Posted on January 24 2020
This is a question you might be asking yourself when you are up multiple times at night and maybe you are feeling a little desperate to help your baby sleep better. Know that you aren’t alone if you are feeling drained from waking up several times every night and having to soothe your baby back to sleep.
When our babies don’t sleep well, we tend to look for an explanation. We think it might be teething or gas. 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.
Sometimes these are the things waking up your baby along with 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.
Even if you don’t think about it as a process for sleep, we all have strategies that help us get ready for sleep each night. We have bedtime routines that we tend to do without really thinking about, and we do these things because they help us transition from the busyness of our day to a restful sleep.
Maybe this was before baby was born, but think back to how you like to get ready for bed. Maybe you sleep on your side or cuddle up to your partner. 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 your process might be, these are all sleep strategies, and without them we’d have trouble drifting off.
The same goes for babies! Babies also need a signal to help them fall asleep. 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 this help, 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 fall asleep on their own skills and are relying on a help from a parent. Now keep in mind, providing some help to fall asleep for a baby under four months old is fine! For babies over five months, if they have only been put to sleep then when they wake up and the help 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 and they aren’t out to get you; 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. Babies are capable of sleeping through the night, and learning those skills young will help make bedtimes and night times relatively hassle-free.
Begin by starting a simple and consistent routine every time your child sleeps for either bedtime or naps. A bedtime routine can be about 30 minutes long (naps routine about 15 to 20 minutes) and it helps calm the brain and body to be ready for sleep. A routine may look like as simple as feeding, PJ’s, brush teeth, a book or two, lights out, then get in bed. Keep it consistent and your child will start to know what this process means!
A well-rested child is a happier, healthier child. And a well-rested parent is healthier and happier too! Happy sleeping!