By Lauren Heffernan
Are you a parent struggling with bedtime battles, spending more than 30 minutes trying to get your baby to sleep? You’re not alone! In today’s post, we’ll explore common issues and practical tips for parents of babies under 12 months old. If you’re dealing with a toddler, check out my Toddler Bedtime Battles Course for tailored advice.
- Assess Your Baby’s Sleep Readiness: One-size-fits-all sleep schedules do not work for every baby. Babies have unique needs, and rigid wake windows likely do not align with your little one’s sleep patterns. Your baby may not even be tired. There are babies, at 6 months, that may be ready for bedtime 60 minutes after waking up after their last nap and others that may not be ready for 3 or 4 hours. The best way to know if this is what is happening is to experiment. Experiment with adjusting bedtime routines by starting 20 minutes later to observe if your baby falls asleep more easily. Remember, flexibility is key when it comes to infant sleep.
- Mind Your Emotions: Babies and children co-regulate with their parents, meaning your emotional state affects theirs. If you’re stressed or frustrated during bedtime, your baby may pick up on those feelings. Take a moment to calm your nervous system through deep breaths, singing, swaying, or even a short break. If needed, call in your partner. A peaceful environment contributes to a smoother bedtime routine.
- Investigate Discomfort: Detecting discomfort in a non-verbal baby requires careful observation. Rule out common issues like gas or teething, and consider factors such as body tightness or food sensitivities. If it is discomfort that is impacting sleep, it might be a few times a week (if they are eating solids, look at what they eat on the days they are having a hard time), it might get better when you change how you hold them (body tightness) and feeding to sleep might help for easing discomfort. Track when sleep disruptions occur and consult with a trusted practitioner to address any discomfort your baby may be experiencing.
- Address Hunger: For breastfeeding moms, the evening hours often see a dip in milk supply. If your baby seems unsatisfied during feedings, consider a pre-bedtime cluster feed to ensure they’re well-fed and add a top up before bed. . If you are worried that they are not getting enough, book in to see an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant) for support. If you have ever noticed snoring, mouth breathing, milk spilling out the sides of their mouth when feeding, gulping or chugging in a feed, these are all good signs that it is time to see an IBCLC and have them assess baby’s tongue function. We cannot fall asleep when we are hungry.
- Navigate Sensitivity: Some babies fall into the highly sensitive category, reacting strongly to changes in their environment. Investigate whether your baby might be sensitive to smells, temperature, lights, or other stimuli. If you find that you are sensitive to noise, smell, taste, touch, this might be something to consider with your little one as sensitivity often comes from you or your partner (it can also happen with babies who are born via c-section). If you suspect this might be happening, consider tags in pyjamas, new smells, flashing lights from devices in the room or from outside, noises that happen in the home. If you find that your little one gets really upset during a specific part of the bedtime routine, consider swapping it out or moving it earlier in the routine (or even to another part of the day if possible).
Putting your baby to bed should be a peaceful experience, not a battle. By understanding your baby’s unique needs, tuning into your own emotions, ruling out discomfort, addressing hunger, and navigating sensitivity, you can reduce the time it takes for your little one to drift off to sleep. If challenges persist, don’t hesitate to reach out for support.
Remember, every baby is different, and finding the right approach may require some trial and error. Be patient, stay attuned to your baby’s cues, and create a bedtime routine that fosters a sense of security and comfort for both you and your little one.
Originally published here.
Lauren Heffernan, founder of Isla-Grace, is a certified sleep and well-being specialist and certified sleep educator. After giving birth to her first daughter, Grace, Lauren learned the many challenges of navigating motherhood. These included the multitude of books, information, and people with strong opinions on the right way to be a mother. She quickly learned that the best parent to her child was herself and that in trusting her instincts, she would never go wrong. With this belief, and after certification with the International Maternity and Parenting Institute’s Maternity and Child Sleep Consulting Program, Bebo Mia’s Infant Sleep Educator Program and Mohawk College’s Breastfeeding Program, Lauren launched Isla-Grace and co-created the Baby-Led Sleep Approach. She provides information and support to women at different stages of motherhood and walks each one through the personal journey to become a more confident mother.