Sweet dreams are made of this

Sleep training an important part of family health and well-being, Mike Carroccetto reports

Mylene Gorry poses for a photo with husband Scott and their two children, Caleb (b. 8/2015) and Olivia (b. 9/2017).
photo credit: GracieLauraPhotography

Sleep-deprived parents – fighting to put their children down at bedtime – eventually get a wake-up call.


Many children seem hardwired towards staying awake. However, a lack of sleep is not only unsustainable, it can lead to other health problems. 

“Sleep deprivation is a contributing factor in postpartum mood disorders,” says Elisa Costanza, a holistic infant and child sleep consultant with Restful Parenting. “It can increase anxiety, stress, depression and puts a strain on relationships.”


Before reaching this stage, sleep training or coaching should be considered. 


According to Costanza, there are three critical issues to know – that sleep helps in baby’s development; that healthy sleep contributes to adult mental health; and that there should not be a one-size-fits-all approach.


“If your family does not have a sleep problem, you should not let any professional or resource tell (you that you) do,” says Kinder Sleep’s Andrea Strang, a certified sleep consultant and co-author of a Gentle Night Weaning for Babies the Kinder Way. “It’s OK to do what works and if that stops working, then work on sleep skills.”The easiest time to change sleep habits is between six and 18 months of age, she says.


Although there are many self-help resources, such as books and online guides, most offer very general techniques that may not work for you and your child. 


“Sleep training or sleep coaching involves modifying bedtime and night sleep associations and habits to improve sleep,” says Strang. While it’s never too late to start, sleep coaching should never be done before 4.5 months of age, she adds.


Mylene Gorry is a Barrhaven resident with two preschool-aged children. Her son, Caleb, now almost four, was such a good sleeper she had to wake him up to feed him.


Her daughter Olivia is a whole different story, however. “She is currently 18 months and has yet to do her full night sleep,” says Gorry, who adds that Olivia has been diagnosed with severe intolerances to milk and eggs. “She’s still not the best sleeper.” She and her husband Scott sleep-trained Caleb through a short regression when he was four months old. “He has naturally been a great sleeper since then.”


Gorry adds that the ‘cry it out’ method was recommended for Olivia, but in retrospect, she is happy she never used it.


Cry it out (CIO) involves leaving a baby to cry alone (or checking on them in intervals), in order to teach a child that there is no reward for crying. According to Strang, families seeking professional sleep help generally do not want to use CIO. “Gentle, nurturing sleep strategies typically work just as fast as CIO methods without the high stress,” she says.


If you are concerned that your baby is not getting sufficient rest for proper development, or feel that a lack of shut-eye is negatively affecting you and/or your family, consider reaching out to a sleep consultant.