Should we start sleep training now that we are home more because of the coronavirus?
Deciding to sleep train during the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order (if there is one in your area) will depend on what this time is like for your family. The timing of sleep training is a personal and unique decision for each family. Some families are finding that although self-quarantine has caused a change in their daily schedules, life has slowed down a bit because they are not having to run to and from kids’ activities, do school drop off and pickup, or physically go into the office, etc. Other families are finding this time to be very challenging as they try to juggle new schedules, work from home, and long-distance learning. If your family is feeling an increased stress load due to the new normal, right now may not be the best time to take on sleep training and that is perfectly okay. However, if you feel that this has given your family the opportunity to slow down and have a more flexible schedule, this may be a great time to help your child learn to sleep independently.
Here are some additional things to consider to help you decide if this is the right time to sleep train:
• Is my child the right age to begin sleep training? By 3 months of age, most healthy full-term babies are capable of consolidating sleep and self-soothing and by 6 months no longer require nighttime feedings. It is recommended that sleep training begin no earlier than 3-6 months of age.
• Do I have a consistent bedtime routine in place for my child? The first step to learning how to sleep independently and sleeping through the night is a consistent bedtime routine with 3-5 calming activities. A consistent schedule helps signal that it is time to wind down the body and sets the tone for an easier transition from wake to sleep. If your family already has a consistent routine, then you are ahead of the game! If you do not, this is a great place to get started.
• As a parent, am I experiencing increased stress and anxiety during this time? Parental stress including emotional and physical arousal can negatively impact your child’s level of stress. An increase in stress may make it more difficult for your child to self-soothe so it may be wise to pick a time when you feel your stress level is stable. Also, consider sleep training can be hard work for a parent! A high stress level may make it more difficult to tolerate sleep training.
• Is your child currently healthy? Illnesses such as a cold or the flu are common sleep disruptors and can increase the time it takes to go to sleep along with increasing the frequency of night wakings and sleep fragmentation (sleeping in disrupted, short periods of time). If your child is showing any signs of illness, consult your pediatrician and temporarily delay sleep training until she is feeling better.
• Does the current quarantine schedule give you more flexibility compared to your normal schedule? If the current schedule offers your family increased flexibility and a more relaxed wake time, it may feel easier to sleep train now without the stress of needing to be awake early and get out the door to school and work. If there are siblings in the home, this flexible schedule offers less worry about temporarily disrupting the family’s sleep schedule.
Regardless of when you decide to sleep train your baby or child, look at these posts to help get you started:
This post was written in the Spring of 2020. Please follow your local guidelines and advice from family health care providers for appropriate, current coronavirus safety measures.