Parenthood is amazing, exciting, fun and boy oh boy is it tiring. There are some unicorn babies who from birth will sleep in lovely long stints and need waking to be reminded to feed, but if you don’t have one of those rare little ones, it can be frustrating, relentless and exhausting.
Babies are born with no circadian rhythm, they just don’t know day from night and it can take around 12 weeks for their brains to figure it out. Sometimes we get a bit smug around 3 months in as things often do start to get a little better, our bundles of joy might even be doing a 5 hour stretch by this age but then 4 months hits and POW we basically have a new-born again, fighting naps and bedtime and waking every couple of hours overnight.
You might be reassured to know that this is all completely normal and your baby is not broken and you have done nothing wrong if they aren’t sleeping through the night by 6 months old (or older in fact!)
Why do babies wake so much?
1 – their circadian rhythm isn’t established until a few weeks in
2 – they go between light sleep and deep sleep in short sleep cycles, they are easily disturbed in light sleep and are not able to link up two sleep cycles
3 – waking frequently is protective against SIDS
4 – they need to feed frequently because their tummies are so tiny and they are regulating your milk supply
5 – regressions / teething / illness
But none of that really helps when you are so tired that you’re putting your phone in the bin and your rubbish in your handbag (true story in my house!), or when you are so tired you are grumpy with your other half, or when you are so tired you just aren’t enjoying your child.
This is all totally understandable.
We NEED sleep to feel human and I sincerely believe that it is way too important to just put up with feeling like this.
So this is where I come in, I am a Holistic Sleep Coach and I help families with young children to get better sleep with gentle and responsive methods that don’t involve leaving your baby to cry by themselves. I work with families on a one to one basis, online and in person when we can. I also offer wonderfully supportive group coaching packages, Sleep Transformation Groups, which are super social and really affordable.
So what can we do to help our children (and us) sleep better. Here are my top 5 tips
1 – Be realistic and don’t compare. Society puts so much pressure on parents. Phrases like ‘sleeping like a baby’ and ‘congratulations, is he/she good, does he/she sleep?’ really don’t help our parenting self-esteem. Our babies are not ‘bad’ if they cry, or if they don’t sleep all night, they are just normal human babies. Now I’m in no way saying that it’s easy because it’s normal, it really isn’t but we should remember this and give ourselves and our children a break.
2 – Have a regular get up and bedtime. This really helps to regulate the circadian rhythm, babies are mostly ‘larks’ which means they are early to rise and early to bed, whilst a 6am wake seems like a really early start to the day, it is probably a very normal wake time for a child. If you are an ‘owl’ and much prefer to stay up late in the evening and get up later in the morning this can be a tough one. Instead of missing out on sleep, try to train yourself into going to be 15 minutes earlier every few days. It might just make those early mornings just that little more bearable.
3 – Review how much day sleep they are having. We all have a set amount of sleep we need in 24 hours, so if your little one is having too much during the day, it stands to reason that they won’t need as much overnight. It’s not always realistic that they will sleep for 12 hours overnight, 10/11 is more common so work backwards from that to work out how long they should be napping.
4 – Have a consistent bedtime routine. Your bedtime routine should be about 45 minutes (from start to asleep) once your little one reaches about 8 months, choose activities that are calming and nurturing like jigsaw puzzles, stories, soft singing and cuddles. The bedtime routine is your opportunity to help your little one to wind down from their day but also to reconnect emotionally with them, try to enjoy this time together and your little one will be much more compliant.
5 –Don’t be too keen to night wean. Babies need to feed overnight, they don’t only feed for hunger, they also feed for comfort. Weaning onto solids earlier than six months will not make your baby sleep longer, nor will stopping night feeds earlier than they are ready. Often if you stop the night feeds too soon you are just taking away the easiest and quickest thing to get them back to sleep. If your little one is feeding too frequently in the night, you can try to settle in another way for some of the feeds but only after 6 months (at the earliest).
Of course these are just 5 tips to consider and there are many more things that can impact sleep. So if you are still struggling and need some support get in touch. www.blissedoutbabies.co.uk www.facebook.com/blissedoutbabies www.instagram.com/blissedoutbabies