This is probably the most frequently asked question I get when I’m working with families. When my first baby was born – I, like so many of us, had no idea what I was doing with this tiny little human that had just come home from the hospital. This baby WILL NOT SLEEP. This baby was up every hour on the hour for the first 6 months of his life and I
couldn’t, for the life of me figure out why. I mean, we had just gone out and
bought all the coolest mobile shenanigans for his crib, we had decked out his
room with the brightest, most fun decals we could find, we had bought the
brightest nightlight so that he wouldn’t be afraid at night time – because, you
know, newborns have the capacity to feel fear of the dark lol.
When our babies don’t sleep well, we tend to look for an explanation why. Maybe their teething, maybe their gassy, maybe it’s a developmental milestone? Is there any truth to this? There can sometimes be validity to this, and we tend to think that these must be the reasons why our baby will not sleep at night. The reality is that most babies who are still waking up consistently during the night, have not learned how to sleep and stay asleep.
I mean, think about your own strategies to get to sleep – think about your own routines before bed. We all have routines that help cue our body that it’s time to sleep and help transition us from the busyness of the day to the quiet calm of the night. We put our pajamas on, we read a book, we have a cup of tea, we brush our teeth, we listen to music etc. Whatever the differences might be, we all have sleep strategies, and without them, we would have trouble drifting off.
The same goes for babies. Many parents who haven’t developed a sleeping strategy for their babies will complain that their child can only fall asleep with the bottle, or while breastfeeding, or while
being rocked or patted, or shushed and bounced or, or….
While this might be true, the trouble is, by offering these props, parents are creating a situation where their babies are
dependent on something external to help them sleep. And that’s why they don’t sleep well.
Night waking is very common in a baby who will not sleep or who have not learned to sleep properly and are relying on a prop. When they wake up and the prop isn’t there to put them back to sleep, they have
to wake up fully and cry in order to be soothed back to sleep. It’s not personal, Mom and Dad, they haven’t made it their personal mission to wake you up ten times a night. They just have no idea how to go to sleep without your help.
The good news is that babies are extremely intelligent little people, they just need a little guidance. We can teach our babies how to discover their tools for self-soothing so that they aren’t always looking for that “external prop” to help them sleep. A well-rested child is a happier, healthier child and a well-rested parent is a happier parent too!!