Infant sleep is one hot topic! From books to mom blogs to mommy groups, this topic is sure to come up over and over again.
I get it. Baby sleep is hard! Frequent wake ups, the need for nighttime parenting (which may include nursing, changing, rocking, holding, loving) and the unpredictable nature of it all!
It can be especially hard for those of us who like to be in control. Those of us who like to plan, schedule, organize and predict what our days will look like. (I know, because I have been one of those parents.)
So what the heck can we do to survive those early days, nights, weeks, months, years?
Is sleep training the only option? (NO!)
Are there ways to ensure that we are thriving, as parents and as people AND still meeting the needs of the sweet little humans in our care? (YES!)
This is a huge topic so it will be broken down into several blog posts.
First and foremost, let's look at some common myths surrounding infant sleep and break them down!
1: Babies are supposed to sleep through the night by 6 months.
This is false, false, false.
In fact, it is within the range of normal for a baby to wake until they are 2.5 years old!
Babies are meant to wake up frequently. This aids them in regulating their breathing and their heart rate. It also allows them to consume more breastmilk (if this is how you are feeding baby).
When babies are new, they are unable to change positions easily, they get wet, cold, lonely, hungry, etc. These needs can only be met by another person and they happen day or night.
Our babies are not meant to sleep through the night and in fact, consolidated sleep is not even truly a concern in most cases.
2. Babies need to be "taught" how to sleep.
Much like any other developmental skill, babies learn from observing, having support and perform the skill/task when their little brains are ready to do it!
Our role as parents to babies and toddlers is to provide a safe and supportive space, and to learn the rhythms of our individual child. They will all learn to sleep through the night when they are ready. We can certainly create sleep spaces and routines to encourage a positive association with sleep but we do not need to teach them to sleep. They have done that since in utero. So, you feel pressure to DO something: research optimal sleep environments, reach out to an infant sleep educator, or check your own sleep hygiene (and relax, folks! You and baby have got this!)
3. If you support baby to sleep (through rocking, nursing, etc), you will ALWAYS have to do this. Have you been told "You're just creating a crutch for them! Break the sleep association! Put them down drowsy BUT awake!"
Folks, biology doesn't lie. We are carrying mammals. Our babies are biologically designed to be carried, held, rocked, swayed, nursed to sleep. Comfort and closeness can never be a negative thing. Trust me, your baby WILL eventually learn to fall asleep without your assistance. I promise. It just might not be when you want it.
Sleep is sacred. Sleep is necessary. Sleep is a developmental skill and like all of them, our babies need us to be educated, supportive and present.
As always, if you need additional support, feel free to reach out!
Some resources to check out:
Sweet Sleep (La Leche League): This book is full of great advice for the breastfeeding parent.
Nighttime Parenting (Dr. Sears)
Nurture Neuroscience (FB) A neuroscientist Doula and Infant Sleep Educator! This person is the bomb!