When is the best time to teach my baby to sleep?
There will come a moment when you hit a point and you know that it’s time to sleep guide your baby.
I knew it was time to teach this to my son when he was 9 months old and my husband went to a softball game. I put him down for bedtime in his bassinet and he continued to wake up every 40 minutes after that. I felt myself losing my cool. I didn’t feel “ok” and I was scared! I kept trying to call my husband and he didn’t answer since he was playing a game. I was afraid that I had reached a dangerous level of frustration and I did not want to be around my baby. It was after that night that I decided I could no longer live my life this way.
But, why did it take me hitting rock bottom to make this call?
He had been waking up all night and taking 30-minute naps for months and months before that! You would think his struggle with sleep leading up to that point would have been enough to encourage me to teach him this skill.
I feel as though many parents are waiting until their “rock bottom moment” to decide that they can’t take it anymore and that it’s time to teach their child to sleep. But we don’t do this with potty training. Potty training is just something we know we need to do, and we just do it. In fact, most parents are so eager to potty train their children that the child may not even be ready yet!
So, how come when a baby is waking all night, not eating well, not taking great naps, and just all around fussy do we not naturally assume it is time to teach them the skill of sleep?
Sleep is a skill that we need to teach our little ones. It isn’t cruel. It isn’t punishment. It is a beneficial tool that they will use for the rest of their lives. Teaching our children to appreciate and love sleep is crucial to their health and development.
“Well, how do we know it’s the right time to start?”
I’m glad you asked!!
Let’s start with the wrong time to work on sleep with your baby or child.
This would be if you are not mentally ready to do the teaching. Learning a new skill takes consistency, patience, and confidence from the teacher (aka you, as the parent)! If you cannot exhibit these things just yet, then you should wait. Give yourself some time, do some research about the benefits of sleep and choose a time when you are confident in the process and ready to devote the time and energy to help your baby.
Also, consider your mental health during this pandemic. We are amid a peculiar time in our world. If teaching sleep is going to push you over, don’t do it! There is no harm in giving yourself the space that you need before you are ready.
On the other hand, there are many ways to tell that you ARE ready for this!
My favorite 5 reasons are:
1. You have anxiety around bedtime
In the later afternoon/ early evening hours, do you feel intense anxiety and worry about bedtime? You may find yourself wondering how long it will take baby to fall asleep tonight. Or how many times they will be waking that night.
2. Your 6 months+ old baby is sleeping worse now than they were a few months ago
Baby is waking more often to feed now and eating less during the day. This is a cycle you don’t want to find yourself in and it most likely means your baby is using feedings as a means to sleep rather than as a means for important nutrition.
3. Sleep deprivation is taking its toll on your marriage
This is so common! Many couples are losing their way because their sleep deprivation is causing more fights and disagreements than ever. There is also a lot of resentment taking place if one parent is finding themselves waking more often with the child.
4. Bedsharing out of desperation when you never wanted to
I hear this from clients A LOT! “I never wanted to bedshare, I always said my child would sleep in their own space but it’s all that we can do in order to get some sleep around here!”… I get it! Trust me on that one!
And the one that breaks my heart the most…..
5. I’m not enjoying being a parent
Are you so frustrated with your child or yourself for being in a position of no sleep? You may even resent your baby for their lack of sleep skills. Either way, you find yourself missing your old life often because sleep deprivation is sucking the joy out of parenthood.
If you can relate to one or all of these reasons, then you are ready to teach your baby to sleep! You don’t have to hit rock bottom; you just have to want something other than what your current situation is and better sleep for your baby.
One of the many roles in the job of parenting is to equip our kids with the skills that they need to have healthy and happy lives. It can start with the simple skill of