When you’re in the throes of your baby not sleeping, which means YOU are not sleeping, it can feel like this reality may last forever. I’ve been there. Your baby woke up more times than you can count last night and you feel exhausted and at the same time frustrated, alone, angry, or sad because this isn’t what you expected. You didn’t realize that your baby wouldn’t be sleeping through the night at 6, 9, or 12+ months, or that your baby wouldn’t be sleeping much at all.
One important tool to help navigate this tiresome time is to keep things in perspective and remember the bigger picture. Below are a few kind reminders with quick and actionable steps you can take today to steer your baby’s sleep in the right direction!
#1 This WILL pass!
While this may not offer immediate relief or solve your current situation, I want to reassure you that this period is temporary! If you find this statement comforting even in the slightest, repeat it to yourself throughout the day.
This is your reminder that this WILL pass and at some point, your baby will begin to sleep longer stretches and even sleep through the night. You are not alone and your struggle has been felt by many before you. There are countless families experiencing this exact thing as you read these very words. This is one of the invisible threads that connect families around the world across cultures and borders. Ask for extra support when you can, take care of yourself, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
#2 There is nothing wrong with you or your baby!
We are fed a lot of misleading information when it comes to baby sleep. We assume that we have a “good baby” when they sleep through the night. We expect to put our baby down “drowsy but awake.” An easy and good baby is one that doesn’t cry out in the night.
FYI, all babies are good babies! Babies, much like adults, are simply trying to navigate their way around this world from their own unique vantage point, personality, and preferences. While some babies do naturally sleep through the night from an earlier age, this is simply not the reality for so many.
A 2015 study showed that 78.6% of babies 6-12 months still regularly woke at least once a night*. Accepting that it is perfectly normal to have a baby that doesn’t sleep through the night can ease some of the internal pressure we create for ourselves.
#3 What IS working?
It’s easy to get stuck in a negative loop especially when you are tired and your energy is running low. But what did work today? Were you able to put down your baby a few seconds earlier than the night before? Can you celebrate the fact that your baby took a solid nap, or settled for bed quicker than before?
It’s important to celebrate the small wins. Name the wins and celebrate them with your baby. It’s these small things that build-up to big sustainable changes.
#4 Keep it simple.
Often less is more, especially if you feel like you don’t have much to give. Small changes can also be more digestible for babies, helping them slowly adjust in time. With that in mind, what is one measurable thing you can do today to help move the dial forward?
Let it be simple and let it be enough for today. For example, focus on a peaceful nighttime routine. Observe what aspects of the routine soothe your baby most. Or focus on one night time waking instead of trying to create change at every night waking. Stay present while you put your baby to sleep. It’s calming for them, even if they don’t always show it, and when we are present we can’t dwell on the past or worry about the future.
By simplifying things, we may act more confidently and assured during the night, and our baby will sense that.
#5 Remember this is a long-term gentle strategy.
At the end of the day, this is about deepening our relationship with our little one. It’s about bonding and building trust as they learn a lifelong skill. Sleep is just one of the many confidence-building exercises you will do with your child and this will be a relatively short period of time within you and your baby’s life.
The growth isn’t always noticeable but it is happening. Similarly to when you look at your baby some days and it feels like they have grown overnight. Your baby, with your help, is making their way to better sleep even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
You know your baby better than anyone and you’re in this together. You’re a team and you’ll both make it out of these sleep struggles stronger, more confident, and more rested!
If you want to dive deeper into your baby’s sleep and receive more guidance and support then we are here to help! Read more about Heidi’s award-winning sleep programs! Is your baby waking up every hour? Read more tips on addressing hourly night wakings.
*Brown, Amy & Harries, Victoria. (2015). Infant Sleep and Night Feeding Patterns During Later Infancy: Association with Breastfeeding Frequency, Daytime Complementary Food Intake, and Infant Weight. Breastfeeding medicine: the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.