Young babies sleep, eat and need comfort in a 24 hour period not just during the day, now once their body clock starts to mature and their tummies start to get bigger their sleep usually links for longer blocks in the night – or that’s the idea anyway.
So when this doesn’t happen, we tend to look for an explanation. We think it might be teething or wind. We worry about the developmental leaps, her being too small and needing to feed like 20 times in the night as she is hungry - 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 the babies I work with won’t sleep or stay asleep is that they just haven’t learnt how.
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…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 continually after the new born stage, 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 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 age and developmentally appropriate ways to give your child the tools she needs to be able to sleep happily, even from a very young age (which don’t involve leaving her to cry). Babies are capable of sleeping through the night (ok not actually sleeping through the night, but happily falling back asleep once they wake at the end of a sleep cycle), and learning those skills young will help make bedtimes and nighttimes relatively hassle-free.
A well-rested child is a happier, healthier child. And a well-rested parent is healthier and happier too!