Babies need help to get to sleep and need much more sleep than their parents. They also need to sleep in shorter blocks of time, particularly in the early months of their life. Early on babies have short frequent periods of sleep throughout the day and it may feel you are spending all your time settling your baby. Later on, they will sleep for longer at night and be awake more during the day.
It can overwhelm if your baby is struggling with sleeping and settling. You may worry that there is something wrong with them. Conflicting advice about what you should do and comparing your baby’s sleep patterns with other babies can all add to your confusion and anxiety.
Talking to someone who just listens can help you to not feel so alone. If you have someone you feel safe with, ask them to listen to your experiences and reflect on what this was like for you. Many things can impact on a baby’s ability to learn to settle and sleep. Every baby and family is different and there is often over one reason a baby does not sleep as well as you would like.
Babies make many noises and cues to communicate with others. As you learn more about your baby, you may tell which noises and cues they make when they are tired. Not all cries are the same and sometimes your baby’s cry might mean they need your help to calm down before they can fall asleep.
Babies are like sponges and absorb your feelings, which is why sometimes someone who is feeling ‘fresh’ may settle your baby when you cannot. If you notice that you have ticked a lot of negative feelings you may want to try a brief relaxation self-compassion exercise. Take a moment to slow down and focus on your breathing – breath in through your nose and out through your nose.
When your thoughts stray just notice, the thought and bring yourself back to your breathing…. ‘In and out’. Once you get into a comfortable rhythm, tell yourself something positive that a friend might say to you and repeat these words.
Many parents struggle when they leave their baby to self-settle. Often it is difficult to provide warmth and connection, and firmness and control when settling. The skills your baby gains in self-settling will allow you to gradually overtime be less involved in settling your baby to sleep. Your baby will also be able to use these skills to resettle themselves when they awaken.
Parents often report some of the following as common areas they struggle with:
- Misreading your baby as hungry when they are tired leads to overfeeding and making them hard to settle.
- Misreading your baby as unhappy can lead to over-stimulation making them overtired and hard to settle.
- Your baby always seems unsettled, resulting in a few happy play moments, and settling them is difficult.