If your little one was a dream sleeper for their first few months and you’re starting to face new sleep challenges, or if you’ve been struggling with their sleep for 12 weeks or more and you’re exhausted and at your wits end - don’t give up hope. It’s absolutely possible to get things back on track and teach bub to sleep well.
When we bring our newborns home, it’s really easy to get in the habit of rocking or feeding them to sleep. They’re small and cuddly, and it can be the path of least resistance. But while we’re doing this, bub is getting used to falling asleep this way. The nursing and rocking are becoming sleep associations, sleep aids (or crutches), and bub starts relying on them to fall asleep and stay asleep. When they wake up in the middle of the night, they need the same support to fall back asleep. If it’s no longer working for you or your family, it may be time to make some changes and start laying the foundations for healthy sleep.
If your baby’s sleep foundations aren’t in place yet, working on the existing or developing sleep issues alone may not work. For example, if you’re trying to change bub’s reliance on a sleep aid (like rocking or the dummy / pacifier) and encourage self-soothing, yet their sleep environment isn’t set up properly or they’re cold, there’s a good chance you’re not going to succeed.
If you haven’t worked your way through the Sleep Series yet, you can learn all about the 4 foundations to healthy sleep in our video lessons. They’re nice and short and you can watch them (and re-watch them) any time you need.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the foundations, start making the changes you need. Ensure bub’s sleep environment is set up properly, ensure they’re dressed appropriately for the temperature of their room and start to plan out a rhythm to their day based on the sleep, feeding and awake time needs for their age.
The 4 foundations cover off:
1. Setting up baby’s day & night
2. Creating the ideal sleep environment
3. Responding to tired signs
4. Self-soothing & settling assistance
When you do start laying the foundations for an older baby, during the first week or so of using the new strategies and techniques, it can help to stay at home as much as possible. Staying at home will make it easier for you to stay as consistent as possible while your little one gets used to the new ways of doing things, starts learning to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.
It’s never too late to lay the foundations for healthy sleep, but it may take an older baby a bit more time to get used to the new ways of doing things. Like all of us, it takes time to break old habits, form new ones and learn new skills. Be prepared for a bit of crying while you make the changes and bub gets used to the new way of going to sleep. It may take a few days or a couple of weeks.
Be patient, don’t get frustrated if bub resists at first, and stay consistent with your new approach. It will be worth it!