Ok, I’m super nervous about this post. As nervous, or more, than pushing that publish button for the very first time.
I’m nervous about it because people, especially mamas, are super passionate about this topic of baby sleep. But, ya know what?
I am too.
I’m passionate about it because it’s super important.
To your baby.
It’s an important part of the happiness of your entire family, actually.
There are myriad resources out there and I’ll be honest….I’ve not looked at them. I polled my friends before I had my first baby four and a half years ago, asking for book recommendations on baby sleep. I had no idea what I was doing.
Well, maybe I had a tiny idea. I remember when I worked as a nanny and a mom being super amazed that I got her son to sleep in just a few minutes. She usually spent hours rocking him and he usually spent hours crying and screaming. I actually didn’t know what I was doing, but I had some common sense about the fact that, of course, her son would want to be held and sleep on his mom rather than be put in his crib and sleep alone. But, these decisions are always easier to make with a child you aren’t as attached to as your own. And this did show me how important it was to have good sleep habits and made me realise it was something I wanted to ensure I did for my children (and for me! I knew I didn’t want to be rocking for hours every night or listening to screams from my child on a regular basis before and during bed time).
Anyways, I knew I still needed a lot of advice so I put the question out there. I got numerous recommendations but due to my lack of knowing the difference between the recommendations, I simply chose the book that had a couple more recommendations than any other. I’m so glad I went with Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child!
And then I was randomly handed a tattered looking book with an awkward title, so I added Gina Ford’s The Contented Little Baby Book to my list.
This is truly how I started the journey of learning just how important a baby’s sleep is.
And the truth is, we all want, no need, our babies to sleep so we can function and not become a scary, grumpy mommy monster to those around us. But it my opinion, people have given up on the idea that they can get any sleep after having an infant. And again, in my opinion, this is so very untrue for the vast majority of new mommies. Honestly, a good night of sleep is hopefully just around the corner!
Hopefully you’ll come to see that you can trust me on this. I’ve had three babies and all of them have been amazing sleepers. I don’t think that ‘just happens’ three times. I don’t just have good babies. Instead, I’ve worked to help them sleep well from the first months and for that reason, I have great babies.
Also, anyone I know who has used the same methods I have used have these great sleeping babies as well.
So, while I’m not an expert in the general sense of the word, I think I’ve had some great success with sleeping babies and have seen many others be successful using the same methods. Of course I want to share that with you!
But at this point you still might be wondering if you want to sift through all this info and trust me. Well, let me give you a glimpse of what my life with a four year old, a two and a half year old, and a nine month old look like.
My baby boy goes to bed at 6pm and sleeps until 6:30-7am. He takes a morning nap for an hour and an afternoon nap for 2-3 hours.
My two year old takes a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon. She also goes to bed early. 6:30pm when she is really tired and 7pm on a more regular basis. She sleeps until 7am.
My oldest still prefers a nap of about 2 hours a day. I try to limit it to one hour but she much prefers a longer nap. She goes to bed around 7pm and sleeps until 7am.
Did you see that? Three kiddos all asleep in the afternoon? My evenings are mine to enjoy! And a babysitter is not a big deal. We just have them come after all our kids are in bed and we know they will not even have to deal with a kid coming out or needing anything. This is all completely possible for most families.
Honestly, it’s completely up to you. Your little bundle will have some say, but the truth is, they want to sleep! Probably more than you want them to sleep. Just think of all the growing they are doing. Think of the development they are going through. They absolutely need all the sleep they can get and if you allow them the sleep they need, they will be so very happy.
In my very short (four and a half at this point) years of parenting, the only books I’ve read on being a parent have to do with sleep. And I’ve only used the two books I mentioned. But, to save you the stress of reading the 800 pages combined, I’m going to walk you through what you need to do to start having a great sleeping baby with this sleep series.
First, however, you need to understand what is behind your baby’s need to sleep. Then you will understand what you need to do about it. To begin, you must recognize that your baby has a sleep rhythm. She has a time when she wants to be sleeping and when she wants to be awake. Just like you and I, she has a natural cycle and when this cycle of sleep is protected (key word here!!!), she will naturally want to sleep during this time. And most baby’s sleep cycle does not differ.
Here I want to note that there are certain issues that can cause sleep to be harder for certain babies. I had two babies who had digestive issues, were very gassy, and even classified as colicky by doctors (but I don’t really agree as I believe all fussiness was only related to an extreme amout of gas). However, this goes to show that even with some different issues, sleep is a necessity for all babies. I will surely share how I helped even my babies with uncomfortable tummies get all the sleep they needed!
Also, if your child is two and you are desperate for more sleep, don’t stop reading right now, thinking there is only help for parents with newborns! We can also apply this information to older kids and any child can get on track with their sleeping. So, no matter your baby or child’s sleep history up to this point, they can start to follow the sleep patterns I will soon lay out and it will likely be better for them than any other schedule.
Yikes, I just said schedule! People tend to bristle when they hear talk about baby scheduling. But, you and I have a schedule throughout the day. We have a natural waking time, a time in late afternoon when our energy wanes, and a time in the evening when we start to get tired enough to head to bed. Your baby has this same natural, innate need to sleep. It just happens several times throughout the day and for a much longer stretch at night.
Can I share with you a few reasons why it important to help babies get their sleep? It is not actually just for your sanity, though that is an amazing benefit. First, your children will just be happier! Seriously. If your baby is fussy and crying, your kids are often grumpy and don’t follow directions well, you very well may be able to minimise much of this by helping them get enough sleep. Yes, there are other things that need to be addressed with older kids when behavior is off, but starting with sleep is great because your kids will be much more prepared to deal with the changes you may want to start invoking (discipline and new expectations) if they are well rested. This goes for any young kid though. They will respond to you so much better if they are well rested. Whenever our kids are misbehaving or are giving me a baby-tude, as I call it, we head to bed! Seriously. If nap time is anywhere near, we have our lunch immediately and get nap time comin’! And if bedtime is within reach, we fast forward as much as possible to get the kids some extra sleep with an earlier bed time.
Also, studies have shown (Weissbluth, 1987…sorry, history teacher. I have to cite my sources! It’s just good practice people!) that kids do better in school when they are well rested. This seems like a no brainer, right? Don’t you do a better job at work and throughout your day when you’ve had the sleep you need? But how often are we stealing away the hours from our kids that they need to be sleeping? We decide to run errands during nap time and figure if there is a movie on while we are driving around town, it will be just as relaxing. We don’t want to be home early, stuck in the house, while we let the kids go to bed early. We don’t even want to adjust our family schedule to eating at 5pm so our kids can get to bed between 6-7pm. However, these choices can have a negative long term affect on our kids. Kids who get the appropriate amount of sleep are better able to deal with changes that come their way, do better in school, have lower rates of some disorders that seem to be running rampant today (hyperactive disorders), and are generally happier kids. This lack of sleep can even have a detrimental effect on us moms. According to Weissbluth, ” Persistent sleeping problems in children have been linked to psychiatric symptoms in adolescents, hyperactivity in children, and depression in their mothers.” So, as you can see, it is vital to both mother and child that everyone is getting enough sleep!
Also, just to again point out the importance of sleep, I will use one more Weissbluth quote: “A sleeping brain is not a resting brain.” Sleep is what recharges your child’s brain and has a purpose. They absolutely need it, just like you do! And they need much more of it than you do because they are growing in so many ways. Sleep also has a calming effect on the brain as well as helps the brain to be alert. That right there shows you that getting your child all the sleep she needs will help her to be happier, calmer, and do well in her learning activities (which are endless at a young age but are also relevant for school age children).
All in all, babies and children need their sleep! And they want to sleep! No matter how much it seems they are resisting it, they want to sleep. What seems like resistance is really just a baby or child not knowing how to self sooth, in all likelihood. Falling asleep on their own is a learned behavior and one we can definitely teach. So, if you are exhausted or just want to see your child get a little bit more sleep, join me in learning about how you can help your child get all the sleep they need as this series continues!