Is your baby seemingly resistant to sleep? Before hastily branding them as a “bad sleeper,” let’s explore the multifaceted world of baby sleep. Understanding that sleep challenges can stem from various factors and being curious about this is the first step toward setting your little one up for sleep success. I remember as a new mom, I lacked that curiosity as I was so stressed out that my little one was not fitting into what was prescribed by baby sleep experts.
The misconception that your baby just doesn’t like sleep may stem from a lack of understanding the nature and variation of baby sleep rather than an aversion to rest and can leave you trapped in a sleep-deprived state. It’s time to drop the limiting beliefs! By reframing our perspective and keeping an open mind, we can approach sleep challenges with curiosity and see it merely as hurdles to overcome.
In the world of baby sleep lies a complex interplay of sleep needs, sensory experiences, developmental factors and emotions. Grasping the intricacies of your baby’s unique needs is fundamental to creating an environment conducive to more restful nights. Embracing this uniqueness allows parents to tailor their approach to match the specific needs of their little sleeper. What works for one baby, might not work for yours and that’s ok! Let’s look at some of the reasons why sleep may be trickier for your little one.
Underlying Medical Issues
Before attributing your baby’s sleep patterns to being a “bad sleeper,” it’s crucial to investigate potential underlying medical issues. Ear infections, food allergies, sleep apnea, and gut distress are common culprits that, once identified and addressed, can significantly improve sleep quality.
Low Sleep Needs vs. Pushing for More Sleep
Understanding the natural sleep requirements of your baby is key to avoiding the misconception of being a “bad sleeper.” Rather than imposing arbitrary sleep expectations, acknowledging and respecting your baby’s unique sleep needs will contribute to a healthier sleep routine. Read this blog post to learn more about the variation in sleep needs and how to identify whether your little one fits into the low, average or high sleep needs category.
A story of 15 month old Huxley
Before we move on, I have to tell you a story about 15 month old Huxley. His parents came to me to help figure out his sleep schedule and get him settling more easily and independently. Mum had already identified that he was lower sleep needs. She knew this because if he got more than 1 hour 15 minutes of day sleep, he would be awake for hours in the middle of the night seemingly alert and ready to go. Now, most babies Hux’s age, are doing around 2 hours of day sleep. But you see, at 15 months, Hux was not even crawling yet. He had gross motor developmental delay due to medical issues early on in his life. Babies Hux’s age are typically cruising around, burning a lot of energy therefore needing that 1.5-2 hours of sleep. Due to his delay, he needed less sleep in order to settle easily and sleep well overnight. We also identified that he needed a solid 5.5-6 hour wake window before bed, a lot longer than the average baby his age. It is so important that we take into consideration a little one’s unique situation and needs. Hux’s parents could quite easily have just succumbed to the idea that he is just a “bad sleeper”. When we took into account all that was going on for this little man and respected the fact that he is a unique individual with unique needs, he started sleeping really well. He now settles independently and sleeps through the night most nights. What a “good” sleeper you might say 😉
Some babies thrive on sensory input, while others may be sensitive to certain stimuli. By assessing your little one’s sensory preferences, including clothing choices, response to temperature changes, and tolerance for stimulation, you can create a tailored sleep environment and sensory diet that promotes better sleep. A sensory seeker for example (if you’ve got a very busy, active and social baby, then you might have a sensory seeker on your hands), will need sufficient sensory input throughout the day in order to settle more easily for naps and at bedtime and sleep well overnight.
In the journey of navigating your little one’s sleep, acknowledging their uniqueness is paramount. By understanding the intricacies and nature of sleep, addressing underlying medical concerns, respecting individual sleep requirements, and considering sensory needs, you can embark on a path that leads to more restful nights for both you and baby. Remember, stay curious and responsive, sleep will get better!