As a new mother, one of the biggest issues to deal with is often sleep, or rather the lack of it. Following on from the lack of sleep for you is figuring out the best way to help your baby sleep better. I don’t need to tell you there’s a mountain of information out there about how to help your baby sleep. All the differing strategies can feel confusing, conflicting and overwhelming.
Add in your own sleep deprivation and everything can feel so much harder when all you want is sleep. Obviously, the more your baby sleeps, the more likely you can sleep but how to help you both get there? That’s why I’ve written The Baby Sleep Advice Every Mama Should Read.
The society we live in can sometimes compound doubts and worries new mums have. There’s that loaded, common and well-meaning question ‘is your baby sleeping through the night yet?’ which can often make you feel as though if you answer ‘no not yet’ you have somehow failed as a mother. Totally crazy! And by the way, nobody, not even an adult or a baby EVER sleeps through the night. We all wake after natural sleep cycles. It’s the ability we learn in how to settle ourselves back to slumber that makes the ‘sleeping through the night’ myth seem true.
Perhaps you’ve been told by a new mum friend that her little one is sleeping through most nights with the odd wake for a feed. While you’re struggling to get your baby to sleep more than a few hours at a time. Cue panic (why isn’t my baby sleeping through the night?) and guilt (I must be doing something wrong. I’m a terrible mum). If any of this sounds familiar, then please please rest assured that you’re not failing and not doing anything wrong. Your baby is an amazing individual and as unique as each fingerprint and blade of grass is in the world! Once you let this anxiety go, it’ll free you up to focus on being there for your baby. Just keeping them safe and loving them is enough.
Understand that your emotions impact how you interact with your baby
Bear in mind just how linked your emotions can be in how you respond to your baby. How do you feel when your baby cries? Do you feel you have to soothe them so they stop crying the moment they begin? Do you feel you are able to listen first to gain an understanding go what their cry might mean; tired, hunger, pain, etc? Do you feel like you can’t cope and wish someone else would stop them crying? Do you feel guilty? If so, I wonder what the guilt is about? It may be you feel the moment you do something non-baby related, take a shower, get dressed, eat your lunch, you feel you ‘should’ be actively engaging with your baby at every moment. Remember, needing some time isn’t a luxury, it’s a need and perfectly normal. If you need some support, look to family and friends, local parenting groups, your GP. You’re not alone.
Learning to sleep is a skill
Babies really do need to learn how to fall asleep. Just as we teach our children a number of skills as they grow; how to eat, read, write, ride a bike, teaching them to sleep is also a skill to learn. It’s never the case that when weaning your baby they miss their mouths and drop a lot of food so you say, ‘ok, back to the breast or bottles!’. You gently persist and they eventually learn how to feed themselves and it works! Think of sleep in the same way. You try something new and they have not yet learnt this new skill but, as long as you believe in the method you have chosen and are consistent, then your baby will learn the new ways of going to sleep.
And remember how I said earlier every baby was as unique as a blade of grass, well, that’s why some babies learn to sleep as if by themselves and there’s hardly ever sleep struggles. However, I’m assuming since you’re reading this, you have a baby that does need to learn how to fall and stay asleep more. I don’t mean by ignoring any biological needs of night feeds etc but there are definite ways to help optimise baby sleep to help them learn.
Your baby might protest a little at any new changes. This is normal. What I practice is a way of meeting your baby’s needs and helping them through these new changes and not leaving them to figure it out for themselves.