Do I have to do anything about my baby’s sleep?

Photography: Poppy Peterson Photography

By Sarah Palmer

Many mums I connect with are actually OK with not making any changes to the way they support their little one’s sleep. Things are working for them just as they are. It might not always be easy, but just because something is hard sometimes doesn’t mean it needs to change right now.

What these mums come to me for is validation for their choice to continue being responsive to their little one’s needs. They find that when they fully understand normal infant sleep and development, they can embrace this intense season and support their baby’s sleep because that’s what feels right. In working this through with me, they get to be empowered with evidence-based information that backs up their instincts and helps them move forward confidently.

But what will happen if I don’t do anything about my baby’s sleep?

I want to validate your choices in your responsive parenting journey. Our babies are going to do what they’re going to do – their sleep will change and develop over time and it will improve, even if you do nothing to tweak or nudge it. If “all you do” is respond to your baby’s needs and listen to what it is that they are communicating to you (and remember that crying is communication) – they will fall asleep without your support one day. If you do “nothing else” other than respond to their needs – they will sleep through the night eventually.

I want to validate your choices in your responsive parenting journey. Our babies are going to do what they’re going to do – their sleep will change and develop over time and it will change and develop over time and it will improve, even if you do nothing to tweak or nudge it.

You don’t have to make any parent-led changes if you don’t want to. It’s the approach we’ve followed in our home for 2 and a half years – with radical acceptance of our son’s sleep and meeting him, and ourselves, where we’re at. Radical acceptance which has been a big process of unlearning conditioning around fitting babies into one-size-fits-all boxes and letting go of control. Accepting our son for who he is, all that he is, including his sleep. And doing the same for ourselves and accepting ourselves for who we are and where we are right now – including the ongoing interrupted sleep.

Taking this approach though, has to involve reflection on how to manage this sustainably so that you can continue supporting your little one’s sleep in the long-term and the relentlessness that is parenting small children, day and night. This is why my approach to baby sleep looks holistically at the entire family and the support they may or may not have around them and takes into account all of the pieces of the puzzle of sleep, parenting and life. It’s also important to recognise that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can continue doing things because they’re working and make little adjustments to optimise sleep for both you and bub. You can support their sleep and put in place boundaries to make it sustainable in the long term.

Here are some things to reflect on to decide whether you want to make changes to the way you support your little one’s sleep, or if you are happy with how things are right now.

Start with focusing on right now – meet yourself and your little one where you are in this current stage. Try not to scale too far ahead – I always suggest not to make any changes now, in anticipation of something possibly becoming a problem in the future.

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