14 Ways to Help a Mother With Postpartum Depression

If a woman in your life has recently given birth then there’s a 1 in 5 chance they are struggling with postpartum depression.

It might be your partner, daughter, sister or friend but no matter who they are to you, it’s normal to feel helpless seeing them in pain.  It can be even more discouraging when you try to help them and they shut you out.  But don’t be offended, mental illness is a tricky situation and displays in many different ways.

From a mother who has battled it first hand, here are a few tips that might help you understand her better and be able to provide the right type of support.

14 Ways to Help a Mother with Postpartum Depression 14 Ways to Help a Mother with Postpartum Depression

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

1. Know the symptoms

It’s very common for a mother to be in denial about their postpartum depression at first.  Even if she does have her suspicions, it’s unlikely that she will admit it out loud.  This is why it’s important to recognize the symptoms in someone else so that, even if she doesn’t want to talk about it, you can be there to support her.

Resources:

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2. Believe her

There is a lot of stigma around postpartum depression and many people still don’t believe it’s a real disease.  If she does open up to you about having postpartum depression – believe that her pain is real.  She is not being overly dramatic.  She is not “just tired.” Motherhood is overwhelming in general and it will be for a very long time but postpartum depression is different – it’s uncontrollable.

Postpartum depression and anxiety cause a lot of undesirable side effects and symptoms that vary depending on the person.  This can make a woman feel and act like a hypochondriac.

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3. Help her get some rest

Sleep deprivation can aggravate postpartum depression but postpartum depression can cause insomnia so it’s a lose-lose situation.  Do whatever you can to help her rest.  If she cannot sleep at night, then make sure she gets frequent, short naps in throughout the day.  Invest in a new mattress to see if it makes a difference in her quality of sleep.  Here’s an excellent one that you can try for an entire year.

With a new baby, it’s natural and understandable to be sleep deprived.  If you’re having a lot of difficulty getting baby to sleep, consider hiring a sleep training expert.

But if baby is sleeping through the night and mom isn’t, then there’s definitely something wrong. 

Postpartum Anxiety Insomnia: 15 Ways to Get Better Sleep
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4. Don’t tell her things could be worse

It’s natural to want to tell her stories about someone else who had it worse in the hopes of making her feel better but it will have the opposite effect.  Instead of being thankful that she isn’t having suicidal thoughts, she might see her pain as insignificant and feel guilty for having such a difficult time when others are going through “things that are worse.”

It’s still important to make sure that she knows she isn’t alone – as long as she knows that debilitating pain from postpartum depression comes in all forms.

What to Do When Postpartum Depression Makes You Suicidal
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5. Don’t try to explain why

It’s not her fault. But she will try to blame herself anyway.  Trying to find a reason why this has happened can inadvertently put more guilt on her.

Yes, she’s tired, yes, breastfeeding is hard, yes, labor was intense but those are not the reasons why she has postpartum depression.  If labor and recovery were a breeze, baby was nursing fine and sleeping well she could STILL have it.

Knowing that postpartum depression does not discriminate and there was nothing she could have done to avoid it will relieve some of her guilt.

Encourage her to take part in the free genetic research study to help determine the root cause of postpartum depression.

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6. Keep it on the down low

For some reason, having a mental illness is embarrassing.  While it’s important to check in on her and ask her how she’s feeling, don’t put her on the spot or force her to open up about it if she’s not ready.

And definitely don’t go advertising that she has postpartum depression without her permission.  The last thing she wants is everyone at your office knowing about her postpartum depression and offering to help.  She will be mortified if someone she barely knows confronts her about postpartum depression, no matter how good their intentions might be.

It takes time to come to terms with postpartum depression for many reasons.  The more public it is, the more guilt and pressure she will feel about disappointing others.

The day will come when she will openly want to talk about it but it should be her who decides when that is.

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7. Send her a text message but don’t expect a reply right away

Don’t expect her to answer the phone when you call.  Better yet, don’t phone her.  For someone with postpartum depression, their emotions change throughout the day without warning.  Chances are, when you want to talk, won’t be when she wants to talk and vice versa.  A text message is a great way to check in and see how she’s doing while allowing her to reply when SHE feels up to it.  You can even write something like “you don’t have to reply right away – whenever you feel like talking just text me.”

Postpartum depression has a way of making a new mother withdraw from society and it has nothing to do with how she feels about you.

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8. Don’t force her to socialize

And don’t be offended if she doesn’t want to see you.  She’s not trying to keep the baby all to herself.  Going out or hosting visitors means putting on a smile and talking to people when all she wants to do is be alone.  Even her inner circle can be extremely irritating.

In addition to feeling socially withdrawn, many women with postpartum depression also suffer from social anxiety.  She may feel incredibly uncomfortable in public, even in small groups of close friends.

Allow her some time to avoid social interaction, and gradually work your way up to larger social gatherings.  

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9. Cook food for her

Appetite changes are a major symptom of postpartum depression.  She will either not want to eat anything at all or not be able to stop eating. Having a fridge stocked with healthy ready-to-eat food will help her get the calories and nutrition she so desperately needs (especially if she’s breastfeeding) without all the added exhaustion of having to prepare it.

Proper diet and nutrition plays a big role in managing her symptoms, so it’s important to make sure that she has access to healthy food.

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10. Clean the house but don’t make a big deal about it

Do it while she’s napping so she can’t tell you to stop.  Cleaning will be the last thing on her mind but looking around at piles of laundry, overflowing garbage bins or dishes in the sink will cause her more anxiety. It’s one thing to tell her not to worry about the cleaning, it’s another to make the clutter magically disappear.  A clutter free environment will help her mind to feel clutter-free as well.

If you notice that she starts to become obsessed about cleaning, she could be suffering from Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Check out Jordan’s story to see if it relates.

Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and OCD
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11. Get up with her in the middle of the night

If she’s breastfeeding, you may feel like there’s no point in getting up for night time feedings.  But those dark, lonely hours can be the scariest times for a mother with postpartum depression.  If for no other reason than to keep her company – get up with her. She may tell you that she’s OK and to go back to bed but at least get up and check on her – check if she needs anything, rub her feet or her back while she nurses.

Breastfeeding in itself can cause a lot of stress on new mothers.  If you see her struggling, let her know there are online lactation courses available, so she doesn’t need to do it alone.

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12. Help her find strangers to talk to

Don’t try to force her to talk to you about her feelings.  It’s much easier to talk to strangers who understand and won’t judge her and who she may never see or talk to again.  She can be completely honest and vulnerable without having to worry about hurting someone’s feelings or having them take things the wrong way.

Whether it’s an online forum, support group or a therapist – she will be much more comfortable talking to someone who has been in her position before and/or who has experience to share.

Consider signing her up for online therapy.  Via online therapy, she has the ability to work at her own pace and can chat with a licensed therapist from the comfort of her own home.

postpartum depression Facebook groups

Postpartum Support International
Momma’s Postpartum Depression Support Group
Postpartum Anxiety Support Group
Postpartum Depression Awareness

6 Ways to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression
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13. Take pictures of her

Not happy, dressed up, perfectly posed pictures but real pictures.  Pictures of her nursing in her pajamas.  Pictures of her holding or sleeping beside the baby.  Pictures of her when she hasn’t showered in 3 days and has dried breast milk all over her shirt.  Take pictures of her crying.  Aim for honest pictures of her so that she can look back at them when she is better and remember this part of her life.

You can even make a special photo album filled with pictures of her and baby as a keepsake because she may not remember all these days as clearly.

Reassure her that you will never show them to anyone else or post them anywhere, they are only for her.

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14. Wait it out

Don’t try to rush her recovery. Helping her find the right path to recovery is important but don’t keep asking if she’s feeling better yet. If she has a good day, don’t assume she’s past the worst of it.

She may go years without an episode, only to have it triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, illness or something else entirely.  Many women will battle postpartum depression for years, if not forever, so if you’re in this with her – prepare to go the lengths for her.

Know that there is no cure for mental illness, only treatment options to keep it under control.  

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For more information on the recovery process, check out this post: How long does Postpartum Depression Last? Accelerate Your Recovery!


Postpartum depression is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in North America for a reason.  Women, moms in particular, pride themselves in being able to handle it all and admitting that they are struggling or need help is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.  While these tips may help the woman in your life open up to you, nothing is ever for certain when it comes to postpartum depression and many women experience it in different ways.  If all else fail – love her and support her and don’t ever give up on her.

Postpartum Depression Survival Guide Free Resource Library
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Get this FREE printable PDF Quick Reference Guide of National Crisis Support Numbers in the Running in Triangles Free Resource Library, available exclusively to subscribers of the Postpartum Depression Survival Guide. Click here to subscribe.


The oldest will always be the first

first time mom

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

You never forget your first.

I remember what it was like being a first time mom.  I can tell you more details about my first pregnancy, labour and delivery than I can with the others.  I remember those early days of motherhood trying to figure it all out.

Not much has changed. 

Except I’m not trying to figure out how to deal with my youngest’s teething troubles or diaper rash.  I’m not stressing about my middle child starting kindergarten – no, instead I’m wondering if my oldest child is keeping up in school.  I’m trying to figure out how to improve his social skills.  I’m googling what age kids start cutting their own toenails.  Every new challenge he faces is a new parenting challenge for me also.

home work

I haven’t been there before, I haven’t done that.  I don’t know what to expect for a child his age.

So when he’s struggling with homework I’m researching how to help him.  I’m downloading different templates to use as letters from the tooth fairy.  I’m freaking out when I realize how good he is at video games because I’m not sure if all 7 year old boys are that good or if I should start him a YouTube channel.

Being a mom of three has made me more comfortable in comparison to being a first time mom.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have daily panic attacks, especially when it comes to my oldest.  I second guess every decision I make with him because I don’t know how it will turn out.  I don’t know if it will work brilliantly or if it will scar him for life and the only way to find out is to wait and see.

In one month, for the first time in my life I will be the mother of a seven year old.  This is all new to me, just as it is to him.  And, similar to when I was a brand new mom, I’m excited about this adventure…

I am researching anything and everything that I might need to know.

I will run into at least one situation where I’ll have no idea what to do.

I will panic.

I will think he’s advanced for his age.

And then I will think he’s behind.

I will need to spend a fortune on clothes and shoes because he’s outgrown the old ones but will have no idea what size he needs.

I will make mistakes.

I will (hopefully) learn from those mistakes and apply them to my other children.

I might be an experienced mom of three but when it comes to him – I will always be a first time mom…

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How to Sleep Train a Newborn

Sleep training a newborn is all about establishing a good routine and developing the sleep habits that will become an important part of their lives.  It’s about teaching them how the world works – when we sleep, when we eat and when we play – in order to be a functional human being.  Sleep training a child is a long process, and the earlier they can learn, the easier it will be in the long run.

The goal of this sleep training guide is to:

  • Help your newborn baby identify the difference between day time and night time. 
  • Establish a daily routine that focuses on healthy sleep habits.
  • Lay the foundation for stricter sleep training at a later age. 
  • Help you predict what your baby needs and recognize the reason they are crying.

The reason why sleep training a newborn is so essential is because sleep at this age is instinctual and not something they have learned to fight (yet).  This promotes a much more positive experience for both parent and baby.  Remaining positive throughout the sleep training process is important to successful sleep training as the child gets older.

Here is a guide to sleep training a newborn (0-6 months), which includes routines to follow during the day, at nap time, bedtime and in the middle of the night.

How to Sleep Train a Newborn


Sleep Training
Sleep Training Guide Part 1: How to Sleep Train a Newborn Sleep Training Guide Part 1: How to Sleep Train a Newborn

* This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  ** Furthermore, I am not a sleep training expert, just a mother who’s been there and lived to tell the tale.


Sleep Training in the Morning

Open the curtains

Let as much sunlight into your home as possible or sit by a sunny window.  The point is to associate “daytime ” with brightness and noise.

Change baby out of their pajamas

It may seem like a tedious and unimportant task because many newborns stay in sleepers all day long.  But the simple, routine, act of changing  clothes in the morning will signal to your baby that it is time to start the day, and not just another one of their many wakeful periods.

Skin to skin contact

Several times a day, strip baby down to a diaper and lay them on your bare chest or cuddle next to them in bed.  This is a great thing to do while nursing or bottle feeding baby as it can also keep them awake and stimulated so they will feed better.

If you’re a busy mother, or have other children to take care of and don’t have the time to lie in bed all day, then consider carrying baby around in a wrap-style baby carrier while shirtless.

The benefits of skin to skin contact are also a great way to encourage bonding with baby and help to ease symptoms of the baby blues or postpartum depression.

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Give baby a really good feeding

A lot of effort should be put into those daytime feeding sessions.  Feed baby as often as they want to during the day, whether it’s breast or bottle.

If you’re breastfeeding, now is the time to master the latch and try out different breastfeeding positions.  Make sure to empty each breast even if it means feeding on the same side twice in a row.  That will increase your supply and provide baby with more hind milk.  Try using the breast compression technique to ensure baby is getting enough of the fattier hind milk and to help speed up the session.

Try your best NOT to let baby fall asleep during the feeding!  Sucking is extremely soothing for a baby and it’s natural for them to drift off or get tired halfway through.  If baby continues to fall asleep while nursing, they won’t get full enough and will wake up wanting more just a short while later.

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Get a good burp

Different methods work for different kids but this is so, SO important.  Try gentle bouncing or laying them on their tummy across your arm or leg instead of patting their back.  Adding a little bit of pressure against their tummy with the palm of your hand, or holding their stomach against your rib cage as you bounce up and down can help to eliminate gas.

The number one reason why newborn babies cry after a feeding is because of gas. Often, babies will put their hands to their mouths or root around when they need to burp which can be confusing if they just finished nursing.  For babies who are struggling with gas, try using colic tablets or  essential oils to ease their tummies.

Get a good poop

This will usually happen on it’s own, so it’s really just a waiting game.  You can try “pumping” their legs or holding them in a “sitting position” to get things moving along.  The reason why you want to watch for this before putting baby down for a nap is so that they will be comfortable as they sleep and will have no reason to wake up before they’re ready to.

Newborn babies can poop frequently throughout the day (especially breastfed ones).  Make sure to use a good bum balm to help avoid rashes with frequent changes.  With time, you will learn how often and when they need to go.  Their specific habits and routine usually remain constant as they grow older so this is just another way of getting to know your baby.

Encourage playtime

Talk or sing to baby, have tummy time and lots of skin to skin contact.  The environment should be stimulating and playful but not over-stimulating, so watch for cues that baby is done with a certain activity.

If you’re not sure exactly how to play with a newborn, then just take them around with you as you go about your day and talk to them while you do it.  Babies don’t need a lot of entertainment at this age but they love to hear voices and watch faces.

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Watch for signs of sleepiness

Throughout the day, keep an eye out for signs that they are ready to sleep.  Some babies get very fussy, others may simply stare off in one direction and start the “slow blink.”  As soon as you catch the hint that they are sleepy, prepare yourself to initiate the nap time routine.

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Sleep Training At Nap Time

Put baby to sleep in their bed

Wherever you want baby to sleep at night time is where you should put them for naps as well.  It may be tempting to hold and rock that baby for the next 2 hours but the sooner you can get them accustomed to sleeping in their own bed, the better (don’t worry, you can get in lots of cuddles during “playtime”).

Try to avoid letting baby nap in a car seat, bouncer or swing, as this can develop bad habits as they get older.  Remaining consistent about where they sleep will help them get used to their bedroom and learn not to fear it.

Make sure that baby’s room is as comfortable as possible.  Try using a warm or cool mist humidifier to make sure that their room is set up with the right conditions for them to sleep.

Keep the curtains open

Daytime sleep needs to be different from night time sleep, so keep the room bright.  If it’s a dark or cloudy day, then leave a light on while baby naps.  Make sure that there is a significant difference in baby’s room during nap time versus at night.

Make noise

It’s common to try to avoid any and all noise while baby is napping, but that will become something you need to keep up for years.  Most newborns are deep sleepers (hence the term “sleeping like a baby”).

Play music in the background, use a sound machine or open a window to let in street noise.  If you have older children, don’t shush them while baby naps.  Basically, go about your regular every day activities.  This will teach baby to nap despite life happening around them.

Some babies tend to startle in their sleep when they hear loud noises, such as a dog barking or a car horn.  Swaddling can help keep the startle reflex from waking them up.

Wake baby up after 2 hours

… and start all over again.  It might sound cruel to wake up a sleeping baby but wouldn’t you rather save that sleepiness for 3 am?  Several smaller naps throughout the day work better than a few longer ones at the newborn age so that baby can eat more often.


Quick Recap

During the day, focus on brightness, stimulation, skin to skin contact and FEED, FEED, FEED!


Sleep Training at Bedtime

Make sure that baby has been up for at least 1 – 2 hours before bedtime

Even a 10 minute nap in the car can sustain a baby with enough energy to last all night. It will take some work to plan out baby’s nap times but it is much easier to put a sleepy baby to bed than it is to wrestle with an energetic one.

Dim the lights

The wakeful period before bedtime should be focused on darkness and quiet – different than the wakeful periods during the day.  Dim the lights, close the curtains or install blackout blinds.

You still want to make sure baby gets a really good feed, burp and poop

*Ahem* this is your life now…

Tone down the playtime

In the hours before bedtime, choose less vigorous playtime for baby.  Avoid swings and bouncy seats or over-stimulating toys.  Talk in quieter voices and play soft background music.  Try to avoid having the television on.

Bathing and massaging baby are a great way to wind down before bedtime. Opt for sleep-inducing essential oils or bath products.  Let baby have some time without a diaper on before that longer nighttime stretch.

Make sure that playtime before bed is calming and soothing instead of stimulating.

Change baby’s clothes

This is the other part of the day when it’s important to change baby’s clothes to signal that it’s bedtime.  It doesn’t really matter what you put baby to sleep in because it’s just the act of changing into pajamas that will create that routine habit.

Try NOT to feed baby right before bed

A feeding before bed is important to keep baby full but if you don’t want to nurse them to sleep every time they wake up, then you need to disassociate it with bedtime.  Aim for a half hour before bedtime so that they don’t fall asleep while nursing.  You can feed baby first, then gently bounce or dance around with them to get out all those gas bubbles.  Or change them into their pajamas after the feeding.

Nectar Adjustable Frame

Initiate the “BEDTIME ROUTINE

This is the last thing you will do with baby before you put them to bed for the night.  It can include a bedtime story or lullaby, turning on a projection nightlight, some gentle rocking or cuddling in a chair, or goodnight kisses and hugs from everyone in the family.

Over the years the bedtime routine will evolve as your child grows.  But it should always include a calming activity that is reserved specifically for bedtime so as to give your baby the bedtime signal.

Put baby to bed when you see the early signs of sleepiness

It’s worth repeating here – put baby down when they are sleepy but not actually asleep. The younger the baby, the more they are acting on instincts and as long as all of their needs are met, they shouldn’t protest when you put them down.

If baby cries when you put them down…

Try feeding or burping again until they get drowsy.  If baby falls asleep while nursing, just try to get them into bed as soon as possible afterwards.  Try your best to remain positive about the process, or baby will sense your anxiety.

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Once down for the night – DO NOT WAKE BABY UP TO EAT.

Because you have been pumping them full of food during the day, you can worry a little bit less about how much they are eating at night.  It’s not natural to need to eat in the middle of the night, and as their stomachs grow, they will adjust to that.  They WILL wake up when they are hungry but it should be longer than 2 hour intervals.  The older and bigger they get, the longer they will be able to go without a midnight snack.

Use a baby monitor to listen for when baby wakes up, and try to get to them as soon as possible.  Try not to let baby cry for too long, as this will stimulate them more than necessary.  Newborns will normally only wake up to feed so there is no point in letting them “cry it out.”

Sleep Training in the Middle of the Night

If and when baby wakes up in the middle of the night…

Do not turn on any lights

Keep the room as dark and quiet as possible.  A soft nightlight or mood light offers just enough lighting for you to see what you’re doing but the idea is to help baby associate night time with darkness and quiet.

Keep baby dressed

Save the skin to skin contact for the daytime.  If you swaddle baby then it’s up to you whether or not to unswaddle them, but the idea is not to disturb or stimulate baby any more than necessary.

Feed baby

Because you’re pumping them full of milk during the day, you don’t need to worry about how much they’re getting in the middle of the night.  This is a great time to use the breast compression technique while breastfeeding.  Most likely, baby will fall asleep during nursing.  If they do, try to get them back into bed as quickly as possible.

Do not talk to or stimulate baby in any way

If you’re smooth enough – you might be able to convince baby that this is just a dream and that they aren’t really awake at all…

Only change a diaper if it’s poopy

If baby had enough poopy diapers during the day then the chances of a poopy diaper at night are slim (though they do happen).  If you absolutely must change a diaper, use a warm wipe or washcloth and try to make it as quick as possible.

Get a good burp

But don’t try any fancy positions that might overstimulate baby unless they seem to be having a lot of trouble with gas.

Immediately return baby to crib

Don’t make a big deal out of night time wake ups.  Try to make them as quick and quiet as possible and don’t take baby out of their room.

Continue this routine for all night time feedings until morning and then begin the daytime routine all over again.

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By following a routine with your newborn throughout the day, you will be able to get them on a consistent schedule.  This will help you to predict what they need and when, so that when they cry, you can rule out the common reasons.  Having designated awake and nap times will also allow mom to get more rest and/or work done without having to constantly wonder when baby will be ready to eat or sleep.  You could even try using an app to track baby’s sleep patterns.  The routine will eventually become second nature to mom and baby, and will continue to change and evolve as baby grows.  It will also help to reduce the stress and anxiety caused by sleep training at a later age.


see part two of the sleep training guide For more TIPS as baby gets older

Sleep Training Part 2: 6 Months +
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Have you tried all these tips and your baby is STILL not sleeping through the night?

There could be something you’re missing.  All babies are different, and there isn’t ONE plan that works for everyone.  Don’t be afraid to seek help from an expert.  Read my review of The Baby Sleep Site for more information.

The Baby Sleep Site Review
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For additional sleep training tips in kids of all ages, check out this blog post by Taylor Jones from Dromma.

Tips to Get Your Kids to Sleep
drommabed.com
How to Sleep Train