However, not everyone is blessed with learning the golden words of Tracy Hogg when their babies are small. Which is when accidental parenting happens. Starting EASY after 4 months is usually complicated by accidental parenting seeds that were planted in infancy.
This sleep training series is adapted from the works of The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems and Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers. These are both written by Tracy Hogg.
How you respond to your baby's irregularities and frustrations will dictate the habits that are formed. These will either be helpful in teaching the set of skills that babies need to learn to sleep, or harmful and form bad habits.
Stay Away From Bad Habits
It takes only 2-3 nights for a baby to become dependent on a form of accidental parenting like bouncing, jiggling, rocking. But it can take two to three weeks of repeating the right habits to fix it.
Because you've switched up how you put baby to bed, he becomes confused. He doesn't know what to expect and reaches out with a cry. When you come to console him, he fancies what you're doing. Next time he wakes up, he expects the same thing.
Here's where the habit is formed.
Instead of teaching him the right way to go to sleep on his own (and stay asleep), you've inadvertently taught him that he needs to be picked up and comforted back to sleep.
If nothing seems to be working for you, it's likely a case of accidental parenting.
Don't Confuse Your Baby
By trying many different methods, you could have confused your baby. Learn how to recognize the signs of accidental parenting.
- Has there been a sudden and drastic change in routine (return to work, new babysitter, sibling)
- Is your child waking at exactly the same time every night/at naps?
- If a baby is waking due to hunger (which is ok), the time will be erratic and baby will take an entire feed. Consistently waking at a certain time and hardly eating signifies habitual waking.
If your baby is waking up every hour, or even every two hours, and [you've] ruled out hunger and pain, there's a good chance that you are doing something that makes nighttime appealing to her.
- Baby won't sleep unless I fill in the blank
- Here's the truth: by allowing baby to fall asleep in that way, you're teaching him that this is how he is supposed to go to bed. It's all he knows, now. Work towards getting him to go to sleep on his own.
- I can't get my baby to nap more than 30-45 minutes
- You could be waiting until he's too tired, not using a structured routine, or trying to keep him on a routine meant for a younger baby.
Props and prop dependency. A form of accidental parenting
As the name suggests, a prop is anything the baby needs to fall asleep that is out of his control and has been introduced by the parent. They can be physical (pacifier/soother, bottle) or motion props (car ride, rocking, swing).
Props often start as a desperate measure. In all fairness, it's hard NOT to use a prop. Any sleep-deprived parent who doesn't rock, bounce, or give a pacifier is a hero in my books!
There's a catch, though
You might think it's cruel not to give your baby a pacifier. The trouble is, there's a difference between a prop and a comfort item. Comfort items are adopted by babies at 6 months or older. Props often start in the first few weeks after birth and will come back to haunt you.
Pacifiers can go either way. If the baby needs the pacifier to sleep and cries/wakes when it falls out? PROP!
Using shush/pat or pick up/put down (more to come) will likely be necessary to break prop dependency.
Here's the Scary Part
Accidental parenting can start in infancy and continue through childhood. At that point, they have most certainly become time busters – a frustrating, seemingly endless and prolonged behavioral difficulty that robs hours from the day and night. Your child ends up controlling you and your life. Your marital relationship may suffer because of it, as well as any other adult relationships you have.
Here's the truth: babies don't sleep “like a baby”. They sleep like us. They have interruptions all night, too. Babies have the same sleep cycle we do. The difference? We know how to put ourselves back to sleep (if our parents taught us how). Now you need to teach your baby.
There's good news.
You will be able to alter your child's habits and train him back to the well behaved little one you always dreamed of. The important part is to be consistent. When you change the rules or offer a quick fix, you are just putting a bandage over a dirty wound. Sweeping the problem under the rug.
I'm going to show you the steps to get your routine on track, be consistent, and commit to the proper techniques for sleep preparation.
The Four S Routine
This is the recommended routine for every sleep time when starting sleep training. Being consistent will have your baby recognizing the cues to settle down and expect sleep.
Set the stage
Get the environment ready for sleep. Go to his room, dim the lights, keep noises to a minimum, play soft music or white noise if you like.
Get your baby ready for sleep. Swaddling helps minimize stimulation from moving limbs, and keeps baby cozy.
Sit quietly without physical stimulation. Don't rock or jiggle. Hold baby vertically with his head tucked into you. You may feel baby relax and possibly jerk or twitch. Try to move him to his crib before he falls into a sleep. Give him a reassuring word as you lay him down. If all is calm, head out.
Shush Pat (Under the age of 3 months)
When necessary, you may need to intervene with physical touch to help a fussy or fidgety baby drop off to sleep. Simultaneously pat his back and whisper “shh, shh, shh…” past his ear.
Sleep disorders are becoming an epidemic in North America. By not training our babies, at a young age, we are setting them up for failure and pain later on in life.
To reverse these long-standing habits, Tracy Hogg recommends the following course of action:
1. Figure out what you have done to encourage or reinforce the problem
It's not likely the child's fault. By not setting limits, giving in to every tantrum, whine, whim and puppy dog face, you're allowing your child to walk all over you! Your child won't change if he keeps getting his way with a little whimper.
While things likely are your (and your partner's) fault, it's important not to beat yourself up. Yes, you made some choices that have led to frustration, but you're here to fix them and help your child better manage his life.
- Do you feel guilty about setting limits?
- Do you tend to be inconsistent with rules?
- If you work outside the home, do you let standards slide when you're home?
- When you say “no,” do you feel sorry for your child?
- Does your child tend to have tantrums only when you are around?
- Do you tend to placate or cajole?
- Are you afraid your child won't love you if you discipline her?
- Do you get upset when your child doesn't seem happy?
- Do your child's tears make you feel sad?
- Do you often feel that other parents are too strict?
If you've answered “yes” to any of these questions, it's a good chance that your kiddo will continue to use his charm to get his way until you put an end to it. Additionally, he will realize he can up the ante to get even more out of you. Instead of a quick snuggle when he wakes in the night, it will multiply into a snuggle, 3 books, a drink of water and maybe even a little play time.
You see, in the second year of life, kids take a developmental leap. They're better able to understand cause and effect and use it to their advantage. Y'know, parental manipulation.
2. Make sure you are ready to change.
If you find yourself making excuses for your behavior (or your child's), you aren't aware of your own reluctance. Again, it's not the child who has a problem here, it's you allowing bad habits to form and grow.
Denial is the biggest hurdle in getting started on the right path.
3. Use ABC to analyze the problem
A – Antecedent, what came first?
What was happening in the moment? Was baby crying, someone at the door, baby not getting enough attention?
B – Behavior
How did the baby react? Feelings + emotions?
C – Consequence, what pattern has been established as the result of A + B?
What happened in the end? And what continues to happen?
Example: You were out shopping and get home late for nap time. You have an important call in 20 minutes, so instead of taking the time to put baby down for her nap properly, you do something outside of the routine. She likes it. She falls asleep. She now expects it for every sleep time.
This includes setting limits. When you say one more book, you need to mean it. One slip and that little rugrat will know he can wriggle an extra candy out of you next time, too.
Problems don't magically disappear.
There are no quick fixes. Parenting is hard. It takes work, dedication, time, and lots of energy! The good news? It takes less time to change habits with infants. Toddlers, not so much. So start early, if you can.
But don't let that discourage you! If you are dealing with a toddler and bad habits, take the time to correct them now. Next week, you'll wish you started today.
Target the end goal and work backwards. If you have a child who will not sleep in his own bed, break down the process into teeny, tiny accomplishments. It will be more manageable and more rewarding, encouraging you to continue. Here is an example from the book with a toddler…
Take each step of progress as a win and build on it. You're inching toward your goal. You're working hard and developing life-long skills for your child.
Last update on 2020-07-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API