General Sleep Cues
SLEEP CUES: Keep these cues in mind when observing your child, to see when they are ready for a nap or bedtime.
What to look for:
Early Sleep Cues: uninterested in activity, slowing down, not reacting to your stimulation, looking dazed and spaced out. START THE SLEEP ROUTINE.
Middle Sleep Cues: yawning, rubbing eyes, tugging on ears, slight fussiness. STILL HAVE TIME TO START THE SLEEP ROUTINE.
Late Sleep Cues: really crying and fussy, inconsolable, red, heavy eyes, really wound up, arching back, clingy, tantrums. ONCE YOU SEE THESE CUES YOU MUST MOVE QUICKLY INTO GETTING THE CHILD TO SLEEP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE EVEN IF IT MEANS SKIPPING SOMETHING IN THE ROUTINE OR SHORTENING THE ROUTINE.
TOO LATE: IF AN ALERT CYCLE IS STARTING TO SHOW UP (alert, awake, no longer looking sleepy, bouncing off the walls, squealing, laughing uncontrollably, etc.) YOU CAN WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT INTERVAL (OR THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE EARLY SLEEP CUES) TO ATTEMPT NAP OR BEDTIME.
All of these cues don't have to be present and they will be specific to the child.
THE GOAL IS:
TO START NOTICING THEM.
FIGURING OUT WHICH ONES ARE EARLY CUES AND WHICH ARE LATE ONES AND ACTING ON THEM WHEN YOU SEE THEM. Don't doubt yourself that you saw those cues. This is the most IMPORTANT PART OF THIS PROCESS, noticing the cues and acting on them.
ROOM ROUTINE/PRE-SOOTHING ROUTINE:
When you start noticing cues and see that your child is ready to sleep before nap or bedtime, you want to establish a ‘room routine’ or a ‘pre-soothing routine’ where you do the same thing every time in order for your child to make those mental connections that sleep is coming. This is truly what sleep training is: establishing a routine and sticking to it.
This routine CAN include bringing your child into their bedroom, drawing curtains closed, turning on the sound machine, sitting in the rocker, giving lovey, reading a book, singing a song, giving lots of love (kisses and hugs), standing by the bed, laying into the bed, then leaving.
This routine does NOT include bathtime, brushing teeth, changing into pajamas, etc. These activities are done while your child is alert and has not yet entered into a sleep phase. The window is often small and you want to be prepared for it so that when you see the early cues you can take action!