"I wish I'd got help sooner" is a common phrase heard among parents who have navigated the experience of a baby who slept poorly and made it through the other side.
Unfortunately, many parents don't seek help with their little one's sleep. At least not until they have struggled for a long time or have reached breaking point.
So why don’t parents ask for help?
After all, if your child were not meeting developmental milestones or suffering from a medical condition like eczema or reflux, you wouldn't hesitate to seek help.
Sleeping, or the lack of it, has become an almost taboo subject. Parents are bombarded with information from other (often well-meaning) parents, relatives, experts and the internet.
So, what's the rationale behind this fear of sleep training and what can you do as a parent? Let’s explore those questions now.
The Unspoken Guilt Of Sleep Training
Why Don’t We Ask For Help?
For many, the fact that their baby doesn't sleep can bring feelings of failure, shame and guilt.
Everyone sleeps, right? How hard can it be to get a baby to sleep? Add in comments from other parents about how their baby slept like a dream from day one and advice from the internet that says you should respond to your baby within seconds every time they cry. Top it off with sentiments that prioritising your own sleep is selfish and indulgent and it's no wonder parents are afraid of seeking help.
They say it takes a village to raise a baby, but many of today's parents don't have that village. Grandparents live too far away, are looking after other family members, or maybe are still working.
The rising cost of living means in many families, both parents work, which leaves less time for developing community-based connections. So, it's more important than ever that parents are well-rested and able to care for their children in the best way they can.
Sleep is crucial - for your baby and you, so if it's not working for you, getting help is vital.
Why Babies (And Parents) Need Sleep
Babies (and toddlers) are growing - a lot. Not just physically but mentally too. Sleep, along with other things like proper nutrition, helps your baby's brain to develop. Enough sleep can help to:
● Keep your baby at a healthy weight
● Improve their ability to fight infections and other germs
● Promotes growth
● Improves focus and the ability to learn new skills
● Strengthens bonds and emotional resilience
Adequate sleep brings parents the same benefits. And it brings the added benefit of improving our mood and making us more capable parents.
When we are at our best, we are able to offer our children our best in return. That means we can focus on the positive aspects of family life and our children can feel love and connection from us, rather than a strained feeling of sleep deprivation and resentment!
What Happens When We Don't Get Enough Sleep?
When children don't get enough restorative sleep, it can affect them during the day. They might be fussy, irritable, and unfocused, and they may not eat as well either. And if things continue long-term, they may have trouble learning new skills. Plus, their general health, such as their ability to fight off infections, may be affected.
And as for parents? Well, there's a reason they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture. When we don't get enough sleep, all kinds of less-than-helpful things happen to our bodies and minds. When you are tired, it's harder to focus and be patient, it’s harder to keep your cool, and it's harder to be present and connected.
A lack of sleep can also lead to an increase in cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is often triggered when we are in a dangerous situation, and we must decide whether to fight or flee. But it also helps to balance blood sugar and regulate blood pressure. And it works in conjunction with melatonin (the hormone which helps with sleep) to control the sleep/wake cycle.
When you sleep well, cortisol and melatonin levels peak and decline when they should and work well together. However, when you don't sleep properly, cortisol levels can elevate. Raised cortisol over a prolonged period of time can lead to weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and symptoms of depression.
Of course, some people deal with sleep deprivation better than others. You may go back to sleep quickly after your baby wakes at night and feel fine or breeze through nighttime feeding, only half awake. But you might struggle with the constant wake-ups and have trouble falling back to sleep.
If you are one of those parents, then perhaps it's time to consider getting help with your little one's sleep.
Sleep Training Is Not Admitting Failure
When it comes to sleep training, people often fall into one of two camps. Some oppose any training or intervention in a baby's sleep routine and say it is ‘selfish’ and not responding to the baby's needs. The second camp advocates for strict sleep training, which involves shutting the bedroom door and ignoring a baby's cries until the morning.
The good news is that you don’t have to be in either of those camps! There is a middle ground. Sleep training doesn’t have to be about ‘cry it out’ methods and there is no harm in gently helping your baby or toddler learn how to do sleep for themselves.
After all, you wouldn’t just leave them to figure out other important life skills on their own. You wouldn't teach a toddler to swim or ride a bike by just throwing them into a pool or letting go of the saddle and leaving them to figure it out on their own. Instead, you'd teach them gradually with a hand on their back and a reassuring voice in their ear as they master new skills.
The same goes for sleeping well. Solid sleep is a skill that can be learnt and one that we are all capable of. But some babies and toddlers need a little more help than others. Sleep training provides the right tools to enable successful independent sleep and teaches your baby lovingly and gently how to soothe themselves.
Sleep training is about changing the course of a child's sleep for the better of the whole family. After all, when you are well rested you are far more able to serve your children. Focusing on why the change needs to happen and what benefits better sleep will bring can make the journey far easier and more meaningful.
Getting The Right Help For Your Family
Better sleep brings so many advantages. Often parents don't realise just how much a lack of sleep was affecting them until they are out the other side with an older child who sleeps well. Then, many wonder why they didn't try and change things earlier.
However you choose to do sleep in your home is your decision. If you have chosen to feed to sleep, co-sleep or respond every time your baby wakes, and you and your baby are thriving and getting adequate sleep, then I applaud you for finding a way that works.
But, if you know you need to improve the sleep in your home but you aren't sure how or feel like you can't do it on your own, then I can help. There's no judgement here. If you have chosen to do sleep training because that's what is best for your family, then that is the right decision for you.
If you are ready to change the course of your child's sleep and want to feel more connected, patient and present in your life, I can help. Check out HERE what having better sleep has meant to some of the many families I've helped over the years.
Let me be part of the village that helps you. Get in touch today and book a FREE 15 mins no obligation call to find out if I’m the right fit for you. I could quite possibly change your life.