"It's almost magical" Help Your Baby Sleep With Casual Practice by Heidi Holvoet
One of the sentences I say often in 1:1 consult calls is "see if you can practice this casually".
And I want to share it with you here because practicing casually is one of the most powerful ways to make fast and lasting progress with your baby's sleep.
Here's what I mean:
When aiming for a change or improvement, e.g. baby's sleep but also elsewhere in life, it's natural that we want to work on it. (Guilty! 🙋♀️)
I.e. to have a clear goal and a clear plan, and to be on it as much as possible.
And yes, I'm also all for having a nice'n'clear step-by-step plan to help you know what to do when, in which order, and to keep on track. Absolutely.
But it doesn't mean we have to be 'pushing for progress' all the time, more specifically when applying the no-tears sleep techniques. Because then, it's the opposite:
We know that the sleep change to happen for your little one, involves learning for them.
Whether that's connecting sleep cycles, getting used to dozing off without feeding or being rocked, taking regular naps, waiting patiently for you when waking up in the morning, and so on.
And just like we too, at any age, more effectively learn a new dance routine or that complicated yoga pose, or that new technical platform at work, when we're in a calmer, not-pushed and not-stressed mode, it's the same when a baby learns a new sleep skill.
And I know, it can feel counter-intuitive to go casually for something that you so much need right now, but please bear with me.
We see time and again that casual practice leads to way faster progress.
With less stress for all involved.
Gorgeous Photos by Nataliya Vaitkevich
Casual Practice Examples from Real-Life Stories
Let me share 2 stories as examples - I'm changing names for anonymity, but some of you will recognize your own experience or similar 😊🙏 Know also that there are many many more situations in which this applies.
Story: Maya and Caleb (at 15 months)
Maya's little boy Caleb, at 15 months, kept waking through the night, about 4-6 times each night. He wasn't fussing right away, but slowly woke, and escalated until he needed Maya's help to resettle (usually nursing, sometimes rocking).
A few supportive measures had to happen (nap scheduling, daytime food balance and fine tune the bedtime routine) but for the actual wakings, we agreed that Maya would practice casually.
To do this, whenever she heard (same room) Caleb starting to stir, she would softly talk to him and place a hand on his chest if needed, to encourage him to keep sleeping.
Casual also meaning that she wasn't to expect success each time, at all. It's just a 'let's see what this does'. Then if he didn't keep sleeping, she'd as usual help him re-settle, not feeling bad about it at all but having banked a highly valuable practice session.
Also if she'd missed the early stirring (because asleep herself), no big deal, another opportunity would arise, at one of the next wakings. Within 5 nights of no-pressure practice, Caleb would only wake 1 time a night, and then a good week later also that waking disappeared.
Story: Rose and Jada (at 5 months)
Rose's 5-month old Jada would sleep ok at night, but rarely nap on her own in the crib. So to get any nap time at all, Rose would hold Jada for every nap, and extend that nap for as long as possible.
She didn't mind so much for as long as she's still on maternity leave, but wanted more independent naps by the time Jada goes to daycare. She was weary to transfer Jada to the crib after settling with her, to avoid messing up the daytime sleep schedule.
Casual practice did wonders here because once Rose realized she could have 'little tries' without them having to be perfect each time, she was ok doing them, using some of our no-tears stay-asleep techniques as well.
Sure enough, after a week of easy-going practice here and there, Jada started napping, for real, in the crib (still placed down already asleep for now, but going down awake is then a next transition that's easier to make).
So as you can see from the words that come up in these stories: 'no pressure', 'no big deal', 'be ok with', 'little tries', 'doesn't have to be perfect', etc. and these are exactly why casual practice works well.
Because practicing casually takes away some of the stress and pressure for you, in a time that's already more than stressful and exhausting enough, leading to more ease + it becomes easier for your baby or toddler to learn 💛
What About Consistency in Sleep Setup?
One thing I want to add: you may be used to reading that you need to be consistent, i.e. do the exact same thing at each sleep moment to avoid confusion.
And of course there's value in consistency, but in my opinion and experience, there's a place and time for it.
Consistency doesn't help if it creates rigidity.
With casual practice you create easy learning moments. And each practice moment adds to the total learning experience. Helping your baby or toddler truly learn a lasting skill.
How does this sound to you?
It might be an approach you do naturally already. Or feels truly counter-intuitive? Or maybe, and I'd love that, give it a try and see how it feels for you and your baby?
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