Helping Your Baby to Sleep Better
There are two ways for your baby to learn to sleep better – you can force him to learn, or you can help him to learn. The first way, forcing the learning, sometimes appears to “work” in the short-term, but often results in sleep regressions later on, and is associated with a myriad of later issues in adults, including trust issues, sleep issues, physical illness, and depression.
I can say for certain, based on offering baby sleep classes in Calgary to hundreds of families, and doing baby sleep coaching in hundreds of homes, that the good news is that there are lots of ways to achieve the end result – good sleep for everyone, in a more gradual and healthy way.
We learn to fall asleep in a variety of different ways, and when a person connects falling asleep with a certain song, touch, sound, activity or object, that is called a sleep association. One of the key elements of helping your baby learn to sleep better is helping them to develop new sleep associations, and gradually replacing their current sleep associations with the new ones.
Some sleep associations are easier on parents than others. For example, if your child’s only sleep association is carrying and rocking, and she wakes up 3 or 4 times a night, you are going to have some long nights. But if your child has strong sleep associations with patting and sighing (TIP: when you’re exhausted, a loud sigh or exhale is the easiest possible sound you can make), a 2 am wake-up will have a lesser effect on you – you can have your baby sleep nearby (in a sidecar crib for example) or even (gasp!) in your bed, and pat and sigh until he or she falls back to sleep.
Please remember that I am not recommending any particular sleeping arrangement. Every family is different, and children’s sleep can be improved regardless of where they are sleeping. Depending on what your ideal situation looks like, and your babe’s natural preferences, you can work together to move towards solutions that work for everyone. As you are making the transition to better sleep, I recommend considering your sleeping arrangements to support a gentle transition for everyone. (**If you choose to co-sleep/share a bed with your baby, please be sure to follow all safe co-sleeping guidelines.)
Most babies fall BACK to sleep most easily the way they fell asleep in the first place, so integrating in a new sleep association during the bedtime routine can have a very powerful effect on shortening and reducing middle of the night wake-ups.
Sleep work is detective work. First you need to figure out WHY baby is sleeping how she is, then you need to find ways to support her to develop new sleeping patterns, WHILE taking care of yourself. There are so many elements to this in our culture today, and if you’re having sleep issues in your home, go here for all of our baby sleep support services, including consults and sleep coaching or check out our baby sleep classes in Calgary, Get Sleep Now: Gentle Sleep Support for Baby & You.