One of the best ways to connect with your baby or child and create a special bond is by cuddling with them! I think one of the biggest misconceptions about sleep training is that the two cannot co-exist. I also once believed this, but after much experience in the world of sleep training, I can tell you that this is FALSE. Sleep training AND snuggles can live happily ever after.
Readiness is key.
This misconception is an especially big concern for parents who are co-sleeping. Having your baby or child next to you all night has allowed for infinite cuddles. On the other hand, it often allows for frequent wake ups and lack of enough sleep for all parties involved. It gives parents a mixed emotion of wanting to sleep but also wanting their baby to continue to sleep next to them. I always tell parents that the best time to sleep train is when you, as the parent, are TRULY ready to make that commitment.
Snuggles are important. We know that! We love to help make this a part of your plan. We also know that some nights, a little more time for snuggles is needed.
One of my very first clients had been co-sleeping with her 6 month old. He woke multiple times a night, and she was constantly having to nurse him back to sleep. She was so exhausted and ready to sleep train when she reached out to me.
The plan was sent, and she read it over. We were reviewing for the first night when her confidence turned into anxiety. I got an email that said “I’m starting to feel really anxious about starting…because I know he will cry if I let him, and part of me is a little sentimental he won’t be sleeping in bed with me anymore. I’m feeling all the emotions today!”
I completely understood her fears and concerns. I felt this too before starting with my son! A bit of mom guilt washed over me, and my heart hurt knowing that he wouldn’t be right next to me every night. Then, I remembered how unhappy we all were every night. I remembered how every night, it took longer and longer to get my son back to sleep. This life of exhaustion wasn’t something I could continue. That’s how I knew we were ready.
Make cuddles a priority in your routine!
I was able to empathize with my client, and I offered some advice. One of the things my family did was implement cuddle time as part of our bedtime routine. I encouraged her to set aside time for this as well.
Another thing we now do is, in the mornings when my son wakes up, we bring him in our bed to breastfeed and for cuddles and cartoons. A full night’s sleep and cuddles…it was the perfect balance for our family!
After these little pieces of advice, my client was ready to start.
By night 4, her son was sleeping through the night. They cuddled before bed and in the morning. It was the perfect balance. Nearly 6 months later in a follow-up email, I learned that her son is STILL sleeping well. They continue to incorporate their cuddles while getting a full night of sleep.
Gentle sleep training is possible – even for toddlers!
Recently, another client approached me about her toddler, who was sleeping in her bed. She explained she knew she needed to get him in his room but also feared missing their before-bedtime snuggles, which is why she had waited to sleep train.
After a long day of work, their before-bedtime snuggles allowed them alone time that had become extremely special since her little man became a big brother. I made sure to make that special time for them a priority in their sleep plan. Mom was thrilled with the plan and how much attention was paid to providing that time for she and her son. Before she reached out, she felt sleep training wouldn’t be doable. After reading the gentle options that continued to foster the bedtime ritual of snuggles, she felt confident enough to move forward.
Setting healthy boundaries is essential.
Sleep training doesn’t mean disconnecting from your baby or negating that one-on-one bonding time. It simply helps set healthy boundaries that allow your child to connect and cuddle and also receive the amount of sleep their tiny bodies need to grow. Self-soothing is an important learned skill that helps children to regulate their emotions and fosters healthy sleep throughout their lifetime.
A great way to set a boundary for the amount of cuddle time is by using the length of a lullaby or two. Toddlers love to push for more time with Mom or Dad. Instead of giving them the option, it is best to set a timeframe they understand. This will also help reduce any anxiety they may have because they will know just what to expect.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. When kids are going through anything out of the ordinary…whether it be an illness, teething or a regression, go ahead and give them extra cuddles! We encourage it. The key is to make sure that after cuddle time, they are put in their crib or bed awake. Once everything is back to normal, fully return back to your bedtime routine.
The great thing about a personalized sleep plan is…it’s just that – personal! We understand parenting philosophies are not black and white, and that’s why we customize our plans for each individual family.
The Cradle Coach