Updated: Mar 2, 2018
"Why? Why ? Why aren't you sleeping?" How many times have you asked your baby this while bouncing, jiggling, shhh-ing or crying? Me too. No matter how many times I used to ask my little one this question, he could never give me the answer. Funny that! It is so hard to know why! But let me tell you, when you are used to them falling asleep on their own and sleeping well, it becomes a whole lot easier to identify what and when something is wrong.
But back to my tear filled, sleep deprived, fog....sure I had the occasional good night, but then we would always have those rough nights again. And that just made things all the more confusing. What a confusing roller coaster. Then THAT night happens --- or maybe more than one of them. You know exactly what I'm talking about when I say my son just would not stay asleep or go to sleep at all. I had hit rock bottom, I was exhausted from waking up multiple times every night and having to do anything and everything to get him back to sleep. Actually, let's be honest, I had multiple nights where I felt like I had hit rock bottom. That's just part of what sleep deprivation does to you I guess.
When our babies don't sleep well, we tend to look for an explanation. We think it might be teething or gas. We worry that they might be too small and he needs to eat more, or maybe 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 reason why? Sometimes. But aside from those times when your child has a burning fever or a new tooth coming in, or is newborn waking legitimately hungry, the real reason most babies won't sleep or stay asleep is that they just don't know how.
We all have strategies that help us make the journey into sleep each night. We have bedtime routines that we tend to do without really thinking about it, and we do these things because they help us transition from the busyness of our day to a restful sleep.
Most of us have a favourite 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 would have trouble drifting off.
The same goes for babies. Many parents who don't have a plan or idea on how to guide their babies into falling asleep one their own think that their child can only fall asleep with the bottle, or while breastfeeding, or while being rocked or patted. While this might be true, the trouble is, by offering these props, parents are creating a situation where their babies are dependent on something external to help them sleep. And that is why they don't sleep well.
Night waking is very common in babies who are used to relying on one of these props. 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, usually using the prop that got them to sleep in the first place. 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.
Thankfully, there is hope. There are lots of ways to give your child the tools he 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 young 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!
Got some more specific questions? Let's me know! I'd love to hear from you!