms.
The other big challenge with sleep training is being consistent. This is so important as babies really thrive on routine. It becomes difficult to remain consistent when you see your baby frustrated day after day. It’s also difficult to remain consistent if you have an older child as it’s very common that the family‘s daily routine revolves around the big brother or sister’s schedule. Being home for naps as well as being home on time for bedtime can be hard when the family already has a very busy lifestyle.
Q: Do the same techniques in sleep training work for every baby?
A: I tend to believe that every sleep training method would work for every baby, BUT every sleep training method doesn’t work for every parent. It’s so important that parents pick a sleep training method that aligns with their comfort level and parenting style. If they decide to implement an approach that doesn’t feel totally comfortable for them, then they are less likely to be consistent and therefore be less likely to have success.
Q: Can you tell us about a personal moment for you when you felt successful in encouraging your own children to practice healthier sleep patterns?
A: Both of my children were taught to sleep independently at a very young age, three and four months respectively. I firmly believe that when these habits are established at a young age, you are far less likely to struggle down the road. With both children, getting rid of their pacifiers felt like a big milestone. I was nervous and anxious that I was going to disrupt their sleep and was hesitant to rock the boat when sleep was so good! I waited until age three with both children to take the pacifier away, and they both adjusted seamlessly. The key was communication leading up to the big day. We read books about it, we talked about it and we had a plan for where the pacis would go and a big prize ready for the morning. Both of my children did great with the transition!
Q: How important is a routine when encouraging better sleep for your baby?
A: Having a solid routine is the first step to establishing healthy sleep habits for your baby. I typically recommend that you try to get onto an Eat, Play, Sleep schedule from the very beginning as this helps to eliminate any preference to feed to sleep. It’s also incredibly important that your baby sleeps the same way during the daytime as they are expected to sleep overnight. If they spend all day napping in a swing or a parent’s arms, they are going to have a very difficult time sleeping flat on their backs in a crib overnight.
Q: What does it mean to self-soothe and what are some techniques for promoting self-soothing?
A: Self soothing is a term that is regularly meant to describe a baby that can settle from crying to calm, and then to sleep without a parent’s help. Some babies will suck their hands or thumb, some babies will sway their head from side to side across the crib mattress and other babies will lift their legs up and thump them down forcefully. In order to help a baby learn to self soothe, it’s important that parents give their child an opportunity to try. Providing comfort is very different than assisting to sleep. I typically encourage parents to provide their child with comfort and reassurance but not to assist their child to sleep.
Q: Some people mix up the terms "sleep training" and "cry-it-out". Can you explain what the differences are between these two methods?
A: I love this question! Parents often ask me if they are going to have to let their baby “cry it out” during sleep training. To me, “cry it out” is the extinction method. This would be when you go through all of the motions of the bedtime routine, give your baby a kiss, and put him down in the crib awake. You walk out of the room and return in the morning. This is cry it out, and no, you don’t have to let your baby “cry it out” during sleep training. The truth of the matter is, your baby will likely cry some during sleep training, as any change to their normal routine will likely result in some protesting and frustration on their end. That being said, parents can comfort their child and support them through the process. I would never describe that as letting your baby cry. I prefer that we say that we are letting the baby try.
Q: Can you give the moms out there some words of encouragement for their own sleep training journey?
A: I always tell my clients that teaching your baby to fall asleep and back to sleep independently is something you do for your child, not to your child. When parents decide to sleep train, they are often incredibly sleep deprived. It’s important to recognize that the baby is also sleep deprived. When a baby wakes crying in the middle of the night, if it’s not due to hunger, the baby is actually crying because she wants to be asleep. Once you teach your child to fall back to sleep without help, the crying stops! No one ever regrets teaching their children to be great sleepers!
About Jayne Havens
Jayne Havens, is a certified sleep consultant and runs her own sleep consulting practice, Snooze Fest by Jayne Havens.
As a new parent, overwhelmed by exhaustion, Jayne found herself reading everything she could find in order to get her own son to sleep through the night. She applied what she learned to both of her children, implementing good sleep habits very early on.
Friends quickly took notice of the fact that Jayne’s children were both fabulous sleepers, and they began coming to her for help with their own kids’ sleep challenges.
Jayne has quickly established herself as a leader in the industry, building a strong reputation for taking good care of her clients and always providing top notch service along with her expertise. She describes her approach as being very "client led", meaning she works with families using methods that feel safe and comfortable for them. There is no one size fits all approach to teaching a child to fall asleep and back to sleep independently.
In addition to supporting families through the sleep training process, Jayne also mentors, trains and certifies others to begin their careers as sleep consultants. Her sleep consultant certification program, the Center for Pediatric Sleep Management, launched in 2019 and is currently enrolling.