By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution
Here’s something that mayreally surprise you: As much as we may want our babies to sleep through thenight, our own subconscious emotions sometimes hold us back from encouragingchange in our babies’ sleeping habits. You yourself may be the very obstaclepreventing a change in a routine that disrupts your life. So let's figure outif anything is standing in your way.
Examine Your Own Needs and Goals
Today’s society leads us to believe that “normal babies”sleep through the night from about two months; my research indicates that thisis more the exception than the rule. The number of families in your boat couldfill a fleet of cruise ships.
“At our last day-care parent meeting, one father broughtup the fact that his two-year-old daughter wasn’t sleeping through the night. Idiscovered that out of 24 toddlers only six stayed asleep all night long.”…Robin, mother of thirteen-month-old Alicia
You must figure out where your own problem lies. Is it inyour baby’s routine, in your management of it, or simply in the minds ofothers? If you can honestly say you want to change your baby’s sleep habitsbecause they are truly disruptive to you and your family, then you’re ready tomake changes. But if you feel coerced into changing Baby’s patterns becauseGreat Grandma Beulah or your friend from playgroup says that’s the way itshould be, it’s time for a long, hard think.
Certainly, if your little one is waking you up every hour ortwo, you don’t have to think long on the question, “Is this disruptive to me?”It obviously is. However, if your baby is waking up only once or twice anight, it’s important that you determine exactly how much this pattern isdisturbing to you, and decide on a realistic goal. Be honest in assessing the situation's effect on your life. Begintoday by contemplating these questions:
- Am I content with the way things are, or am I becoming resentful, angry, or frustrated?
- Is my baby’s nighttime routine negatively affecting my marriage, job, or relationships with my other children?
- Is my baby happy, healthy, and seemingly well rested?
- Am I happy, healthy, and well rested?
Once you answer these questions, you will have a betterunderstanding of not only what is happening with regard to your baby’s sleep,but also how motivated you are to make a change.
Reluctance to Let Go of Those NighttimeMoments
A good, long, honest look into your heart may truly surpriseyou. You may find you actually relish those quiet night wakings when noone else is around. I remember in the middle of one night, I lay nursingColeton by the light of the moon. The house was perfectly, peacefully quiet. AsI gently stroked his downy hair and soft baby skin, I marveled at this tinybeing beside me—and the thought hit me, “I love this! I love these silentmoments that we share in the night.” It was then that I realized that eventhough I struggled through my baby’s hourly nighttime wakings, I needed to wantto make a change in our night waking habits before I would see any changes in his sleeping patterns.
You may need to take a look at your own feelings. And if youfind you’re truly ready to make a change, you’ll need to give yourselfpermission to let go of this stage of your baby’s life and move on to adifferent phase in your relationship. There will be lots of time to hug,cuddle, and love your little one, but you must truly feel ready to move thosemoments out of your sleeping time and into the light of day.
Worry About Your Baby’s Safety
We parents worry about our babies, and we should! With everynight waking, as we have been tending to our child’s nightly needs, we havealso been reassured that our baby is doing fine — every hour or two all nightlong. We get used to these checks; they provide continual reassurance of Baby’ssafety.
“The first time my baby slept five straight hours, I wokeup in a cold sweat. I nearly fell
out of bed and ran down the hall. I was so sure thatsomething was horribly wrong. I nearly wept when I found her sleepingpeacefully.” …Azza, mother of seven-month-old Laila
Co-sleeping parents are not exempt from these fears. Even ifyou are sleeping right next to your baby, you’ll find that you have become usedto checking on her frequently through the night. Even when she’s sleepinglonger stretches, you aren’t sleeping, because you’re still on securityduty.
These are very normal worries, rooted in your naturalinstincts to protect your baby. Therefore, for you to allow your baby to sleepfor longer stretches, you’ll need to find ways to feel confident that your babyis safe—all night long.
Once you reassure yourself that your baby is safe while yousleep, you’ll have taken that first step toward helping her sleep all night.
Belief That Things Will Change on Their Own
You may hope, pray, and wish that one fine night, your babywill magically begin to sleep through the night. Maybe you’re crossing yourfingers that he’ll just “outgrow” this stage, and you won’t have to do anythingdifferent at all. It’s a very rare night-waking baby who suddenly decides tosleep through the night all on his own. Granted, this may happen to you—butyour baby may be two, three or four years old when it does! Decide now whetheryou have the patience to wait that long, or if you are ready to gently move theprocess along.
Too Fatigued to Work Toward Change
Change requires effort, and effort requires energy. In anexhausted state, we may find it easier just to keep things as they are than trysomething different. In other words, when Baby wakes for the fifth time thatnight, and I'm desperate for sleep, it's so much easier just to resort to theeasiest way to get him back to sleep (rock, nurse, or replace the pacifier)than it is to try something different.
Only a parent who is truly sleep deprived can understandwhat I’m saying here. Others may calmly advise, “Well if things aren’t workingfor you, just change what you’re doing.” However, every night waking puts youin that foggy state where the only thing you crave is going back to sleep—plansand ideas seem like too much effort.
If you are to help your baby sleep all night, you will haveto force yourself to make some changes and follow your plan, even in themiddle of the night, even if it’s the tenth time your baby has called out foryou.
So,after reading this section and you’re sure you and your baby are ready, it’stime for you to make a commitment to change. That is the first importantstep to helping your baby sleep through the night.
This article is a copyrighted excerpt from The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways toHelp Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright2002