This week's question is from a mom of a three month old. She writes:
"My in-laws are coming to visit for a week and seem to think that babies will sleep through anything and that they just need to "get used to" the noise. Is this true?"
Certainly, we can get used to familiar environmental noises when we sleep. If you live in an area where it’s noiser, you will get used to a bit of ambient noise. However, while we sleep, we’re not in comas, and neither are our babies, so whatever can potentially wake you up can also potentially wake up your baby as well.
As a result, I tell parents to be respectful that someone is sleeping and to take that into consideration as to what kinds of things you would or would not do if your spouse were taking a nap. For example, you’re not going to vacuum right beside them. Extend the same courtesy to your baby while they sleep, whether it’s in the evening or during the daytime.
However, If you’re too quiet and doing ninja moves to remain soundless as you move around the house during naps, then any kind of little disturbance from pure silence is probably going to wake up your baby, such as the dog barking or the doorbell ringing. With this scenario, you don’t want to be too, too quiet.
Convincing the Others
Explaining to your in-laws, friends, and family members that the things you’re doing for your baby is what’s in the best interest of your family can be tough to do. I hear from quite a few people that experience getting tons of flack from others because they say they have to be home for nap time or can’t go out past seven at night because they’ve got to get their baby to bed. On one hand, I understand where those people are coming from; they probably want you to stay out and have a good time. However, parents are often the ones who deal with the fallout of staying out too late with their child or having their baby miss a nap, as skipping a nap or pushing bedtime back often leads to a cranky, fussy baby for the entire next day while they get back on track. Once they see that your child is well rested and happy when they are awake, most friends and family members come around and respect your desire to keep your baby on schedule.
I remember the first time the grandparents watched our child for an evening when my husband and I enjoyed a rare date night. When we got home they told us that our son was an excellent baby... as long as they followed the schedule and stuck to his routines! Hearing this led us to realize that they likely tried to mess with his schedule a little bit and then quickly realized that it wasn’t such a good idea. They then saw firsthand, the benefit of sticking to the routine because when he was awake, he was happy, engaged and playful. When he was ready to sleep, he went to sleep and slept well. From then on, they have always jumped right on board with our children’s schedules. When they babysit they’re very supportive of our routines. Eventually your friends and family will too see that you’ve made a good decision for your child.
What About the Light Sleepers?
Another inquiry that I hear about frequently is the issue of light sleepers. A lot of new clients or new parents that I start working with worry that their child is such a light sleeper and with the slightest sound, they’ll wake up. I find this to be common when a child is, what I call, tricked into sleep. (For example, if you nurse a baby to sleep and then try to carefully transfer him to his crib.)
What can happen then is if there is a bit of environmental noise, they’ll wake up with a start and realize they’re no longer in your arms. Often they wake up and start crying right away because they’re no longer in the same location that they were in when they fell asleep, whether it’s in your arms, or the swing, or car seat. For anyone, that would be quite disorienting, so those types of situations will create an immediate reaction; with the tiniest noise and your baby’s going to startle awake and probably start crying.
Once a child develops their own independent skills for getting to sleep, they’ll transition to become fairly deep and successful sleepers. For example, if an ambulance goes by in the night, I might wake up and acknowledge that it’s an ambulance but I’ll put myself back to sleep. I wouldn’t need anyone to intervene, or come to help me back to sleep. I’ll know that it woke me up but I have the skills to get myself back to sleep. When a baby has those same skills, and your friends are laughing or telling a boisterous story that wakes them, they’ll acknowledge that they heard a noise and they’ll put themselves back to sleep. Eventually, you will find that your once very light sleeper is now a fairly deep sleeper, within reason of course, and is very capable of putting themselves back to sleep if they were to get woken up by a unusual sound.
To Answer the Question
To my mom of the three month old: Make sure that your in-laws are mindful of needing to be more quiet when your baby is asleep and ask that they extend the same courtesy to your baby as they wish would be extended to them. Even though your baby may be young and not have much say, they still deserve a quiet place to sleep like everyone else.
If you find yourself living with a very light sleeper and need some help teaching them how to put themselves to sleep on their own when they wake up, schedule a call with me and we can talk about how we can work together to make that become your new reality.
I am a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who works with families to help them resolve their littles' sleep issues. As a mom of two littles herself, Katie has walked in the shoes of her clients and is passionate about helping them re-discover peaceful sleeps in their own homes.