As a parent of a baby or young child, sleep deprivation comes with the parent territory.
When we decided to bring a beautiful child into this world, we knew our worlds – which previously included an excellent night’s sleep – would change forever.
- cell phone in the fridge,
- disposable nappies in the washing machine,
- breastmilk in the coffee,
- falling asleep on the toilet (one I would prefer to forget)
These incidents also provide many great stories to be retold (probably by your partner) at family events for years to come.
But the reality is that a lack of sleep significantly impacts your wellbeing both mentally and physically. Healthy sleep is vital for both you and your child.
Adults that have healthy and sufficient sleep have –
- Improved judgement and decision making.
- Improved overall health.
- Reduced risk of depression and anxiety.
- Improved concentration and motivation.
Children who consistently have a good night’s sleep –
- have better concentration.
- Are more creative.
- Are better problem solvers.
- Have more energy.
- Can retain new things and learn more quickly.
- make better decisions.
- Are less moody and irritable.
- Are less stressed.
Knowing how much sleep your baby or young child should have is essential. The table below indicates the required hours of sleep in 24 hours by age.
|Birth to 8 Weeks||15 – 17 hours|
|2 – 3 Months||14 – 16 hours|
|4 – 12 Months||12 – 16 hours|
|12 – 24 Months||12 – 14 hours|
|+2 Years Old||11 – 13 hours|
When my son was born, I always worried that he was not getting the recommended hours of sleep, and with that came that sinking feeling of Mom guilt.
So, I started researching how I could help my son sleep through the night. It was then I realized there was one thing, one critical thing that I was unintentionally doing that was stopping my son from sleeping through the night.
Using Sleep Props
A sleep prop (also knows as a sleep aid or sleep association) is essentially anything external that your baby or young child is dependent on to fall asleep.
The most common sleep prop for babies is nursing or bottle-feeding to sleep.
They feed, and it is a case of ‘tummies full, eyes closed’.
Some other common sleep props are:
- Rocking or bouncing
- Carrying your baby around in a baby carrier
- Driving around in the car
- Baby swings
- Lying down with your baby until they fall asleep
The problem with these props is that your child is dependent on them to fall asleep. So, when they wake in the night, they cannot put themselves back to sleep as they need their ‘prop’ to be able to do so.
Before your baby was born, they had a built-in sleep prop – YOU.
Your constant movement throughout the day helped your little one to sleep. Then come night-time when you were ready to sleep your baby probably started to move A LOT like they were having a full-on party in there.
Once your baby was born, they no longer had their built-in sleep prop. Being able to fall asleep independently and stay asleep is a learned skill. When we innocently rock, feed, pat our baby to sleep, we are not allowing them the opportunity to learn how to fall asleep on their own.
I am not suggesting that a newborn baby is left to cry. Newborns require our help to fall asleep; they need to be fed regularly and are only capable of sleeping for short periods. However, it is never too early to gently start to teach your baby how to fall asleep independently by putting them down drowsy but awake as often as you can. Putting your baby down drowsy will allow them to learn the skill of falling asleep on their own.
As your baby gets older and no longer developmentally requires night feeds (around six months of age) your baby can sleep through the night.
So, if your baby is older than six months of age and you answer yes to any of the questions below it may be time to ditch those sleep props and help teach your baby to fall asleep independently.
- My child will ONLY fall asleep when nursing or is bottle feeding?
- My child needs a soother, pacifier, or dummy to get to sleep?
- I am waking up with my child one, two, three (or more) times each night?
- My child needs to be rocked, bounced, or taken for a car ride to nap or sleep?
The first few nights of putting your baby or young child down to sleep without the aid of a sleep prop can be challenging. Your baby will likely fuss and cry as they will protest the changes and because they have not yet figured out how to get themselves to sleep. However, if you are consistent, it will not take your little one long to figure it out, and they will soon be sleeping for longer stretches and then eventually through the night.
Remember getting a good night’s sleep is vital for your child, yourself and the whole family.
“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” – Leo J. Burk