Why Won’t You Sleep, Baby?

When my daughter was a baby, I remember sitting in her room, holding her and wondering, “Why won’t you sleep?” Every night, it was the same. She would sleep for an hour or two, wake, then I would nurse and rock her back to sleep and put her down in the crib.

When she was 9 months old, I hit my breaking point. I was trying to put her to bed one night, so we did the usual routine. I bathed her, diapered her and dressed her in pajamas. We went to her room for a story and I nursed her until she fell asleep. I lowered her into her crib, and as I was trying to slide my hands out from under her, she woke up. Now we had to start the whole process over again. This had happened a few times before, and the second time almost always did the trick. Not this time. This song and dance went on for over two hours! By the time I was finished getting her to fall asleep, and into her crib without waking her, my dinner was cold, I had missed the show I had been wanting to watch all week and my husband had fallen asleep on the couch. And, to make matters worse, she only slept a total of 20 minutes before waking up, so I had to go back to her room and rock her to sleep once more.

We often make excuses when out babies aren’t sleeping well. She’s hungry, thirsty, teething, gassy, etc. But often, the truth is that the baby simply hasn’t learned how to sleep independently, which means he hasn’t learned how to stay asleep independently either.

No one actually ‘sleeps through the night’. Everyone, including adults, wake for brief periods between sleep cycles. Usually this period of awake time is so brief that we don’t even remember having been awake at all. The difference between adults and babies, is that adults know how to put themselves back to sleep because we don’t rely on an external prop to fall asleep at bed time. We have a strategy. The difference between a sleep association (prop) and a sleep strategy (internal process) is that we don’t need any help to recreate a strategy. Imagine falling asleep every night, for years with your partner rubbing your back. Now, what if he was called away on a business trip and you all of a sudden had to sleep alone? It would probably be very difficult to fall asleep without him there. The same goes for babies who are breast fed to sleep or require a pacifier or motion to drift off. When those middle of the night wake ups happen, what should be a brief arousal before sliding into another cycle of sleep, turns into a full wake up. The environment has changed and now the baby needs help to recreate what was going on when he fell asleep. If he’s never learned that he can, in fact, fall asleep on his own, he will assume that being held, nursed or sucking on a soother is the only way to fall asleep. Props work wonders in getting a baby to fall asleep initially, however, they are not conducive to sleep in the long run.

The good news? Babies are quick learners! Sleep is a skill and we CAN teach our babies to fall asleep independently and fall back to sleep independently during the night. If you’d like to learn how, give me a call at 250-552-5080 for a free 15 minute consultation.


Certified Sleep Sense Consultant

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