This is a question I asked my son, Joseph, endlessly and always in vain! Why won’t you sleep ?
He was a baby, of course he wouldn’t answer, no matter how many times or in whatever tone I asked! It was a question I tortured myself with! I asked it in a calm voice, I asked it in a pleading voice, I asked it in an angry voice, I asked it in a desperate voice, but no matter how many times I asked, I never found the answer. For two and a half years…
I can remember the night and some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about when I felt like I could not take it anymore. My son just would not stay asleep and I had hit rock bottom, exhausted from waking up multiple times every night and having to soothe him back to sleep. My husband found me many, many times in the middle of the night, blaming myself, blaming him, blaming poor little Joseph, and sobbing away in our living room.
When our babies don’t sleep well, we immediately look for, and need, an explanation. As if everything is so rational?! Are they teething? Do they have trapped wind? Are they sick? Are they hungry? Do they need another nappy change?
Are any of these explanations the real truth? Sometimes. And sometimes not.
And when we exhaust all of these avenues, we turn inwards to ourselves… Is it me? Do they know I don’t know what I’m doing? Am I failing them? What am I doing wrong??? The list goes on and on, and our confidence hits an all-time low.
Rest assured, you are doing an amazing job! And, with the exception of those times when your child has a burning fever or a new tooth coming in, the real reason your little one won’t sleep or stay asleep is that they just haven’t learned how.
As grown ups, we all have strategies that help us settle down sleep each night.We know what affects our ability to drop off soundly – time spent scrolling on your phone, worrying about a meeting the next day, worrying about a conversation the day before, worrying, worrying, worrying!?! We have bedtime routines that we tend to do without really thinking about it, and we do these things because they help us transition from the craziness of our day to a restful sleep.
Most of us have a favourite position on the bed that we turn to when we feel sleep about to come. Some of us need a glass of water beside the bed, some need the hum of the AC, some need to wind down with a book, have no screen time immediately before bed. Some need a cup of herbal tea, and some have to read for ten minutes in complete silence. Whatever the differences might be, these are all sleep strategies, and without them we’d have trouble drifting off.
The exact same goes for babies. Many parents who haven’t developed a sleeping strategy for their babies will complain that their child can only fall asleep with the bottle, or while breastfeeding, or while being rocked or patted.
While this might be true, the trouble is, by offering these props, parents are creating a situation where their babies are dependent on something external to help them sleep. And that’s why they don’t sleep well.
Waking up throughout the night is very common in babies who have not learned to sleep properly and are relying on a prop. When they wake up and the prop isn’t there to put them back to sleep, they have to wake up fully and cry in order to be soothed back to sleep. It’s not personal, no one is at fault and they haven’t made it their personal mission to wake you up what feels like a million times some nights! They just have no idea how to go to sleep without your help. They need you.
Luckily there is hope. There are lots of ways to give your child the tools she needs to be able to sleep independently, even from a very young age. Babies are capable of sleeping through the night, and learning those skills young will help make bedtimes and naptimes relatively hassle-free.
A well-rested child is a happier, healthier child. And a well-rested parent is healthier and happier too!
Find out How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Later