There are a few reasons your baby fights sleep. Read here to learn why your baby is likely fighting sleep, plus solutions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s a reason your baby fights 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 decisions we don’t really like in the moment at the expense of long-term healthy habits.”
Nap Times Cheat Sheet
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How Guilt Stops You From Helping Your Baby Sleep
Babies come into this world falling asleep all day long. In fact, with all 5 of my babies, they barely stayed awake long enough to feed if I didn’t have a wet wipe out to keep them focused.
Now, it’s definitely true that some babies fight sleep more than others. Some babies are slow adapters and it takes more effort for them to get to sleep and stay asleep. But one thing is true: all babies need a lot of sleep.
Unless we have a baby who is struggling with reflux or another medical issue, 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.
- The Ultimate Guide To Baby Sleep Times (Naps, Nights, & Sleep Tips)
- Foolproof Baby Sleep Tips — Routines, Habits & Strategies
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Guilt makes you delay the inevitable in sleep training
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.
They may be fighting sleep, but not because they don’t want 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.
Guilt mistakes sleep props with attachment
Often, your baby fights sleep because you are worried that sleep training means you aren’t attached or responsive to your baby’s needs.
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).
And, obviously 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.
They may feel loved and secure, but they are still worn slam out from fighting sleep.
You’ll make them feel secure by meeting their needs for love, nourishment, hygiene, and sleep before they’re must act out (a.k.a. cry) to get them.
Guilt says martyring your sanity is necessary
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.
What might be considered 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 nearly 40 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.
In fact, sleep training usually only takes a few days (up to a few weeks) then everyone reaps benefits from years.
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.
And 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. If your baby fights sleep, don’t worry that means they are not thriving. They are simply in the process of learning to sleep well.
In fact, many mothers find it hard to bond with their babies because 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.”
Strategies For Babies Who Fight Sleep
- If you have a newborn, start swaddling now to encourage longer sleeping times.
- Follow a good routine or schedule. Look here for 25+ sample routines, schedules, and rhythms.
- Create easy to follow wind down routines for baby and lock in your baby bedtime routine.
28 Things To Do If Baby Won’t Sleep CHECKLIST
Here’s a handy dandy list of 28 things to try so baby will stop fighting sleep and sleep longer and later.
- Cluster feed during the late afternoon hours and give baby a dream feed right before you go to bed.
- Make sure baby is taking full feeds and, if 5 months or older, start focusing on feeding habits as a possible reason baby isn’t sleeping well.
- Acknowledge your guilt! Of COURSE you want to do it all right and make sure you are there for baby in every way. Realize that teaching baby to sleep well is doing just that.