When it comes to babies’ sleep, everyone has an opinion: Baby needs more sleep; baby needs less sleep; she should be swaddled; he should be in a toddler bed; let her cry it out; pick him up more…. The list goes on and on. And then there are the baby sleep skeptics, who just don’t understand what all the fuss is about: Why is sleep so important for babies? Shouldn’t they just be able to sleep wherever, whenever? Shouldn’t your baby’s schedule fit neatly into your life, instead of the other way around?
For those of you constantly battling these questions, here are four ways to sell baby sleep to a skeptic:
- Ask them to put the shoe on the other foot: People expect a lot from babies when it comes to sleep. We’ve all heard it: “Babies and toddlers should be able to fall asleep anywhere and everywhere – in the crib or in the stroller; in the car, or on the couch at their parents’ friend’s house,” and “Babies need to learn to sleep amidst lots of noise, so run the vacuum in your child’s room while they’re sleeping, and be loud around the house during naps.” Say WHAT?! Adults don’t like to sleep under glaring lights while pots and pans clang in the room next to them, so why should babies? What’s worse is that babies who only ever nap “on-the-go” often become dependent on sleep props like motion in order to fall asleep, so the one place they CANNOT fall asleep is in their own crib! Remind your skeptic that adults enjoy quiet, dark, peaceful spaces for sleep, and this is the best environment for baby and toddler z’s also.
- It may seem impossible to try to teach a newborn proper sleep habits, but it is totally worth the effort: Experts usually advise to hold off on sleep training until baby is three months or older, but this doesn’t mean that parents can’t begin to “shape” baby’s sleep with healthy bedtime and naptime rituals from Day One. Let your skeptic know that a consistent bedtime routine – bath, PJs, feed, books, and then into the crib (EVERY night!) – sets up a predictable schedule that helps your baby understand, anticipate, and feel comfortable with sleep-time.
- Show and tell (them they are wrong): Baby sleep skeptics are often… well… skeptical, always underestimating the amount of sleep babies need. “Why are you always putting him down for naps?” … “It’s 7pm! Why does she have to go to bed already?!” Sound familiar? The next time an all-day event keeps your baby from napping, or a family function runs well past bedtime, make sure your skeptic is around during the night and the wee early hours of the morning to see (and hear!) the chaos that ensues. The better-rested your baby is, the better they will sleep at night. This means the better they nap during the day, and the earlier they get to bed at night before becoming overstimulated and overtired, the more deeply they will sleep at night and, most likely, the later they will sleep in the next morning!
- Ask them how they would solve any other problem that is outside their area of expertise: Their answer, nine times out of 10, will be “Speak with an expert.” Remind your skeptic that it is ok to ask for help. Babies’ and toddlers’ sleep challenges can be very elusive and, particularly in the first couple of years, their sleep needs are constantly changing. Putting together the pieces of this already-complicated puzzle is a thousand times harder under the fog of sleep deprivation. Even skeptics love sleep, and even they can admit when a challenge is beyond their scope. Speaking with a sleep consultant can be an incredible first step to unlocking the mystery of your baby’s sleep challenges, and gaining a lifetime of healthy sleep for your whole family.
So, defend your little one’s sleep to the baby sleep skeptic in your life, and remind them of the vital importance of sleep to baby’s proper development and mommy’s ultimate sanity. And, if it turns out that your skeptic is actually YOU, take a read above, try out these tips, and then settle in for a great night’s sleep!