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My friends have all recently had newborns and some are struggling with their infant’s sleep routines. It seems like such a simple and natural part of being human, so why do we have so much difficulty in managing infant sleep as new parents? There is so much information from sleep consultants that tell you how to get your child to sleep but it makes me wonder if we actually need all of these suggestions and perhaps we just let babies to get on with it and sleep when they need to sleep?? I’d be keen to hear all perspectives!
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Sleep is obviously an important need for all humans, so it's no surprise that new parents feel a lot of anxiety when their babies aren't sleeping well. I think that there is a lot of pressure on moms and dads to get their infants' sleep routine established and when this does not happen easily it can lead to both parents and baby becoming distressed.
My two kids were polar opposites. My daughter was a colicky baby who did not settle easily and would only really sleep well when swaddled and rocked. We all were quite sleep deprived for those first few months, but she eventually learned to self-soothe and her sleep patterns improved. My son on the other hand was a baby who loved to sleep, he would fall asleep by himself, and slept through from very early on. In fact, we often had to wake him up when it was time to be fed.
People have different levels of success using various sleep methods or programs, but I think it's really important to look at the temperament of the child and their levels of contentment. Just like adults, some babies just need less sleep, and stressing over it only causes additional distress for everyone. I think that parents who are concerned should consult with a sleep coach or their pediatrician, but if baby is thriving then they are probably sleeping enough - even if it is in the form of short naps throughout the day.
We used the 5 S's method in some book that we read that felt so important at the time but now I've forgotten the name of. we tried so many different methods. Some works, some didn't. Over time though, the baby figured it out. We figured it out. All was good. That said, my cousin has had a bad time with both of her kids' sleep patterns and she got to the point we're she needed intervention so they could all get sleep. Her sleep therapist performed a miracle and it all worked out great. Would those kids have figured it out on their own? I think so, but my cousin didn't and needed to take action. My main point I guess is that I have no idea if they will figure it out. I tend to think so, but I have seen evidence to the contrary. Really helpful answer yeah?
I DO have a bit of advice though! With my son, we never tried to keep our noise level down when he was going to sleep as a baby. we have lots of friends and always have lots of people in our house so we didn't want him to get so used to quiet that we wouldn't get to keep up our active social life at home. So we encouraged people to talk in their normal voices and to not worry about being quiet. And it worked. My son got used to sleeping with lots of activity in the house and to this day, he can go to bed and not be affected by noise. It made our lives a bit easier than friends of ours who's kid could only sleep in extremely quiet conditions.
I am definitely on the side of, "let them figure it out". I found that if I stressed too much about their sleep, it only made things worse for both of us. I have three kids, including one infant right now, and they were all different sleepers. Which confirms the fact that the rules and suggestions aren't for everyone. My baby now is a dream sleeper, she goes to bed alone, falls asleep within minutes, and never puts up a fuss. I have another child who was the exact opposite! Either way, I was way more relaxed than some on how much sleep they got and when they went down for naps, etc.
I do understand those who want to lean on facts and a hard plan. Some families need a set sleep schedule while others have the ability to have more of a relaxed approach due to their schedules. If there is one thing I know about infants (and sleep) is that it can all change in a matter of days! They keep us on our toes, that's for sure!