When we use the phrase "sleep like a baby", we mean to sleep peacefully, in a deep, restful sleep with no worries or cares. We need to think of a new phrase, because if you've ever had a baby or ever been near one that is sleeping, you will know that they do anything but that! Sleep is a hot topic and there are many schools of thought to how your baby can get the best possible night's sleep. Sleep is one of those topics where ideas and research changes all the time.
When I was a baby, medical professionals advised stomach sleeping. Forward to when I had my own, sleeping on their backs was best for baby and somewhere in between, some medical professionals were advising propping a baby on their sides.
Our first son had really bad reflux, so he slept propped up on an angle to ensure he wouldn't spit up all night. He slept through the night really early and I thought I had cracked it and proudly told anyone who would listen. That backfired majorly when we had our second, who didn't sleep through the night until he was 16 months old. I thought I was never going to sleep again. As a parent I've tiptoed away from the cot as they open one eye, sat outside the door wi
th them crying in their bed, me crying on the floor. I've been woken by their bad dreams, their missing teddy bear or just their desire to be awake.
Over the years having my own and working with, probably thousands of babies (that's not an exaggeration) and having had hours and hours of training on sleep, one thing always rings true - babies do what they want! Babies are so much more in tune with what they need than we give them credit for and although it can be so frustrating that they don't fall into our schedules or routines, we have to remember that they innately decide what they're doing.
I remember a training I went on when I worked in rural Pennsylvania in America. It was with the late, great, Dr. Stanley Greenspan. Dr. Greenspan was the founder of floortime, a revolutionary approach to parent education and made great strides in providing high quality parent education to low income families which in turn improved outcomes for the children involved. I remember him saying that you should always question yourself when putting a baby to sleep - WHY? Why do you want them to go to sleep? Is it because they really need sleep, or is it because you need a break? The second answer is a valid one and there are times as parents that we are overwhelmed and exhausted and would have quit a long time ago if this was our actual job. His point was, just because it's "nap time" does that mean the baby is going to sleep? If not, we need to think why? The normal checkpoints are - is their nappy wet, do they have wind, are they hungry? But what about - there's been a lot of distraction today, or Grandma is here and they're excited, or they slept a little longer this morning.
When we think about sleep with children, we often think that if our children sleep through the night then we are good parents. Let me tell you now in big, block capitals that this is NONSENSE! There are things that we can do to create a good bedtime routine, a calm, predictable dreamy environment that will illicit a good night's sleep, but some babies will need something extra - more time with you, more touch, more rocking, more security.
Long gone are the days where we let people tell us how to parent, so why do we still let people tell us how our child should sleep? If sleeping in their crib in their room at 6 months works for you, more power to you! If you're all happy sleeping in your bed, then that's fantastic! If you fall asleep with baby and then transfer them to a cot or crib and that works, hallelujah! What I'm saying is that sleep, like many other things involved in our parenting journey, is what works best for you and your baby. Bottom line, that's it.
If things aren't going well and your baby is not getting the sleep you think that they should, I would be happy to have a chat and see if I can help. Be wary of anyone who promises that they can make your baby sleep through the night. Sweet dreams!
Please join me on Tuesday, February 15th at 8pm
for a webinar on Understanding Children's Sleep.