8 signs parents miss when it comes to baby sleep
It doesn’t matter if it’s 3pm or 3am, chances are you’re reading this because you’re desperate to find ways to get your baby to go to and stay asleep! You’re in luck because Baby & Child Sleep Consultant, Steph Gouin is here to share the common mistakes (and how to avoid them!) parents make when trying to get their baby to sleep.
When it comes to baby sleep, parents are faced with an overwhelming amount of information.
There’s advice from well-meaning family members, friends, the internet, books, magazines, forums, chat groups, and Parent’s Groups. (It’s a lot, I know!)
And more often than not, it’s all conflicting, complicated and a lot of it is just plain wrong.
As a Sleep Consultant, I love getting to help parents feel less confused and make the right decisions when it comes to their little one’s sleep. Often, it’s as simple as working through a simple list of where parents go wrong when it comes to sleep.
Scroll down to read what these common mistakes are and how to avoid them!
Where parents go wrong when it comes to sleep
Underestimating The Amount of Sleep
Babies require a lot of sleep throughout a 24-hour period and when they don’t get enough, ‘sleep debt’ builds. Even an hour or two of missed sleep can make a huge difference to their settling and the quality of their sleep. Many parents worry that if their baby is sleeping all the time, they aren’t awake enough to learn, but here’s the thing, babies have the rest of their lives to learn.
Really, particularly in the early days, all they need to do is eat and sleep. When you get the sleeping (and feeding) right, everything else will follow.
Missing Tired Signs
Babies will always show tired signs when they have had enough time awake and need to go back to sleep. Some basic examples of these tired signs include:
- Becoming vocal
- Rubbing eyes
- Jerking arms and legs
- Yawning, just to name a few…
Babies can get tired very quickly and when that ‘magic window’ from tired to overtired is missed, they have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
My Tip: Take some time to watch and observe your baby during their awake time. You’ll see the changes in their behavior as they start to get tired, meaning it’s the perfect time for more sleep.
The saying ‘sleep promotes sleep’ is 100% true. The more sleep babies get during the day, the better they sleep overnight. And vice versa. Sleep needs to be looked at over the whole 24-hour period, not just ‘day’ being separate from ‘night’. The total amount of sleep is what matters and if a baby misses out on a whole day of sleeping, come evening and overnight they will be absolutely exhausted and overtired, difficult to settle and the quality of their night sleep won’t be great either.
Take the time to work on day naps, even if your baby is sleeping well overnight. Your little one will be much better for it- and you will too (hello ‘me time’)!
Can’t handle the Crying
Crying is ‘baby talk’ and it’s the only way babies communicate with us. It is important to remember that not all crying during the ‘going to sleep’ process requires immediate intervention. Absolutely, sometimes a baby will cry because they need to be attended to i.e., dirty diaper, burp etc. However, there will be many times when a baby will cry, simply because they are exhausted and winding down as they drift off to sleep but otherwise, they are fine.
If your baby is crying during the ‘going to sleep process’, before rushing in to pick them up, pause and listen to the cry. If it’s a high-pitched cry that’s not slowing down, of course go in for a cuddle. However, if it’s more of a ‘fussing, up-and-down’ cry, give them some time and chances are they will soon drift off to sleep all by themselves.
Using Multiple Soothing Tactics
Babies love consistency and familiarity. When they are rocked, fed, bounced (in arms), given a pacifier, then put down alone in a crib to try and settle all in the one ‘going to sleep’ session, it leaves them feeling confused, overstimulated, and frustrated which means they can struggle to drift off to sleep easily and naturally.
While there may be times when a few settling tactics are needed, for the most part, aim to put your baby down to sleep the same way every time, so they get familiarized and used to the same way of drifting off over and over again.
Overthinking and Overcomplicating
It is easy to overlook the basics and jump to complex conclusions when there is a screaming baby in the house who will just not sleep. It’s especially hard when parents are sleep deprived and not thinking straight either. In a healthy baby, there will be basic reasons why a baby is unsettled i.e., hunger, overtired, overstimulated, cold etc. The key is to always focus on the basics first instead of jumping to conclusions that there is something seriously wrong.
My tip: Whenever your baby is unsettled, have a ‘basics checklist’ to work through. Tick all the boxes, give your little one time to settle, and chances are they will. Of course, if you are ever concerned, please reach out to your pediatrician.
Giving Up Too Soon
Making changes to sleep habits and behaviors does take time. Especially when a baby is overtired and needs to catch up on a lot of sleep. Babies need clear, consistent messages and they need time to adjust to the new way of doing things. When you implement your new sleep habits, try not to panic, and give up if things don’t fall into place straight away. Give your baby and yourself time.
Set small goals each day and before long, your little one will start settling and sleeping like a star. Which means you’ll start sleeping like a star too.
Choosing the wrong sleep clothing & blankets
Like adults, babies need to be cozy and comfortable when they sleep. They need to feel warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. And they need to be safe in their sleep space and in what they are wearing too. As a general rule, babies need one extra layer than an adult does and choosing 100% chemical-free cotton clothing is preferable, given it’s soft, hypoallergenic and breathable. Over the top of their clothing, you can have them in a cozy swaddle or sleeping bag/suit. As opposed to loose blankets, these sleepwear garments are great for ensuring warmth without the risk of anything covering their head and face.
Steph Gouin is a Baby and Child Sleep Consultant, a Registered Nurse of over 15 years and Mama to three beautiful children. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Steph is one of Australia’s leading sleep experts, an International Keynote Speaker and prides herself on her ability to help parents go from feeling exhausted, hopeless, overwhelmed, and wanting to give up, to feeling knowledgeable, confident, happy and content. Learn more at www.sleepbysteph.com.au.