Since becoming a parent, how many times have you been asked, “Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?” That question used to really get to me, especially when I was a first-time mom. The truth is, I struggled with my son’s sleep for a long time before I began studying pediatric sleep. My own intense sleep deprivation left me feeling vulnerable, isolated, and that I was ultimately to blame for my child’s lack of sleep. It was personal and I truly believed that I was failing as a mother. I know now that belief of failure is a complete and utter lie. My baby wanted to consolidate his sleep and he was very capable of doing so; he simply needed me to support him as he learned a new skill. He learned so quickly and I loved being able to support him in the process! My motherhood journey completely transformed for the better and my attachment with my son only grew stronger!
So, “Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?” Are you ready for a super fun fact? No human being sleeps through the night! We all come to the surface of sleep as we end one sleep cycle and go into the next. Sleep challenges typically occur for babies and parents when baby is unable to connect into his or her next sleep cycle after coming to the surface of sleep from the previous sleep cycle. If your goal is to teach your baby independent sleep (a great time to begin formal sleep training is when your baby is between 4 and 6 months), see below for my 7 best sleep tips that you can begin implementing as soon as tonight!
- Babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own.
Can I tell you something?
Rocking your baby to sleep is not bad.
Feeding your baby to sleep is not bad.
Snuggling your baby to sleep is not bad.
Sometimes I think sleep training gets a bad rep because it is interpreted that those things listed above are being called “bad.”
Babies struggle with sleep when they do not have a skill set to get to sleep that’s SEPARATE from the external strategies listed above, formally known as sleep props.
Sleep props are not bad, BUT there can come a time where they BECOME problematic, keeping your baby from consolidating sleep.
Yes, sleep training does involve the removal of sleep props so baby can learn to sleep independently, BUT it doesn’t mean you will never snuggle your baby to sleep ever again.
My husband and I chose to give our kids the gift of independent sleep, a gift that will last a lifetime and have a positive ripple effect on their overall well-being.
My sons’ sleep independently 80% of the time and the other 20% looks like a nap in the stroller or while I wear him or being rocked. I’m a fan of realistic sleep training!
Life isn’t always ideal… it’s mostly just real.
- Consistency is Key.
All kids thrive off structure, routine, and consistency. As much as possible, you want whatever is happening in one sleep situation to be happening in all sleep situations. Yes, you read that correctly and that may seem a little overwhelming but hear me out. The goal is for baby’s brain and body to make the connection that when he or she goes to a particular place (ex. crib), that place is for sleeping and nothing else. That means that baby’s sleep space is used for nothing but sleep. I recommend no toys in the crib and only one lovie if baby is old enough. Sure, playing in the nursery is great, but try to keep the crib set aside for nothing but sleep. Now, is it realistic for every nap of the day to be in the same place every time? Most of the time, heck no! If you are able, it’s ideal to have the first nap of the day to occur in baby’s sleep space but if that is not possible, that’s okay! For example, if your baby attends a daycare throughout the week, naps most likely occur at the daycare. That is great! Baby has a consistent sleep space at home and a consistent sleep space at daycare. In both environments, baby can make the connection that their crib is for sleep because that is where he or she consistently sleeps.
- Implement an Early Bedtime.
Implementing an early bedtime is the best way to avoid baby becoming overtired. When a baby becomes overtired in results in hyperactivity which ultimately makes it more challenging for baby to settle down, fall asleep, and connect sleep cycles on his or her own through the night. Have you ever felt too exhausted to sleep? That is what overtiredness feels like to a baby. Once he or she does fall asleep, it is of poorer quality, restless, and typically there are more night wakings with an early morning start to the day. The best time to implement bedtime is between 6-8PM based on the timing of the last nap and the child’s age. After the dinner hour, there is a natural dip in the circadian rhythm and baby’s body clock. When this dip occurs, the body produces melatonin which is our body’s natural hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Life can get chaotic especially for working parents, so bedtime doesn’t have to always be set in stone. I do suggest keeping bedtime within 30 minutes (plus or minus). This goes back to maintaining structure, routine, and consistency for your baby. Also, an early bedtime does not equal an early wake up! The most deep, restorative, and regenerative sleep occurs before midnight. An early bedtime helps baby to get more of that!
Stay tuned for four more of my favorite sleep tips coming your way next week!