Why We Sleep – #Sleep and Babies

Sleeping baby

I guess every parent (-to-be) is concerned about their baby’s sleep. Even long before the baby is born, expectant moms will express their fears about the time when the baby is finally there but the sleep might be gone. „How in the world am I supposed to get up several times at night for weeks and months and sometimes even years to come?“ Those moms might start reading books about bedtime routines, sleeping habits and advice over advice about how to get my baby to sleep through the night.

As a mom, let me reassure you: No matter how your nights will turn out, you will have tons of love and hormones to get you through that phase! Even though you can’t imagine right now how you are ever going to handle it, you will manage! It might be hard at times, but moms are way more resilient than you might think.

Walker’s Hidden Advice

Turning to Why We Sleep, Walker addresses the topic shortly in a footnote. Funnily enough, the gist of it was present in my version of the audiobook but not in the print version that I have. The author writes:

A key recommendation is to always put your child to bed when they are drowsy rather than when they are asleep. In doing so, infants and children are significantly more likely to develop an independent ability to self-sooth at night so that they can put themselves back to sleep without needing a parent present.

Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

He furthermore writes that by „age three or four months will a new born show modest signs of being governed by a daily rhythm.“ The baby recognises „repeating signals, such as daylight, temperature change, and feedings“ and thus establishes „a stronger twenty-four-hour rhythm.“

Up to this point, we can therefore conclude: After three to four months, your baby will begin to get used to a daily routine. Whatever you do to get your baby to sleep at night, it will get used to it and pretty quickly ask for that habit every night. So if you nurse your baby to bed, it will probably get used to that and demand this bedtime routine. „But if it works?!“ is what you might think right now. Sure, if it works, why not. You might be comfortable keeping up with that habit for many more months. But you will reach the point where enough is enough and then you have to convince your baby to go to bed without his nightcap. So why not establish a routine that you can stick with for a long time, right away?!

Habits Work Both Ways

We had a pretty good routine. My son would have his nightcap, I would put him to bed and he would make some of his very sweet falling-asleep-noises and pleasantly doze off within minutes. Until he learned how to pull himself up on his feet in his crib and just stand there half asleep looking around the dark room. I was worried he could fall and bump his had against the grid, so I went back into his room and started rocking him to sleep. I did that the following night. And the nights after that…Big mistake.

Now we had to get rid of this nasty habit. And as it turns out, the first night was the hardest (which is probably why most parents, including us, give up right there and then), but a few nights into the new routine, it was getting better and better. Eight days later, my husband put our boy to bed, left the room and there was no crying. And after a few minutes, our son was sound asleep. Slightly disbelieving we were looking at each other…really? We were rocking this dude to sleep night after night because we thought this was the only possible way, and after eight nights of ‚falling asleep-training‘, there is not the slightest hint of rebellion on the baby front.

Now we both wish we had just not gotten into the nursing- and rocking-habit because frankly, we don’t think our son really needed it. It was simply what he was used to and what he therefore claimed. Now he is being put to bed drowsy but not asleep, we are leaving the room as he is still awake, and since he has experienced the nights before that this is okay, he is just fine with it (at least so far…).

I know this doesn’t seem like rocket science. But I think this little piece of advice is very helpful and can do a lot for better sleep if put into practise. May your kids sleep well. And you then, too.++

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