This is a question I often asked my first son when he was an infant. I asked it in a sweet voice, I asked it in a harsh whisper, I asked it in a tone of desperation, but no matter how many times I asked, he never gave me the answer.
I can remember the night— and some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about— when I felt like I could not take it anymore. My son just would not stay asleep and I had hit rock bottom, exhausted from waking up multiple times every night and having to soothe him back to sleep. My husband found me at an ungodly hour one morning, curled up next to my son’s crib, with my hand in the slats trying to pat him to sleep for what felt like hours.
When our babies don’t sleep well, we tend to look for an explanation. It must be teething or perhaps it’s gas. We worry that she’s too small and she needs to eat in the night, or he’s too big and he needs to eat more or he won’t feel full. The list goes on and on.
Are any of these explanations the real truth? Sometimes. But barring those times when your child has a burning fever or a new tooth is coming in, the real reason most babies won’t sleep or stay asleep is that they just haven’t learned how.
Creatures of Habit
We are creatures of habits. We all have our own way of falling asleep each night. We have bedtime routines that we tend to do without really thinking about it, and we do these steps because they help us transition from the fast-paced schedule of our day to a restful sleep.
Most of us have a favorite position on the bed that we turn to when we feel sleep about to come. Some of us need a glass of water beside the bed, some need white noise or music, others can’t sleep without the window open. Some need a cup of herbal tea, and some have to read for ten minutes… Whatever the differences might be, these are all sleep strategies, and without them we’d have trouble drifting off.
Where the Problem Lies
The same goes for babies. Many parents who haven’t developed a sleeping strategy for their babies will complain that their child can only fall asleep with the bottle, or while breastfeeding, or while being rocked or patted.
Night waking is very common in babies who have not learned to sleep properly and are relying on a prop. When they wake up and the prop isn’t there to put them back to sleep, they have to wake up fully and cry in order to be soothed back to sleep. It’s not personal, Mom and Dad… they haven’t made it their personal mission to wake you up ten times a night. They just have no idea how to go to sleep without your help.
But There is Hope
The good news is that there is hope. There are a variety of ways to give your child the tools she needs to be able to sleep independently, even from a very young age. Babies are capable of sleeping through the night, and learning those skills while they are younger will help make bedtimes and nighttimes relatively hassle-free.
A well-rested child is a happier, healthier child. And a well-rested parent is healthier and happier too!
If bedtime is a struggle, that lasts hours long or you are finding yourself having to get up and put your baby back to sleep multiple times a night, call me and get yourselves ready for a change that will have your little one sleeping independently through the night and giving you your nights back in as little as one week once we start working together!
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.