Baby Not Sleeping? Ask the Expert!
by Brittney Stefanic
When Baby Can’t Sleep: Stories Takeover
I recently had the privilege of taking over the Instagram Stories of Sleeping Baby to host a Q&A session about all things sleep. It was incredible! Thousands of exhausted parents visited the stories and nearly 500 questions were asked. I did my best to keep up, but you can imagine it was a busy 24 hours for this mom boss.
Top 3 Questions for a Sleep Consultant, Concerning Why a Baby Can’t Sleep
I loved getting to share my sleep education with families that need it most, but some of the questions required answers that simply didn’t fit in the screen-view of the IG Stories. I felt like I was giving a lot of “teaser” answers because of the space restriction.
So, Sleeping Baby Inc. asked me to expand on the three most popular questions and get a blog post written to help you out even more. I hope this is useful for you when your baby can’t sleep and you’re looking for the advice of an expert! Let’s jump into it!
Question 1: When My Baby Can’t Sleep, What’s the Best Sleep Method to Use?
Sleep is a skill which some babies possess really early and some take a little longer to learn. As a parent, you have the choice to support your little one in learning independent sleep skills whenever you are ready!
As for technique, find something that feels comfortable and stick to it. If you search Pinterest you will instantly find blogs that outline various methods (CIO, chair, leave and check, control intervals, among others) that fit the needs of different families. The method of “sleep teaching” you select will depend on the age/weight of your little one, your sensitivity to crying, and your ultimate sleep goals. The most important thing about picking a program/method/technique is that you stick with it!
Together with skills or techniques, there are also rules to follow when it comes to baby’s sleep. Things like the ABC’s of safe sleep are crucial for your baby’s safety and sleep quality. Make sure to keep yourself informed as much as you can about what pediatricians and doctors advise about baby’s sleep and their changes when they grow up.
I got a ton of questions about babies crying while making habit changes with sleep, and truthfully, it happens! Since babies can’t communicate by telling you that they are thrown off by the changes, most of them cry when we alter their routines.
But this does not have to mean that you leave the baby alone in a room to cry for hours on end. There are tons of methods out there, so do a little research (we have a lot of articles about this topic on our blog) and find one that feels like a good fit for your family! The more comfortable you are with the plan, the better success you will see.
Speaking of being comfortable, don’t forget your baby’s comfort too. Your little one should be wearing a safe and comfy baby wear when sleeping! Like our Zipadee-zip.
Question 2: How Do I Know if My Baby Can’t Sleep Because of Hunger?
A baby’s sleep cycles can be unbelievably erratic if left unregulated. This can result in lots of night wakings (often every hour or so, at the end of each sleep cycle), especially after the sleep cycle changes that happen around 4 months. Between 12 and 16 weeks, sleep cycles biologically mutate as babies mature from newborn sleepers. This change can disrupt a once snoozy newborn and make parents think they’ve gone crazy!
Before going into details about the topic, it’s important to understand that, as researchers discovered, it’s perfectly normal for your baby to wake up during the night. So don’t stress too much about it!
It is worth determining if your baby is waking so often because they are hungry (unlikely) or because they have become used to feeding as a way of getting comfortable to sleep. I typically recommend keeping a night feed until your baby is about 15 pounds and/or about 6 months . Before then, their tummies aren’t always big enough to sustain through a full night without a feed. But after that point, fasting at night is biologically reasonable (and beneficial).
As much as I wish babies could just fall asleep when they’re tired and stay asleep all night long as long as they are full, it simply doesn’t work that way most of the time because they get easily reliant on sleep props. You’ve gotta teach that baby how to sleep independently, mama!
Until they learn how to fall asleep on their own (without props such as feeding, rocking, other motion, or a pacifier), it is unfair for us to expect that they will get through the connection of sleep cycles without these same props!
Question 3: My Baby Can’t Sleep and Keeps Coming into My Bed. What Should I Do?
Ohhhhh, toddlers. If you are having to sit with, feed, lay next to, rock, or hold hands with your toddler to fall asleep, you are their sleep prop. You already know that without independent sleep skills, making it through the night in their own bed is unlikely to happen. Your little one must know how to put themselves to bed in order to connect their sleep cycles in the middle of the night! Most likely, they are coming into your room because they need you (their sleep prop) to get back into their next sleep cycle!
Another important aspect to keep in mind regarding co-sleeping, is the impact on the mom. A study by Maryland University showed that co-sleeping with your toddler could potentially be bad for your mental health.
No matter how much they push boundaries, toddlers and preschoolers crave consistency and knowing what comes next for them. So, routine is huge for this age. Similarly, it is important to set expectations around sleep and stick to them. Toddlers love game playing, and anytime there is a little variation in your expectation or “rules” they find this to be an opportunity to push boundaries.
If your end goal is a toddler who falls asleep in their own bed and stays there until morning, you need to be super consistent in taking them back to their own bed in the middle of the night rather than letting them snuggle in yours. I know that getting them back into their room seems like the “harder” option, but it typically only takes a few nights to set the new expectation and see awesome results!
Now, go get your sleeping champion the cutest Zipadee-Zip, they deserve it!
Brittney Stefanic is a certified whole-family certified sleep consultant and founder of Sleeper Teachers®. She gets that with a new bundle of joy at home, you are likely just starting to gear up on sleep knowledge. As an educator, she believes in the power of teaching and loves to support families in meeting their sleep goals through her customized sleep plans. You can follow the teachers on Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @sleeperteachers for access to free sleep tips and tricks and other opportunities for sleep Q&A sessions.
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