Signs Your Child May Need “Sleep Training” {aka Parent Training}

Disclosure :: we are thrilled to partner with Sleepless in NOLA as a sponsor. Sleep is a topic of continual interest to our readers, and we are lucky to have Dr. Vyas – a mom herself – on board to share her expert advice with the moms of New Orleans.

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Signs Your Child May Need Sleep Training: A Pediatrician’s Tale

Having a baby was one of the most wonderful, emotionally satisfying and beautiful things that has ever happened to me. After the initial exhilaration wore off and we finally got to take our bundle of joy home, it suddenly hit us: now what do we do? The reality was that – as amazing as it all was – I had no idea what to do. Combine that with the exhaustion from lack of sleep and, well, it was a bit overwhelming. Then came all the well intended advice from friends and family…

“You will be so exhausted but because you love your baby so much, you’ll somehow get through it.”

“You will want to hold that baby in your arms all day, everyday, and never put him down,”

“It’s the best thing that has ever happened to you so just deal with all the hard stuff!”

“You can sleep, shower and eat – when the baby sleeps.”

Granted, some of those things turned out to be true, but for me it was hard. Really, REALLY hard. I was not just physically exhausted but emotionally as well. I loved this baby; I really wanted this baby. I wanted to spend every waking moment with this baby, but wait … did I really? I was beyond tired, and it proved to be much more difficult than I expected. I thought that I was well-qualified for motherhood because I had loved (and was good at) all my baby-sitting jobs growing up. Moreover, I was a trained pediatrician. But I quickly realized that neither the universe nor pediatric residency prepared me for the hardest job of them all: motherhood.

My bundle of joy was 4 months old, super cranky and so was the rest of my family. He was cranky when I held him and even crankier when I put him down. He would fall asleep in my arms, but as soon as I would put him down, he would wake up, cry, and the process would start all over again. I would get him to sleep, walk out of the room, the floorboards would creak and he would be up again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I had to do something for the sake of my child and my own sanity…

The Solution: Sleep Training (aka Parent Training)

The one common thread through all the books I read on the topic of sleep was that I needed to follow my baby’s cues and let him guide me (instead of the other way around). I had to figure out what he was trying to tell me that I couldn’t hear, couldn’t judge or wasn’t listening to properly. As I watched him more closely, I noticed a pattern emerging. I monitored his sleep cues, as well as his hunger cues, trying my best not to confuse 1-Rajan-6the two. I noticed that when I followed his sleepy cues, he would sleep. When I followed his hunger cues (and fed him only when I saw those), he ate better, which led him to sleep better, which led him to be happier. A less cranky baby led to a less cranky mommy. Common sense, right? But oh so hard to decipher when you’re in the thick of infant sleep deprivation, adjusting to motherhood and possibly returning to work on top of it all.

As I made this change, my son’s sleep cycles and feeding cycles became more predictable and so did my own life. Granted, I had many friends and family that told me they were “anti-schedule.” They said things like, “let the baby decide when he’s hungry and sleepy, and do not put him on a schedule. Let him sleep when he wants to and feed when he wants to.” Was putting him on a “schedule” going against nature and doing something wrong for my baby?

I soon realized that I was indeed following nature (my baby’s cues), and a schedule was emerging on its own, with only a minimal amount of input from me. This wasn’t MY schedule; it was my baby’s schedule. Then, I knew with confidence that I was doing the right thing. Not only did I notice a palpable increase in both mine and my baby’s overall happiness, I also noticed significant jumps in his development. I had the baby that everyone noted “you are so lucky to have such a sweet, happy and alert baby. He is so easy but wait until you have the next one!” Well, guess what? I did have that next one, and I put the same principles into play. And what do you know? I got really lucky. TWICE!!

Note to all: luck had nothing to do with it!

So What Is Involved With Sleep Training?

Many people think that sleep training is harmful to your child, that it involves leaving your child to cry for hours on end and that it’s akin to cruel and unusual punishment. What terrible parent would have a baby just to torment that child into fitting into their lifestyle and schedule? NO ONE!!

Sleep training is not the best term. It should more appropriately be called sleep adjustment, sleep tolerance, sleep associations, or my personal favorite :: Parent Training. Just call it anything BUT sleep training. Parent training means that you are training yourself, as a parent, to learn what the baby is trying to tell you. In fact, you don’t have to do any of the hard work: just figure out your baby’s cues, and they will lead you. If you do that, the rest is easy and falls into place. It’s a matter of assessing his/her needs and putting in the necessary steps to fulfill those needs. In the process, he learns to soothe himself. You have to establish routine and consistency, and everyone can at least agree that a child needs that to grow and meet their milestones to reach their full potential.

If a child is not well-rested, it can lead to numerous problems throughout his lifetime. In the short term, sleep deprived children can be slow to meet developmental milestones. Of course kids will ultimately learn to walk, talk, read and write, but it’s more likely to happen readily and without much challenge if the child has had adequate sleep. A well-rested child is emotionally stable, more capable of dealing with the world around her and more willingly redirected. Lastly,a well-rested child yields a well-rested adult, which in turn allows you to be at your best when interacting with your child.

So how do you know if your family may benefit from parent training?

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation?

  • Your child usually cries when you put them down to sleep
  • You have to lay with your baby for them to fall asleep
  • Your child falls asleep every time they are in the car
  • She is difficult to soothe and put to sleep
  • She is a perpetual ‘catnapper’
  • Multiple things have to be done to get her to sleep including continuous rocking, feeding, bouncing, walking, etc
  • Your child will fall asleep when you are holding her and wake moments after she is put down, even when you thought she was ‘fast asleep’
  • She cries even when you are rocking her
  • She takes longer and longer to fall asleep in your arms. This is mostly because children get distrustful when they fall asleep one place and wake up in another. Imagine if you fell asleep on the sofa and ended up in your bed – it would be very confusing for you! For the child, falling asleep in your arms then waking in their crib is more than a little disconcerting
  • If your child has been deemed ‘very active, hyper, can’t stop, always on the go, and doesn’t need much sleep’. Hint: ALL children need sleep and plenty of it

If you said yes to any of the above statements, it’s likely that your child suffers from sleep deprivation. It is one thing if you want to go to sleep with your child at 7:00pm and want to lay with them in their bed, but if you are doing it because you have to – because it’s the only way they will get to sleep – then home-coverit’s a problem.

Every new parent wants to rock their child and have them fall asleep on their chest; that is the most precious feeling in the world. It is an entirely different story when that HAS to be the norm, rather than it being a special occasion. Everyone in the household needs good, quality sleep. Period. End of story. And it’s not great if it only happens occasionally; it NEEDS to happen Every.Single.Night!

If you rock or nurse your child to sleep and they stay asleep through the night, then there is no need to change a thing. If your child is happy, and you are happy, I’m happy. A lot of moms say “my baby only wakes up, feeds and goes right back to sleep, we don’t have any sleep problems at all.” That may be okay for you, and it seems to be okay for the baby. But while she is feeding, her brain is working, telling the organs to start working. The stomach is working, the gut is working … the pancreas, liver and kidneys, all working to process that meal she has in the middle of the night. That means her body is not resting, her organs are not regenerating and healing themselves as they are required to do during sleep. And even though mothers say they are sleeping through their infants nursing all night, there is a part of your brain that is awake throughout the process because you need to know at all times where you are in relation to your baby and where your baby is in relation to you. You are not going into a deep slumber as you should to regenerate yourself. But again, if you are happy and your baby is happy, I’m happy. I am mainly advising that if you wish for your child to sleep through the night and it’s developmentally safe and appropriate, it is indeed possible.

Preventing the Sleep Deprived Child

To prevent a sleep deprived child, parents and caregivers should follow these guidelines:

  • DO put your child to sleep following her natural sleep cues
  • DO put her to sleep drowsy but awake
  • DO maintain consistency and sense of routine as children thrive and depend on this
  • DO what feels right for you and your family and DO trust your gut
  • DO NOT let your baby fall asleep in one place and then move her somewhere else
  • DO NOT turn on TV or engage her at night if she wakes up
  • DO NOT think that this is just a phase and they will eventually become good sleepers. Remember, good sleepers as infants make good sleepers as adults
  • EVERY CHILD CAN AND SHOULD SLEEP WELL

Join Our Live Chat on February 24, 2015 at 8:30pm

We are so very lucky to have our friend and sponsor, Dr. Vyas, host a live chat JUST for the moms of New Orleans. All you have to do is hop online to post your questions at 8:30pm. Any and all questions regarding your family’s sleep are fair game.

Who :: all New Orleans area moms

When :: Tuesday, February 24 at 8:30pm

Where :: New Orleans Moms Blog Facebook page

Why :: Get answers LIVE to your burning questions on your child’s sleep habits, patterns and challenges.

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Dr. Nilong Vyas

unnamed (1)Dr. Vyas is a board certified pediatrician and mother of two beautiful boys. She was raised by educator parents in New Orleans and went on to earn a Masters in Public Health degree from Tulane University as well as a Medical Doctorate from LSU School of Medicine. After completing her Pediatrics residency at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. She subsequently chose to join private practice at Lake Vista Pediatrics in Lakeview where she learned much about both children and their parent’s needs as well as establishing nurturing relationships with her patients.

During that time, Dr. Vyas experienced her own sleep issues with her babies and knew she had to figure it out. It wasn’t anything that she learned in medical school or residency. As a new mom to an infant that would not nurse to sleep, be rocked to sleep, or held to sleep, she had to do some research as to why this was happening. She learned that she was not watching and following her baby’s cues properly. No one book seemed to have the magic answer, so she took the best of what spoke to her from all the books and devised her own ‘sleep plan.’  It worked the first night. Her son slept 12 hours through the night and woke happy and playful. And then the next night and the next night. Her now 6 year old loves to sleep and can’t get enough of it. Because of her success, she could not resist offering the plan to anyone who would listen: friends’ kids, patients and then again to her second child.  All with 100% success rates. She ultimately incorporated this into her practice and would offer sleep consults on her lunch hour to offer parents the proper time they needed to understand the plan and get their child sleeping well. Seven years and numerous sleep consults later, she decided to begin her own sleep training consulting business, and Sleepless in NOLA was born. She is a firm believer in the value of sleep (for the well being of both children and their parents) and the need for healthy sleep habits. Her mantra “from good sleep comes good eaters, readers and behaviors” is the foundation of her practice. She passionately believes that well-rested children develop better socially, emotionally, as well as educationally, with fewer behavior problems. And if the child is sleeping well, their caretaker will sleep better too, and the result will be a more harmonious household for all.

Dr. Vyas is following her passion to teach families how to achieve optimal and sound sleep through the night in a loving and safe manner. Just as a child needs to be taught to eat, read or dress themselves, they also need to be taught how to sleep. If they master the skill to soothe themselves, this leads to the ability to master many other aspects of their overall being.

To request a call from Dr Vyas to determine if a consult is suitable for you, visit Sleepless in NOLA online or email her at [email protected]

18 Responses to Signs Your Child May Need “Sleep Training” {aka Parent Training}

  1. Stacey February 9, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    This is such a load of crap! I’m shocked that the blog is putting this out there as advice from a pediatrician. Some of the symptoms of being sleep deprived are totally normal infant behavior. Suggesting that they aren’t is ridiculous. I don’t care how it is worded, this is advocating CIO which is harmful to babies. As a doctor, aren’t you suppose to “do no harm”? Pediatricians should stick to giving medical advice not parenting advice. I’m appalled.

    • Karen February 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

      Hi Stacey,

      I just want to put it out there that if a Pediatrician is not qualified to give parenting advice then who?? I do agree that we should all find someone (when seeking help) that fits with our own personal parenting ideals BUT I think your words are very harsh. I would urge you to remember that just because others may not believe as you do that does not make it “such a load of crap.”

      Happy Monday!

      • Stacey February 9, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

        Karen, I agree that my words are harsh. It is indicative of the way I perceived this blog. There are many parents that take what pediatricians say as the Bible even when their intuition is telling them otherwise. I feel that it is extremely unethical for pediatricians to advise parents to CIO. The fact is, research does not support such practices. Pediatricians do not receive training on parenting (and very little on breastfeeding while we’re at it) so they should keep their OPINIONS to themselves. When they advise parents in the way this article does, it does harm.

        • Ashley February 9, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

          Out of respectful curiosity, though, where in Dr. Vyas’ piece does it advise parents to CIO? She shares clearly “DO what feels right for you and your family and DO trust your gut” … I re-read it, but I don’t see a specific suggestion of letting a child cry endlessly which seems to be the major concern. Thanks for reading, and we chose to share this because Dr. Vyas does have a long list of happy and satisfied customers and her advice – while maybe not your personal choice – could possibly help other local moms.

          • Stacey February 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

            While she doesn’t spell out CIO here, it’s implied when you say “self soothe” and to put the baby to sleep “drowsy but not asleep”. This is the exact terminology used in every sleep training approach out there. We can read between the lines. She also discourages nighttime feeding which some babies need. Why is there such a focus on babies sleeping through the night here? If Dr. Vyas can say that she in no way is implying that parents should leave their babies to cry (even for a short time which is still harmful), then I take back statements. But somehow I don’t think that’s what is happening here.

      • Sarah February 9, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

        Being a pediatrician absolutely does not qualify you as a parenting expert. You are a medical expert and have influence over patients to instill behavioral advice, but you are not a child psychologist, social worker, or otherwise parenting , or sleep, expert.

  2. Erica February 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    I agree with Stacey. It seems Dr. Vyas let business motivations override her duty to give healthy advice. The “Sleep Deprived” list will provide a nice long line of parents believing their babies are broken & need her amazing sleep training! Or worse, cause parents to mistrust their own instincts & ignore baby cues to feed at night. Sleeping through the night is very popular & a great way to advertise your sleep training business, but it is not normal or healthy for a baby. Parents are on call all night. This article reads like an infomercial for a terrible plan designed to take advantage of new parents pressured to not let a baby inconvenience them.

    • Stacey February 9, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      Parenting doesn’t end because the lights go off. If we wouldn’t ignore a babies needs/cries during the day, why on earth is it acceptable to do so at night? There are other needs besides food. A baby crying to be comforted by a parent is a legitimate need. All babies sleep longer stretches with time. Be patient. This period in life is so short. My fear is that because of this blog there will be more babies crying alone in their room while a parent is outside the door that can provide them with the one thing that can soothe them, human connection. Poor babies, poor mamas.

  3. Erica February 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

    I agree with Stacey. This article reads like an infomercial for Dr. Vyas amazing sleep solution complete with list of symptoms completely normal for every baby to ensure new parents mistrust their own instincts, ignore feeding cues, & cave to pressure that their baby not inconvenience them- especially at night. Heaven forbid parenting at night. These babies are supposed to turn off at bedtime & not bother us again until dawn at least! Ridiculous & irresponsible for a pediatrician to use these popular misconceptions to drive up her baby sleep side business. A shameful abuse of medical training & dangerous for babies.

  4. Sarah February 9, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    Being a pediatrician absolutely does not qualify you as a parenting expert. You are a medical expert and have influence over patients to instill behavioral advice, but you are not a child psychologist, social worker, or otherwise parenting , or sleep, expert.

  5. Andie February 10, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Honestly, I am not sure why there is so much outrage over this post. Dr. Vyas is NOT advising parents to leave their children in their crib to cry all night long. In fact, I find that she is encouraging just the opposite. Actually, after reading her post, I realized that I had used some of these practices myself, like using the drowsy, but not fully asleep tip. Also, I would hope that mothers would know their children well enough to make their own decisions on how to help their child become a well rested child through healthy sleep, as all children are different. From a personal perspective, I can say that my child PREFERRED to be in his own bed and adapted well to it. THe only time he cries in his bed is when he is not feeling well or when he has bad dreams.

    I also would like to add that Dr. Vyas is not only a pediatrician, but a mother, and a human being with feelings, and I think she would appreciate not being judged or blasted for something that has worked for her family and many others.

  6. Lindsay February 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    Like all parenting advice, you have to take what you learn and figure out what works for you. CIO doesn’t always mean leave the kid to scream for hours. We did gentle CIO with our three when they were six months-bedtime routine and then checking on th every five minutes, then gradually ten, etc. Now this hey’re all amazing sleepers and happy kids. We can tell when they need something or when they’re just overtired. We let them sleep with us when they need to. Not everything has to be considered an extreme-happy mediums do exist, just as extreme unfortunate cases exist. I appreciate Dr. Vyas sharing her insight and I challenge everyone to read everything they can get their hands on to decide what works best for them without jumping all over someone who disagrees.

  7. Nilong March 3, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    Last week I hosted the NOMB Facebook live chat as the ‘sleep expert’ and I was definitely taken aback by how many moms and children are experiencing sleep difficulties in this city. It was also wonderful to see all the passionate interest and feedback to this very important topic on this blog as well. And I appreciate the time you all took in writing your comments. It shows me that there is a need for concise information out there for people to follow and a great desire for our children to be well rested.

    This post was written for those families who believe there is a problem with their child’s ability to sleep properly and restfully. If your family is sleeping well and have experienced that feeling of bliss when you and your child are rested, that is what I am trying to bring to all families that I treat. Most parents need more guidance than their pediatrician can offer merely based on the time allotted to these visits. So, I offer a very personalized, holistic and compassionate approach to assess your child fully before making any recommendations. I then recommend medically, physiologically, and developmentally appropriate suggestions for their sleep needs based on their age and individual needs.

    It doesn’t matter what parenting style you prescribe to but this one simple fact remains constant – that you and your child both need sleep. There is a gentle approach to everything and that is the approach I take. Parenting is a very personal thing and each family is completely different based on their upbringing, the spousal relationship, the number of children in the household, caregivers and so on. The number of variables is extensive and makes it impossible to do a ‘one size fits all’ approach to this. In fact, that is precisely why there are so many sleep books and so many approaches because there are that many different types of families and parenting styles. And that is why it is valuable to have someone look at your situation and come up with a plan that applies to you and your family specifically based on your needs and parenting philosophy. I have no problem telling a parent that their child is not ready to night wean or not ready to sleep through the night.

    Parenting, I’ve found, is the most difficult challenge I have experienced thus far in my life; more than graduate school, medical school, residency, dealing with an ill parent and most any relationship I have had in my life. Parenting a child, in my eyes, is easily the most challenging but is also the most rewarding as well.

    This is a service that can hopefully make that part of your life a little more manageable, easier to navigate or even just provide some answers to your questions – and I’d love to hear from you.

  8. Megan March 5, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    While everyone is entitled to their opinion on this post, I’d like to voice my perspective as a mom who sought out Dr. Vyas’ help for my son’s sleeping habits. NEVER was cry it out an option in her mind, Dr. Vyas even specifically said she would not recommend that approach.

    At 11 weeks my son would only sleep when held (and even when awake he only wanted to be held), he would not sleep in his crib and on the off chance he did, it only lasted for about 20-30 minutes. One early morning around 2:30am (and day 3 of little to no sleep) I emailed Dr. Vyas. We discussed the sleep problems and we agreed to meet. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to tell me anything I didn’t already know but desperation had taken over. Dr. Vyas met us at our home and actively engaged me and my husband. She listened to both of our concerns and coached us on how to better read our son’s behavior and learn from his cues instead of forcing my plans and schedule on him. She stressed that at just 11 weeks my son should not be sleeping 12 straight hours without being fed and gave us realistic expectations for his sleep habits. Her advice worked immediately, once I stopped forcing my schedule and watched and followed his cues everything fell into place. Dr. Vyas’ approach truly is parent training, not sleep training. We still have a ‘schedule’ per se but it’s my son’s natural eat/play/sleep routine not mine. Once we figured out what my son wanted and needed he began sleeping in his crib, he absolutely does not need to be held to sleep, and in fact now he’s perfectly content not being held all the time. Within the first week of working with Dr. Vyas our household had a complete transformation. Instead of an upset crying baby; we have a happy fully rested baby. Let me stress he does NOT cry when we put him down to sleep, he may squirm a little until his get comfortable but NO crying. I know some of you doubters out there are thinking, ‘Yay, yay, whatever, it won’t work on my kid’ or perhaps you just don’t believe me, that’s your prerogative and opinion but please don’t belittle or berate Dr. Vyas work or method.

    I am real mom who had a real concern and reached out to Dr. Vyas for advice. I feel as a pediatrician she has credibility. She has attended medical school, completed residency, worked in her field and is also a mother. She has had more interaction with young children and babies then I ever will and in my opinion she is qualified to give me advice, whether I take that advice is my decision. I am grateful I took her advice and I am thankful she offers her services to moms who are open to accepting her help.

  9. Nilong Vyas March 5, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    Thanks Megan for your wonderful words. So happy for you and your family.

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