Can’t Get Baby To Sleep?
I can’t get my baby to sleep.
She needs me to hold her for an hour to fall asleep!
He just won’t sleep, no matter what I do…I’ve tried everything.
I can’t get her to take longer naps.
I can’t stop her from waking up twice a night!
These are some of the complaints I hear from exhausted parents. They all stem from the same root and share a common misunderstanding, which is thinking that it’s your job to get your baby to sleep. Thinking that if your baby doesn’t sleep well, you must be doing something wrong. And that you’re a failure. And that you’re so unlucky, especially compared to your friend’s angel baby who slept through the night at 6 weeks old.
Here’s the long and short of it: It’s not your job to get your baby to sleep. It’s your baby’s job. Once you understand that, and I mean really, really deep-down-in-your-bones understand that, teaching and guiding your baby how to sleep will be a lot easier.
One of my favorite ideas on baby sleep is phrased so perfectly by Suzy Giordano, author of The Baby Sleep Solution.
How do you get babies to sleep 12 hours by 12 weeks old? I believe that babies would do this on their own if parents just left them alone and encouraged their babies natural tendencies. But twenty first century parenting is wrought with insecurity… so many people are talking in your head, do this, don’t do this, you’re not doing this right, you’re not doing that right…And even if we are secure in our parenting skills, lack of sleep clouds our judgment. What happens is that you go for the quick fix, you know it’s wrong but you just want the baby to stop crying, and to stop crying right now… and the short-term fix turns into a daily habit that you don’t know how to break.
That sums up just about most sleep troubles!
Getting overinvolved in your baby’s nights and naps are what compound and complicate your baby’s journey of learning how to sleep. Sleeping is natural and shouldn’t be complicated. So why does it feel so overwhelming?
A lot of it is because of this fear, this feeling, that we are the ones who are responsible to somehow make our babies sleep. In reality, when you give your baby some space and get out of the way, that’s when they can start to really learn how to sleep on their own. On their own. Without you!
Learning how to sleep is like learning how to walk – if you don’t put your baby down, she’ll never learn to walk.
Rocking a baby in the glider over and over again until he falls asleep is the equivalent of carrying a 2-year-old toddler everywhere in your arms over and over again. In each case, the baby has the ability to sleep or walk, respectively, but the parents are constantly fixing it instead of guiding the babies to do it on their own.
You have to believe that your baby can sleep without your help. You can comfort your baby, you can check on her, you can soothe her from time to time, but the job of physically falling asleep belongs to your baby. Not you. Every time you help your baby fall asleep you are strengthening her inability and making things harder for both of you in the long run.
Here’s a thought to ponder. Do you think your baby likes being dependent on you to rock her to sleep? Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to be wide awake and simultaneously exhausted, wanting so badly to go back to sleep and not knowing how to?! Picture sinking to into bed after an exhausting day and not being able to fall asleep unless someone rocked you, or shushed you while they patted your back for half an hour? (Well maybe it would be nice for a night or two, but imagine living like that!)
The ability to fall asleep unassisted is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your baby. The more confident you are in that belief, the better your baby will sleep.