When you roll in my circles the topic of infant and baby sleep comes up A LOT. With the main thread being"my baby's sleep is crap.. What can I do?"
Before I go any further.. Let's normalize things a little bit here first. A baby under 1 year old is going to be hungry… often. They may want to feed every 2 hours day and night with some more frequently than this. The closer they get to 1 year old the less milk feeds they will want and need, but their needs and wants will still be great.
During the first year of life a baby human will change its sleep patterns something like 100 times, just as we feel like we are on a winning streak... BOOM… They switch it up again!
If the child is HEALTHY and meeting milestones in GROWTH and DEVELOPMENT this is classed as standard, normal young baby behaviour. Sorry.
However....the answer to the question of why the kid won't sleep? Well, sleep behaviours are influenced by age, development and….. GENETICS….. Yup...it's the other parents fault your baby's sleep is so disruptive! 😂 (side eye at you, husband of mine!).
"I don't want to hear it's normal…..I want help!"
Fair enough too!!
If this is stressing you out and you are feeling like you might snap from lack of rest and sleep quantity and no amount of telling yourself "this is normal" and "this too shall pass" is helping…. Things need to change.
But not the baby.
The ADULTS in the baby's life need to team up and work out TOGETHER how to manage the lack of sleep they are experiencing. If a parent it doing this gig Solo, then they need to reach out to someone who can lend them a hand.
Looking after the family as a unit as opposed to making the smallest family member the "Problem" is essential to better parenting experiences all round...including sleep!
Some ideas I have collected over the years:
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. If you only expect to get a few hours broken Sleep at night… You won't be disappointed and feel ripped off.
Take turns with baby care… One adult takes baby for an evening/morning stroll while the other rests.
One adult prepares meals for the day and the day/s ahead (weekly meal prep is a lifesaver!) while the other rests.
One adult gets some household chores. Strap that kiddo onto you with a fabulous baby-wearing item and get it done! while the other rests.
Someone that is NOT a parent babysits for an hour (or more) while the PARENT/S rest.
Ensure you and the family are eating nutritionally dense foods and hydrating well.
Note how I talk about the "Adult" doing the helping ...we shouldn't expect the worn out parents to have to do all of the things themselves ...if they can, great, but remember the VILLAGE idea..and how one is needed to raise a child!??
I also try to avoid using the word SLEEP when it comes to the parents' needs…. Pressuring or feeling pressured to "sleep when the baby sleeps" or "sleep when you can" only increases stress levels…I don't know any sleep deprived human that can just "switch off" when told too!
REST is an easier concept to fathom when one is so worn out. Sleep often follows once we have decided "today, when baby is out for its walk with [insert loving adult] I am going to lay down and rest and do some body awareness exercises" (I know...always with the BA exercises 🤷)..... Given enough time and reassurance that baby is safe and loved...this parent is likely to fall asleep.
Cue: POWER NAP!!
In our house we talk about "The sleep bank" … something my husband coined after our first was born. Essentially ANY naps had add to the "Sleep bank" hopefully adding up to a decent total to manage the times when there is going to be a bigger "draw-down" on "sleep funds"..... We aim to not go into overdraft to often!
Other things to try and help the household get more rest:
Consider safe co-sleeping or side-car the baby bed. (I have a mattress on the floor of our toddler's room for the nights she becomes a Werewolf!).
Get plenty of MORNING light...the hours from 8am-12noon have been shown to improve sleep quality. Ensure the little one gets amongst this too!
Have lovely soothing baths with a touch of lavender and Epsom salts...try a fun bath bomb with the older baby/toddler. Get some awesome ones here!
Make sure the rooms where you are all sleeping are warm...but not hot! Ensure the baby is not kicking off their blankets in the night...sleep sacks are AMAZEBALLS for this!
Reduce your BLUE light use an hour or more before bed...NO SCREENS.
Go outside. LOTS.
Have good strong coffee available when you wake!
Ask for support and help with non baby related things to ease the load.
Consider some bodywork for baby and yourself! Craniosacral can support healthy sleep!
The coolest bit of advice I got waaay back 12 years ago was…
"If you don't have to stand, sit...if you don't have to sit, lay".....
I have become a PRO and doing this! Laying down feeding babe, folding laundry, reading stories...you name it...I've probably tried it!.
Give some of these ideas a try and check out the links for more ideas.
Good Luck, You. Are. Not. Alone.