We already know the baby sleeping myth that backfires every time. We also know the difference between sleep props and sleep associations. Now it’s time to talk about the surprising (and super common) reason babies fight sleep.
On her Facebook page she wrote, “I was up for two hours last night because of an animal outside… I am so exhausted and annoyed!”
She was heavily pregnant with her first baby and due very soon.
I had to laugh because the comments were all full of, “You better get tougher than that since the baby is coming” and “You’ll get used to it, pretty soon, you won’t sleep for years!”
It was funny because the contrast between pre-motherhood and motherhood is laughable in retrospect. But, I also wanted to add something important to those comments. Something valuable. Something helpful.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t add that you can have babies who sleep well from the very beginning. Who go down to nap for anyone and who are well-rested and content. I wanted to say this, but I didn’t. Why? Because for some reason, hearing that makes people mad. I mean, there’s no easier way to tick people off than to tell them babies are made to sleep.
The reason so many babies are perpetually exhausted yet fight sleep isn’t because their parents don’t care, aren’t trying, or have no clue what to do. No no no!
The surprising reason many babies fight sleep is this.
There, I said it.
“Mom guilt causes moms to make unwise decisions in the moment at the expense of long-term healthy habits.”
How Guilt Stops You From Helping Your Baby Sleep
Babies come into this world falling asleep all day long. In fact, with all 4 of my babies, they barely stayed awake long enough to feed if I didn’t have a wet wipe out to keep them focused. It’s only by certain habits and practices we train our babies not to sleep a lot. Am I talking in circles?… just hold tight.
Guilt makes you delay the inevitable
The truth is, babies don’t wake up all night because they want to be bounced, driven in the car, sat on the washing machine for vibration, swung in their swingy chair, or sang to all night for security reasons. No, they wake up to feed (a necessity) or because they need you to help them get back to sleep.
Guilt tells you that eventually they’ll learn to sleep so in the meantime you can jump through circus hoops, go into adrenal fatigue and overwhelm, and spend the next 3 years like a Zombie pulling out every stop to get your child to cooperate and sleep. But you don’t have to.
28 Things To Try If Your Baby Can’t Sleep
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Guilt mistake sleep props for needing security
Of course we need to meet all our baby’s needs. Of course we need to cuddle them all the time (it’s good for their brains). Of course we need to respond to their cues and create a loving and safe environment. We are to be affectionate, warm, and responsive.
But encouraging all day snacking, skipping routine nap times, and enabling sleep props all night long… you’re not giving them security. You’re perpetuating their exhaustion. You’ll make them feel secure by meeting their needs for love, nourishment, hygiene, and sleep before they’re must act out to get them.
Guilt says martyring your sanity is a given
Many moms who write me want their baby to sleep better, but they’re wracked with guilt that intervening in their baby’s sleep is somehow selfish. Teaching your baby good sleep habits is not selfish. What is selfish, however, is not taking the time and energy to teach your child habits that will allow them to be well-rested children, adolescents, teenagers, and then adults.
“Teaching your baby good sleep habits is not selfish. It’s a gift for everyone.”
One of my best friends needed to be rocked or patted to sleep until she was 8 years old. She’s now 35 and suffers from insomnia. This is an extreme case, I’ll give you that. But today she has a 1 year old who, from Day One, she’s gently taught to sleep. She’s never looked back.
Guilt assumes teaching healthy sleep habits is worse than it is
Many fear that teaching their baby to sleep will require hours, days, weeks, and months of crying and screaming. This is absolutely not so. My babies all learned to sleep well from the get go and they rarely cried doing it. If your baby is well fed, changed, and put down to sleep before they’re overtired and Past the Point, they will likely go to sleep on their own without any crying or fussing.
“Sleep training” does not have to involve endless hours of crying. If there is crying involved, it’s usually because the baby is older and is having to break bad sleeping habits. And, even then, the process is never to shove your baby in a dark room and leave them. You can be there, the whole time, holding them and communicating your presence and love.
Guilt worries sleeping training breaks trust
Do you know what breaks trust between a mother and a baby? Not being there. Not meeting the baby’s needs. Not giving your sweet angel love and affection. Many worry teaching their baby healthy sleep habits will mean they have to “detach” from their baby but this is so far from the case.
In fact, many mothers find it hard to bond with their babies when they are so exhausted from lack of sleep they can barely function. If you meet your baby’s needs and are present not absent, you are not breaking trust with your baby.
“Teaching healthy sleep habits isn’t about ignoring your baby’s calls, but teaching them to sleep without calling for you.”
I’ve created a free email series just for you! There are truly only a few reasons why babies and toddlers have struggles sleeping… really, I mean it. I am going to teach you the main 3 reasons and how to start making small changes to help your baby go from:
- fighting sleep to embracing it
- night wakings to sleeping through
- needing you to jump through hoops to going to sleep on their own
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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