3 RESPONSES TO PARENTS MENTIONING INFANT SLEEP WOES THAT MAKE ME CRINGE
When it comes to parenting, it is common to look to anyone anywhere for advice when you are desperate for sleep! But I want to warn you that not all advice is good advice. Here are three things I commonly hear that make me CRINGE and what I, as a sleep consultant, have to say.
“THEY WILL START SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT WHEN THEY ARE READY."
Ooo. How I despise this one.
While for some babies, yes, this can be true, we as adults are the ones controlling their days. We are often the reason they don't start sleeping through the night and/or have difficulty lengthening naps when they are mature enough to do so.
Basically? We can be the ones to hinder that process!
If a baby is tired but we aren’t picking up on their sleep cues? Then we can easily miss their sleep windows. And when this happens regularly, we contribute to a snowball effect that leads to an overtired child.
And what happens when a child (or anyone) is overtired?
It is harder to sleep!
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “They are so tired! I just don’t get why they won’t fall asleep," when talking with a potential client during a discovery session.
After diving into the conversation, it is often clear to me why they are experiencing this issue.
It is often that the child is so tired that they are wired and we need to make adjustments to one or many somethings.
Perhaps it is the schedule.
When we miss a sleep window, the brain responds by pumping cortisol throughout the body. The brain thinks, "If not sleeping when tired, something must be going on that requires one to be alert!"
If your baby is experiencing a snowball effect of sleep debt let alone just missing a sleep window, it is very normal that they could have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep as their central nervous system is basically in overdrive.
And? It is important that you are providing your baby with the components necessary for them to sleep well.
We set their sleep environment. We set their routines. We decide when to place them into their crib.
I mean really. Think about it.
How well do you sleep when... the lights are on? ... people are talking? ... you are getting into bed too early or too late?
So, yes, a baby might start STTN when they are ready BUT, if you are hindering that process, they might be missing out on more zzz's earlier in their life.
If this is the case for you, the beauty of it is that you can contribute to improving it!
You can do a lot to help your baby sleep well and avoid being the reason that they don't when they are indeed capable and mature enough to do so.
“MY CHILD TURNED OUT FINE,” WHEN SUGGESTING UNSAFE SLEEP ADVICE
Another common type of response I read or hear is unsafe sleep advice. And when someone speaks up to say they are suggesting something unsafe, it is often responded to with, "We did it. And my child turned out fine."
This is an example of survivorship bias which is very common when discussing safe sleep for babies.
While many children have turned out fine when their parents or caregivers followed unsafe sleep practices, the fact is that not everyone can say that. And honestly? I find it quite insensitive when thinking about those who have been less fortunate.
When it comes to safe sleep for infants, the AAP is the most researched, knowledge based, empirical resource that we have. If you ever have a question about whether or not something is safe, you can look to the AAP.
“JUST PUT THEM DOWN AND LET THEM CRY. THEY WILL FIGURE IT OUT.”
A third one? "Just put them down and let them cry. They will figure it out."
This is an area that requires some healthy differentiation on our part as adults.
First, the response itself.
Some kiddos actually do need us to just leave them the eff alone! We are the distraction that is preventing them from falling asleep. We are causing overstimulation. And their cries are telling us that!
However, not everyone is comfortable with this option and it isn't always the best for a family. There are several ways to help your baby sleep well without leaving them in their room all night without any engagement from you.
Typically, I suggest to a client that they start with a response option that is more involved while being mindful of when their baby actually needs them to let them be.
Second, what you do or don't provide for your baby when it comes to sleep.
Helping a baby to sleep well is not just about the response you provide. While, yes, for some babies this is the only thing they need adjusted, for many it is more than that.
TAKE IT FROM ME
If you are ready to help your baby sleep well, there are things you can do NOW. And it does not matter if they have night feedings or not. We can help your baby sleep well while taking those into consideration.
I always encourage an evaluation of your engagement along with evaluation of the sleep environment, sleep schedule/pattern, sleep routine, and possibly anything else that either needs to be strategized in the process OR is potentially contributing to the difficulty of sleep.
If you want support in doing this, that is what us sleep consultants are here for! We help you figure out where to make adjustments and how to create a plan to achieve a realistic sleep goal for your baby.
Check out the Stork Sleep Academy, a group coaching program where I guide and support parents as you create and implement a solid Sleep Plan effectively and with confidence. Click here for more information and to enroll.