Sleep! It is a proven, scientific fact, that lack of sleep will have a detrimental effect in many areas of our lives, including our health.
When baby arrives, all of a sudden sleep is scarce and sorely missed. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Listening to others who tell you that sleep deprivation is just part of being a parent is harmful and simply not true. Every well-intentioned parent understands the importance of sleep for their baby, but may mistakenly think, “Their baby just isn’t a good sleeper.” What is more likely to be happening is mom and dad inadvertently have made a few wrong moves in the sleep arena. I have compiled a list of the Top 10 Sleep Mistakes parents make with their babies. A list, I feel, every parent should be sent home from the hospital with!
- Sleep is not a priority for the family. Healthy sleep habits need to be family- wide. It is as important as eating healthy and exercising. If you aren’t, as a parent, making it a priority for yourself, chances are you won’t be able to do so for your baby.
- Parents are not consistent with how they handle baby when they wake at night. One night they might try Cry-It-Out, another night rocking and still another night co-sleeping. Having a game plan and sticking to it is key!
- Parents give up after a few attempts at their sleep game plan. This is a recipe for disaster. All the learning that may have been gained in the first place is tossed out the window when the sleep strategy is abandoned.
- Too late of a bedtime. Parents may theorize that keeping baby awake later will help him sleep better through the night. A late bedtime will have the exact opposite effect on baby’s sleep. Missing the optimal sleep window sends chemical signals to baby to stay awake.
- Using a sleep prop to help baby fall asleep. Big No-No! But admittedly very hard to avoid, especially if baby has reflux, GERD or any other medical condition that is interfering with sleep. When a sleep prop is used at the beginning of the night, the same sleep prop will be needed when baby naturally finishes a sleep cycle and tries to start the next one. Teaching independent self-soothing skills is a #1 parenting responsibility.
- The time leading up to bedtime is over-stimulating. Winding down is as important for babies as it is for adults. Coming home from work and engaging in rough and tumble play and getting baby riled up will make it hard for her to go to sleep. Quieting the house, turning off the big screen TV and dimming the lights are a few ways to create a calm, sleep-inducing environment.
- Mom and Dad aren’t on the same page. If parents disagree with the sleep training approach or even what they expect from their child, disputes will arise and potentially sabotage any effort being made to help baby sleep. It is important to have an open and honest conversation regarding sleep prior to implementing any strategy.
- Making decisions on how to proceed in the middle of the night during baby’s wake-ups. Exhaustion doesn’t make for good decision-making. Rarely are we at our sharpest at 3am! Knowing how to handle the wake-ups before going to bed will help mom and dad stick to their plan.
- Co-sleeping when it is just a quick fix. Taking baby to mom and dad’s bed just because nothing else is working and not because there has been a conscious decision to co-sleep, is a decision that will backfire. If a family bed is not the goal, it is best to never introduce it as such.
- Expecting over-night success when implementing a sleep plan. Baby’s sleep habits have been created for weeks, and sometimes months. It won’t take nearly that long to change them, but being realistic about expectations and tracking progress will help keep everyone on the road to sleep success. Dedicating 2-3 weeks of time and staying consistent with your plan is a must when trying to make changes.
Reading and following through with these ten points will help avoid the ruts on the road to sleep success. Babies are people too! They can and will sleep with the appropriate help along the way!