When it comes to baby sleep, it seems society’s expectations are too high. Find gentle ways to encourage your baby to sleep here.
In many ways, we’ve lost sight of our instincts and our perspective when it comes to baby sleep.
I assume it’s because of the pressures of a nine to five schedule, busy to-do lists, and the desire to have it all. Either way, at some point, we got this notion babies should be equipped to sleep through the night almost immediately. As a result, we’ve decided that the measure of a new mom is in her ability to have her baby sleeping through the night as soon as possible.
Even though I’m three kids into this parenting gig, I still get asked whether my baby is sleeping through the night. Thankfully, he is a good sleeper. He wakes only once or twice per night. But
When I was a new mom it seemed that each time I was congratulated on the birth of my daughter I was also met with questions addressing my failure to get my newborn to sleep. It left me feeling insecure and judged.
Fortunately, since the birth of my daughter, I’ve gotten more experience and read more about infant sleep. One main thing I’ve realized is that we’ve kind of lost our minds when it comes to the whole thing. Babies do not sleep through the night because they need the nurturing and closeness that night feedings and night snuggles provide. The reason is simple: our brain and psychosocial development rely on this level of care.
The good news?
We can maintain that closeness with our babies while gently teaching them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
“People are going to have to accept that extensive, uncomforted crying is actually risky for infants,” says Dr. Leach, a child development psychologist.
“… Dr. Teti, a professor of human development and psychology, says his work adds to a growing skepticism toward sleep training – not only that it may not work, but that it may, in turn, affect the parent-child relationship itself.” – the Globe and Mail
It’s for this reason, many methods of sleep training aren’t ideal for babies. According to research, sleep training won’t be effective for many babies. Fortunately, there are ways that, in time, will teach babies to fall asleep on their own and stay asleep.
Comforting your baby actually teaches him to learn to self-soothe.
It may seem counterintuitive to respond to each of cry when we just want our babies to sleep. However, research advises against the cry-it-out method for two important reasons. Namely, babies who are left to cry communicate less and trust their parents less. Crying is one of the only ways a baby can convey their needs. Over time, if a parent doesn’t respond to his baby’s cries, the baby will learn to stop crying. Sadly, this is because she no longer trusts her caregivers will respond to her. We want our babies to trust us because this makes them calmer.
In contrast, when a parent responds to a baby’s cries, the baby begins to understand that her parents are a secure base. The child starts to comprehend that when he cries, his caregiver will respond. This is not manipulation or a bad habit. In fact, it is how infants minimize stress hormones and begin to become more independent. Through the eyes of a baby, the more a parent responds, the more she feels confident her needs will be met. The more confident she feels, the less she’ll need to cry and the more independent she’ll be.
Penn State researcher Douglas Teti examined the role of emotional availability on infant sleep and found that regardless of a family’s night-time routine, infants with parents who were responsive and warm had fewer night wakings and an easier time drifting off. In his study, which involved infrared cameras placed in families’ bedrooms and nurseries, a lapse of more than a minute resulted in a lower emotional availability score.
[Related reading: Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies]
Create a predictable bedtime routine to cue that it’s time to sleep.
When it comes to baby sleep tips, this has to be the easiest one to create. Decide on something that isn’t only reliant on one parent or caregiver to perform. For our older children, it’s pjs on, teeth brushed, one story each, then it’s lights out. For our baby, we get him dressed in his pyjamas, sing a song and then put him in his bassinet.
This is where the most crucial piece of baby sleep advice comes into play…
Put Baby to sleep tired but not asleep. Why I love this so much is it taught my babies to fall asleep on their own. At first, this took a bit of effort for my younger two. I would wait beside the bassinet. If one of my sons started crying, I would either place my hand on his chest until he calmed or pick him up soothe him, and then put him back down again. In her book, the Baby Whisperer Tracey Hogg recommends this “pick up, put down method.” She advocates picking up your baby as many times as it’s needed until he or she feels calm enough to fall asleep on her own. In turn, Susan Urban recommends a similar method, which she termed, “Hold With Love (HWL).”
When we respond to our babies and gently coach them, they thrive the most.
I hope these sleep strategies help you as much as they have helped our family.
Related reading for new moms
Feature: Deposit Photos
Vertical: Adobe Stock