5 Signs You're Getting in the Way of Your Baby's Sleep
As parents, we always have the best intentions to help our little ones get the sleep they need. After all there is nothing better than a good snuggle with your baby. In fact, I really miss having them fall asleep on me now that mine are toddlers... even if in the moment I may have felt "stuck" cause if I moved he would wake up... or found myself slowly walking to the bathroom to pee while holding him because I feared he would wake up if I put him down. But there came a point in time that I couldn't do that anymore. I had to bite the bullet... it was getting harder and harder to get my little one down to sleep on his own, and he was just becoming more overtired making it harder for him to fall asleep more easily. As your baby approaches 4 to 6 months (maybe even earlier), you too may find that helping them fall asleep by rocking, feeding, bouncing or something similar may makes things worse. At this age babies have very strong sleep associations. Why you ask? ... because as early as the first social smiles appear around 6 to 8 weeks is when your baby begins to make associations. A smile is making a connection and that is exactly what your baby will be doing before s/he go down for a nap or to bed... making a connection. So whatever you are doing before they fall asleep will become how they learn to fall asleep... it's his/her connection or cue that sleep is coming. Whatever type of motion or helping way you are using with your little one, they will soon expect that every time they wake up. So, how do you know if what your are doing is getting in the way of your baby's sleep?
1. YOUR BABY WAKES UP AS SOON AS YOU PUT HER IN THE CRIB OR SHORTLY THEREAFTER.
This is a very common occurrence - you're not alone! I talk with clients often about how they get their little one relaxed and eyes drooping shut (if not already asleep) and then they slowly lean over to put their baby down in the crib. Almost immediately crying ensues - sometimes before your baby even reaches the mattress! The simple lowering down into the crib is apparently the WORST THING EVER to your baby. Naturally, you swoop your little one back up and try and resettle again. Sound familiar? It's exhausting for sure.
2. YOUR HELPING WAYS ARE TAKING LONGER AND LONGER TO GET YOUR CHILD TO SLEEP.
You are probably like many parents and have an exercise ball to help with bouncing your baby (I completely loved mine too! It really saved my back). But then you start to dread this big stupid ball that is taking up so much room. What started off as a nice few bounces to help your baby fall asleep turns into a ridiculously long time bouncing. By the time you get your baby down, you feel like you are bouncing when you aren't... Kinda like when you get off a boat and you feel like you are still rocking. Whatever your helping way, it can become tiring the longer and longer it takes - especially when your baby isn't getting any real restorative sleep.
3. YOUR BABY IS SKIPPING NAPS, TAKING SHORT CATNAPS OR IS HAVING ONE OR MORE NIGHTTIME WAKINGS.
My son was king of the catnaps! As a first time mom, you do everything to try and help your baby get back to sleep. I know I really didn't want to hear my baby cry- I mean, who does!?! What many parents don't realize is that several short little catnaps or skipped naps throughout the day lead to nighttime wakings. Often times when these little catnaps occur, we often go "rescue" our baby because you think the nap is over. In reality, your baby is just moving through a sleep wave and is coming out of one of their lighter stages of sleep and just needs to learn to fall back asleep. Less sleep during the day does not mean more sleep at night. So it's important to make sure your little one gets at least a one hour nap in order for it to be restorative sleep.
4. YOUR BABY IS WIGGLING AND SQUIRMING AROUND IN YOUR ARMS TRYING TO GET COMFORTABLE AND HAS DIFFICULTY SETTLING IN.
While you may have the best intentions in helping your little one soothe to sleep because you want to avoid crying when you put them down, their wiggling is a clear sign that your baby is ready to self-soothe on their own. They are not as comfortable in your arms anymore and are wanting to learn how to sleep independently. Easier said than done, I know. Nobody wants to hear their baby cry... but sleep is very important for your baby's development. A few days here or there learning how to self soothe and sleep independently is much better than your baby NOT getting long-term consolidated sleep which is needed for cognitive growth and development.
5. YOUR BABY IS STIMULATED BY YOUR PRESENCE.
There is nothing better than playing with your baby and having them smile right back at you. But be careful... they can be very sneaky and fool you about not being tired when they really are. That's because they love interacting with you and love learning from their surroundings. If you are still wearing your baby or strolling your baby for a majority of his/her naps and you find that your baby is not napping, your being visible to them and interacting with their environment may just be keeping them awake. I know my daughter was a clock work napper, but on the weekend when we went out to the farmers market (and I hoped that she would take her morning nap in the stroller) she NEVER took a stroller nap after 4 mos of age. She was too stimulated seeing me and the rest of the fun and exciting surroundings. This only happened once a week (if that), but too much interaction definitely kept her from sleeping.
If these signs sound all too familiar to you, your baby is telling you they are ready to sleep independently. While you might miss their sleepy snuggles, they will be much more rested and happy for playtime later with you.