The Truth About Why Your Child Isn't Sleeping Well
When I learned the truth about why my son was not sleeping well - I wanted to tell everyone, I was so shocked that professionals did not know this and were actively encouraging mothers to do the exact things I now know disturbs sleep. (for example breastfeeding in the night while checking your phone - yes this was a printed suggestion in an NHS magazine given to parents)
I can remember the night— and some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about— when I felt like I could not take it anymore. My son just would not stay asleep day or night infact he would hardly sleep at all and being a second time mother I knew this was not healthy. I had attempted to read lots of books, but they seemed so confusing and to be honest I was so exhausted and depressed and felt utterly useless, it did not matter. The moment came when me and my husband were so tired we could hardly drive home from our holiday and were attempting the 3 hour drive in 30min chunks each. We made a family pack that day all hands one of top of one another and we shouted FAAAAMMMILLLY. That is when I decided to get serious and take action. I know a lot more now than I did then and want to share that with you.
When our babies don’t sleep well, we tend to look for an explanation. We think it might be teething or some other illness. We worry that she’s too small and she needs to eat in the night, or he’s too big and he needs to eat more or he won’t feel full. The list goes on and on.
Are any of these explanations the real truth? Sometimes. But barring those times when your child has a burning fever or a new tooth coming in, the real reason most babies won’t sleep or stay asleep is that they just haven’t learned how.
I want to point out I'm not talking about new born babes here or even very young ones, who do need to wake regularly in a 24 hour period for nutrition, comfort and stimulation - but once your baby reaches 12-16 weeks they are capable of taking longer more predictable blocks of sleep in the night and generally shorter blocks in the day, this happens as it is around this age changes in their body clock start to happen, for example their body clock can start to differentiate night and day and their sleep cycles start to change from a ratio of 50:50 REM sleep/NREM sleep to it being <50% REM and >50% NREM, but sleep is like learning to walk or talk, it's developmental and every child is different, but at this stage there are things we can do which helps or hinders the development.
Think of it this way we all have strategies that help us make the journey into sleep each night. We have bedtime routines that we tend to do without really thinking about it, and we do these things because they help us transition from the busyness of our day to a restful sleep. Most of us have a favourite position on the bed that we turn to when we feel sleep about to come. Some of us need a glass of water beside the bed, some need white noise or music, others can’t sleep without the window open. Some need a cup of herbal tea, and some have to read for ten minutes…Whatever the differences might be, these are all sleep strategies, and without them we’d 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. While this might be true, the trouble is, by offering these props, parents can create a situation where their babies are dependent on something external to help them sleep. And that’s why they don’t sleep well. (if you are happy providing external props so your child can sleep and then get back to sleep at each night waking, I have no issue with that what so ever, for some parents this is their quality time with their baby and while the babies I work this are pretty sensitive to sleep props and it is almost always something we need to change - I also know tonnes of babes who are fed to sleep until 2 years of age or over and this results in no 'ill' effects - there are no bad habits or rights or wrongs)
Night waking's which seems to regress is very common in babies 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, Mum 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.
Luckily there is hope. There are lots of ways to give your child the tools she needs to be able to sleep independently, even from a very young age which don't involve harsh cry it out techniques. Bedtimes and night-times can be relatively hassle-free. I have a range of options at different price points but the best way to see how I can help is a 15 min call which will evaluate your child's current sleep situation and then talk you though what sleep package is best (if any) for your family.
A well-rested child is a happier, healthier child. And a well-rested parent is healthier and happier too!