Sleep training children need not be a nightmare

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021 00:00 |
Kitt Nyang’aya-Kiarie trains her children, Keyo and Kendi. Photo/PD/NJERI MAINA

Many young parents complain how they cannot get their newborns and toddlers on a sleeping schedule and how that ultimately affects their sleep as well. But instead of looking for solutions, many accept it and even glamourise the sleeplessness and associated fatigue. But can young parents train their children to have better sleeping patterns? Kitt Nyang’aya-Kiarie, a certified sleep coach tells us more

“Babies come out of the womb without a clear routine or pattern as to how to go about life.

They come in without a clear definition of when and how to feed, or when and how to sleep.

Remember that they are coming from the womb where all these things were predetermined for them and perfectly too. So, it is up to you to teach them,” Kitt Nyang’aya-Kiarie, certified sleep coach begins.

Kitt is a proud mother of two children, a seven-year-old and a four-year-old. She shares how she sleep trained her children such that within two weeks, they had a good sleeping pattern, which freed up her time to do other things.

She shares how she was also sleep trained as a child by her mother Apondi Nyang’aya, who got most of her expertise from her own mother, whom they fondly call Honey, who was a certified and London trained midwife.  

It was only after interacting with several young parents that she realised that some parents were suffering from their toddler’s erratic sleeping schedules.

This is when she designed ‘The Gentle Sleep’ sleeping course, a course she has been offering through, both virtually and physically, to numerous parents for the past four years. But what exactly is sleep training?

What it is

“Sleep training is teaching a child how to self soothe and go to sleep with minimal help from the parent.

It works regardless of what your opinion about it is. It requires parents to come up with a routine and stick to it,” Kitt explains.

But when can someone start sleep training? Kitt advises that the younger the child is, the easier and faster it is to train them. She has trained children ranging from a few days old to four year olds.

The fastest a child has been sleep trained is two days for a newborn, and the longest is two weeks.

She says sleep training a younger child is easier as when you put them down to sleep, they cannot wake up and walk out of their cots or try to negotiate with you like an older child would.

It, therefore, means it will require more effort and different techniques to sleep train an older child though it still can be done. 

Debunking myths

While sleep training allows both the parent and child to lead optimal lives as it reduces dependence, many people believe that it can lessen the bond between parent and child and that allowing the baby to cry themselves to sleep can stress the child unnecessarily.

To this, Kitt explains that there are different sleep training techniques that allow for the child to still bond with the parent.

It is just that many people know of the one where the baby is allowed to cry themselves out.

Moreover, she explains that the baby crying is their way of communicating either distress or discomfort and it is scientifically not harmful to the baby.

Kitt reiterates the importance of not disrupting the sleep training schedule despite the opinions of other well-wishers or relatives.

“There are many sleeping techniques. There is no one that fits all. For some, simple instructions and reward-based system works.

For others you have to reduce the cuddling and rocking bit by bit if they are used to it.

My method is centred on Africa and the different living situations and cultural nuances that change from family to family.

We have a meeting with the parent then assess the age and needs of the child. Then we decide to create a sleeping schedule based on that,” she explains.

Most of the time, one might be living with relatives or a helper. Kitt says it is important to sensitise them on the fact that you are sleep training as this will ensure they do not disrupt the schedule.

“This is the reason I train both mums and dads as I believe that both parents should be onboard in order not to sabotage each other’s efforts.

Besides, we are in an age where the burden of bringing up children should be shared equally by the parents involved,” shares.

But what happens if someone sleep trains then stops midway due to may be travelling or unforeseen circumstances?

“The child is always learning. When the child is not on the sleep training schedule, they are on another schedule, meaning that they are still learning how to sleep albeit in a non-optimal way.

This means that if you stop the sleep training before the child has acquired the new sleeping routine, the child will regress. You will, therefore, have to start training them again,” Kitt explains.

The other common issue with new parents is how to balance feeding patterns with sleep training.

While many people tend to feed children whenever they are fussy, one should try and stagger the feeding times in three to four hour intervals.

With a fixed feeding pattern, the child can learn how to sleep only waking up to feed at the set feeding interval. 

But what is the one thing that any new parent should take from this? “You will never have a good night sleep after you deliver, is a cliche often repeated at baby showers.

Do not glamourise suffering. Sleepless nights and the associated unproductiveness though common does not have to be a mainstay of your parenting journey.

Seek help, sleep train and watch your little one become a different more pleasant being in under two weeks,” Kitt says.

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