Whenever I meet a new mom and tell her that I am a pediatric sleep consultant, she looks at me, and then at my kids, and says, “Well I guess your kids sleep well!”
Yesterday, I wore a sweatshirt with a kangaroo pocket. In that pocket, I carried around a dirty diaper from 9am until 2pm. And, in that time, I wondered on many occasions why my car, my pediatrician’s office, my Pilates class, my older daughter’s classroom and my kitchen smelled like dirty diapers. Then, I found the diaper (poor pocket!) and realized that despite my greatest efforts not to admit it, I was exhausted. Why was I exhausted? Because my eight month old isn’t sleeping!
Regardless of how much knowledge and experience I have with baby sleep issues, I cannot control the constant growth and change that is occurring in my tiny baby’s body. This week, she is working on a new tooth and is fighting a cold. So even though she slept like a dream last week, this week is a whole different story. Call it a “regression”, call it a rough week, call it bad luck… call it whatever you want. Your baby’s sleep will fluctuate and change just as quickly as your baby grows and changes. While it would be awesome if our kids could dependably sleep through the night, from the time we sleep train them until they go to college, it simply isn’t going to work out that way. Growth, illness, new environments and more can all throw sleep off balance. So the question is, what can we do to get them back on track each time they fall off? Here are a few simple tips:
1. Set baby up for a good sleep! No matter where you are, whether you are at home or grandma’s house, make sure to move through a very simple but consistent nap/bedtime routine. Send your baby and toddler the message that after we change your diaper, put on your sleep sack and read a book (for example), he/she is off to bed!
2. Make sure that your little one is falling asleep on his/her own. Don’t fall into the habit of rocking/singing/dancing your little one to sleep because, guess what? When they wake up alone in their bed in the middle of the night, you won’t still be there singing!
3. Don’t let your own exhaustion affect your commitment to giving your baby the best quality sleep possible. Just because you are ready for a nap, it does not necessarily mean that your baby is too. Figure out the timing of your baby’s best naps and bedtimes and be consistent and age appropriate.
Good sleep habits are as important a life skill as anything else and teaching your baby how to fall sleep, stay asleep and identify when they are ready to sleep, will help you work through each regression, growth spurt and weekend out of town!