Today, parents are faced with an overwhelming amount of information when it comes to baby sleep, and a lot of it is conflicting and quite simply incorrect. From well-meaning family members and friends offering advice, to the internet, books, forums and more, it can be confusing and overwhelming. It really is no wonder parents aren’t sure what to do to fix their baby’s sleep issues.
If sleep just isn’t happening and you are struggling, this could be why:
- Underestimating how much sleep your baby needs - Babies need a lot of sleep. Every 24 hours they need a certain number of total hours and when they don’t get that, “sleep debt” builds. Many parents worry that their baby isn’t awake and learning if they are sleeping all the time but here’s the thing, babies have the rest of their lives to learn.
- Forgetting to look at the basics – It’s easy to over-look the basics and jump to complex conclusions when your baby is crying and not sleeping. It’s especially hard when you’re sleep deprived and not thinking straight too. In a healthy baby, there will be basic reasons why your baby is unhappy e.g. they are cold or hungry. If you overlook the basics and try to address issues that aren’t even issues, chances are you will still have an unsettled baby who won’t sleep.
- Ignoring your baby’s tired signs - Babies will always show tired signs, and this is your cue to get them down to sleep. Tired signs may include rubbing eyes and fussing. If you put your baby down overtired (or under tired), they will have more trouble falling to sleep and staying asleep, as opposed to when you respond and get them down when they are nicely tired. Learn how to respond to baby's tired signs.
- Every time your baby cries, you intervene – Babies cry and not all crying means your baby needs you. Sometimes your baby will be crying simply because they are exhausted, and they are trying to wind down and fall off sleep. Avoid rushing straight to your baby if they are crying during the going to sleep process. Give them time and space to get there on their own but of course, go in and provide some hands-on support if you feel your little one needs it. You’ll be amazed how clever your baby is at settling themselves, if given the chance to do so.
- Using multiple settling methods - Whilst there may be times when your baby won’t settle and you do need to soothe them in several different ways, if you’re always using multiple different settling methods, your baby may struggle with the inconsistency and lack of routine and they may struggle to fall happily off to sleep. Watch this video to learn how to help bub settle and re-settle to sleep.
- Making changes but not giving them time - Breaking habits takes time, especially when they have been going on for weeks and even months. Your baby needs time to adjust and adapt and they need clear, consistent messages, day in, day out. If you chop and change all the time, your baby will feel confused, overwhelmed and very unsettled.
All healthy babies can sleep well. However, if their basic needs – to be fed, warm, clean, dry, comfortable, to be loved and to sleep, are not being met and things aren’t correctly set up for them, they will struggle.
Keeping things simple, staying consistent and working together with your baby as a team, will go a long way to ensuring you make the right decisions when it comes to helping your little one sleep soundly, day and night. And when baby sleeps, you sleep too.
More on things I wish I knew about baby sleep from Hana, founder of Love To Dream™!