Baby sleep is a hot topic. How you get your baby to sleep is an even hotter topic! How a baby is sleeping is usually the first question asked of a new mother or discussed at baby group or in an online forum. There are those claiming to have the answer, those telling you it’s just a phase or those condemning mothers for even considering trying to get some sleep.
Over the years I’ve helped many babies (including my own) to sleep through the night. Often when my clients tell friends or share their success on social media they receive a less than positive reaction; people recoil in horror…“I could never do that to my baby”. The judgment. And then come the reasons; the ‘proof’ that proactively trying to help your baby get some sleep is the wrong choice for your baby (because it is the wrong choice for them).
So just for fun, to dispel some myths and maybe, just maybe, change some opinions here is a list of things you are guaranteed to hear if you dare to mention sleep training or routine:
- “I prefer to follow my baby’s lead, I think it’s cruel to follow a routine”. Is it cruel to give your baby milk and sleep as she needs it? Can it really be cruel to ensure that your entire day is set up so she is getting exactly what she wants when she needs it? If you let your BABY lead you, is this tiny person really going to lead you to the full night’s sleep that both of you need?
- “I don’t want to be a slave to the routine and stuck indoors all the time”. I admit to sometimes planning outings around nap or feed times to make things easier for myself; having the chance to sit down and relax during that golden period of silence is priceless! But ultimately I’ve found that following a routine gives us more freedom: no unscheduled feeds, no fighting a baby to get to sleep in a restaurant, no cranky baby waiting for their food. Planning days around the routine means that you can continue to give your baby everything they need when you leave the house without having a negative impact on their nighttime sleep. AND it is a happy and positive experience for all.
- “They do it in their own time.” Perhaps this is true, but why wait? Why suffer through months or even years of sleepless nights, night feeds and unhappiness? There is another way. Maybe you don’t know how to do it or have assumed that this is how it’s supposed be, but it really does depend on what you are prepared to accept. For some, getting up and breastfeeding through the night until long past their child’s 2nd birthday is a privilege and a joy, but if you want something different from motherhood, including some sleep, you can take steps to make sure that your journey is different. You won’t be ‘pushing’ them to sleep through the night before they are ready, instead you will be giving them everything they need to ensure that when they are ready, they can.
- “I don’t like to leave my baby crying.” This is the worst one! You don’t have to leave your baby screaming alone in a cold dark room as some would have you believe. It (controlled crying NOT crying it out – there is a difference) is a valid method, often used to great success but there is so much more to it than that. I have helped thousands of babies sleep through the night most of whom have never been left to cry. It’s also a good opportunity to say that crying isn’t bad. A lot of parents are terrified of crying, they associate crying with pain, upset and sadness but for babies this isn’t always the case. Crying can be positive, informative and helpful. Crying is the only way your baby is able to communicate with you. They are talking to you, telling you “I’m hungry”, “I’m tired” and most likely “I’ve pooped”. If you listen to your baby’s cries, you can learn a lot. Maybe why they are not sleeping!
- “If you follow a routine you are a cold parent”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Putting your baby down in their cot alone when they need to sleep doesn’t make you cold. It makes you smart! Who doesn’t want two hands free to hold their tea and their biscuit?! The beauty of routine is that during the day when your baby is awake, you can use that time to cuddle and play when you can both enjoy it.
- “I hate that woman.” And we all know who they are referring to. This is closely followed by “she isn’t even a mother”. What you’ll find is that these people haven’t read the book but simply are quoting what they’ve heard from their friend’s cousin’s sister’s friend who once read a review on Mumsnet. Routine and good sleep habits don’t have to start and end with this book. It might not be the best advice for everyone, but before you pass judgment or make a comment, read the book. Form your own opinion. And don’t judge the masses following a routine by one person’s opinion and writing. There is more to it.
- “I got too stressed out and I couldn’t make them nap so I gave up”. Those who think that routine is the ‘easy way out’, think again. It requires hard work; you need to have patience, be consistent and give it time. No one should be ashamed to admit that they need help learning how to look after their baby; after all, we turn to experts for advice on diet, exercises, finances. Seek the right kind of help and you will feel supported while you put in the hard work. It won’t always be an easy road, but it is well worth the effort: short term pain for long term gain.
- “You should never wake a sleeping baby”. Really? Why not? A baby that sleeps all day will be well rested, but they’ll also be up all night feeding to make up for the feeds they’ve missed and unable to sleep because they slept too much during the day. Managing a baby’s naps by waking them at certain times will ensure that they get the right amount of sleep and milk through the day so they (and you) are able to get the right amount of sleep through the night.
- “You can’t breastfeed and follow a routine”. Complete rubbish. I have no idea where this one stems from, but it is simply not true. Whether you choose to formula feed, breast feed, or a combination of both, your baby will be able to sleep. In fact, ensuring that you feed regularly at set times can help stimulate milk production and prevent engorgement while breastfeeding. For breastfeeding mums, following a routine also helps to cope with growth spurts and eliminates cluster and snack feeding. It also means you can plan your day around feeds if you prefer a little privacy or have a distracted feeder.
- “Every baby is different so I don’t believe you can change a baby’s sleep; they either sleep or they don’t”. I agree that all babies are different. But all babies are born with the same basic needs. They all need milk, sleep, warmth, love and to poop (endlessly!). What makes all babies different are their parents; their philosophy, their family set up, their needs, their beliefs etc etc will determine how and when these needs a met. And this is can often determine how a baby gets to sleep and whether they sleep or not. All babies need sleep, all babies can sleep but not all babies are given the opportunity to learn how to sleep.
So there you have it, an unashamed salute to changing sleep habits and routine and all they can offer you and your baby. It might not appeal to all of you and that’s ok. It works for us, it works for our customers and I love what I do! If you need any help implementing or adapting your child’s routine then come and talk to us. I don’t judge, I offer you all the help and support you need to implement a solution that suits you and your baby.
Gemma aka Sleep Detective!
Gemma at Baby Tech Support
10th January 2017