I hope nobody’s going to take it as an accusation or condemnation of their parenting skills when I say this, because it’s certainly not intended as such, but one of the biggest reasons that babies don’t sleep through the night by the time they’re about 6 months, (and again, this is in no way meant to be derogatory or critical) is because their parents aren’t letting them.
Or, put another, more delicate way, because their parents are making one of a few very common mistakes.
And for the record, I cheerfully include myself in that lot. I made all of them when I had my first, which was part of the reason he had such a hard time sleeping, which was what led me to do so much research on babies and their sleep, which was how I ended up developing the Sleep Sense Program, which is, of course, how we got here.
So believe me when I tell you, this isn’t me suggesting that you’re a bad parent for making these mistakes. They’re not even really “mistakes” in the sense of “correct and incorrect.” They’re just adjustments you can try if your baby’s not sleeping well, which I assume is the case, because otherwise, why would you be reading this article?
Alright! Enough with the context and sugar-coating. Let’s get to it. These are the big five. The most common mistakes.
I know there’s a certain romance attached to rocking your baby to sleep in your arms, and then laying him gently into his crib. As far as motherhood goes, it’s pretty much the defining visual, but it’s not helpful when it comes to a long, happy sleep.
The problem is that baby’s going to fall asleep in your arms, and then wake up in his crib. As you can well imagine, if you fall asleep in one place and wake up in another, your mind is going to start racing, trying to figure out where you are and how you got there. This is also a one-two punch, because not only is he awake and agitated, but he’s used to making the journey from awake to asleep in your arms, so he’s going to be calling you in to settle him down in his usual fashion.
Kids love, and I mean love to haggle, especially at bedtime. Typically, they’ve got nothing to lose by arguing for a later bedtime, and trust me, they’ll never, ever be satisfied. One extra story will always lead to a request for one more, and once they’ve successfully negotiated once, oh man, watch out. Do yourself and your little one a favor and don’t even open the door to these debates.
I still think you should give your child choices when it comes to bedtime, but stick to the “this one or this one” decisions. Which two stories do you want to hear tonight, or which pair of PJs do you want to wear, do you want to take your bath now, or after you brush your teeth? The options you do give them should be easy to make, and have no effect on the routine.
And on that note…
Let’s face it. Motherhood’s exciting enough. It’s not always the fun, exhilarating, night-out-with-the-girls kind of excitement, but it definitely keeps you on your toes.
So although it might feel like you’re stuck in a rut after months upon months of following the same bedtime routine, resist the temptation to change things up. The bedtime routine isn’t just about getting your little one physically ready for bed. The process signals the brain that bedtime is approaching, and the brain responds by getting ready to shut down for the night. If you need a change, take her to a different park or try some new games, but once you’ve found a working bedtime routine, carve it in stone.
I know how charming the idea of an immaculately decorated nursery is. Parenting websites have provided us with endless images of baby bedrooms that look like the brainchild of Martha Stewart and Frank Gehry, but I assure you, your baby could care less about complementary colors and feng shui.
Actually, I take that back. Your baby does care, because all of those mobiles, aquariums and star projectors are actually more likely to hinder baby’s sleep than they are to help. Lights, noises, and distractions, no matter how soothing they may seem to us grown-ups, just fascinate and excite babies. A dark bedroom and a comfortable pair of PJs are the best accessories you can provide.
I run into a lot of people on my social media channels who argue that babies don’t sleep through the night, and that’s actually true. Neither do adults, for that matter. We all sleep for a while, wake up, then fall back to sleep numerous times a night.
But if your baby will only fall asleep when you rock him, or nurse him, or when he’s got his pacifier, or you’re singing him a lullaby, then he’s not going to be able to fall back to sleep on his own when he wakes in the night.
Teaching baby to fall asleep independently is so conducive to healthy sleep, I simply can’t overstate the importance of it. I’ve heard from thousands of people who have solved their babies’ sleep issues by simply taking themselves out of the picture.
So those are my five favorites, but they’re by no means the only adjustments that have saved a family’s sanity. What changes have you made in your child’s sleep routine that have led to peaceful nights and happy mornings? Share them in the comments below. There’s undoubtedly a tired mommy and baby out there who will love you for it!
If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 57,00 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started today – I’m looking forward to helping you!
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