Raise your hand if sleep deprivation feels like the cause of all your troubles as a new mom, or even a couple of years in.
“YEARS, YOU SAID?” Jumps the mom of an infant, terrified!
Yes, darling. Sometimes it lasts for years.
“Why is sleep for babies, toddlers and young kids SO hard, then?”
For many reasons, mostly because independent sleep is a learnt habit and often we fail to teach our children how to sleep on their own.
How can that be?
Remember that the womb is a wet, warm, comfy place where babies develop. Their sleep patterns inside the womb are the opposite of the expected sleep patterns outside the womb. “Inside”, they sleep when there’s movement, they are constantly surrounded by a lot of noise. That’s the natural environment in which they came to exist.
When they come out we expect them to sleep when it is quiet.
There’s another thing too: melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us fall asleep at night, doesn’t fully kick in until 5 (!!) years of age.
Now, don’t despair. It starts kicking in as early as 2 months, but only at 5 months is it secreted at sufficient levels to foster independent sleep. Its peak level doesn’t happen until 5 years.
The good news is, it is completely possible to teach babies to sleep and accomplish full uninterrupted nights where the child sleeps between 10h and 12h straight from as early as 5 months.
It’s also important mentioning that the melatonin hormone is secreted mostly at the beginning of the night, from the evening hours to around 2am. Putting a child to bed early (between 6h30 and 8h) is better for the child.
There are several methods developed to accomplish the goal of great nights.
I was one of those moms who suffered from severe lack of sleep. I did not know how to train my child by myself. I even hired a live-in nanny who, because of zero experience with sleep, made the problem 10x worse.
Every time the child would go ‘waan’, the nanny would feed her. I don’t have to tell you how horrific the story turned, because on top of not sleeping, my baby would no longer eat foods during the day, only drink milk at night.
It is also worth noting that a child beyond 3 or 4 months does not need to be fed at night.
At one point, I tried to leave her on her own to cry it out, but it did not work out for me. My daughter cried so hard that she lost her voice, and she didn’t fall sleep either.
Then I came across a method called Laila Tov.
This method was developed in Israel by a PhD psychologist called Dr. Ganit Prag.
Laila Tov defines a sleep problem by the way the child falls asleep.
If a child needs help to fall asleep in the beginning of the night, they have a sleep problem, even if currently, they may be sleeping relatively well. We believe the problem will show itself sooner or later.
Laila Tov teaches parents to teach their children how to sleep by themselves and it does so in a gentle, gradual manner so the feelings of the child are always taken into consideration.
The first principle is that a crying child is never ignored and always comforted. Actively comforting a child, amazingly, does not impact their sleep as long as they fall asleep independently and not while being comforted.
The whole process took 6 weeks, which is longer than some of the other methods, but we installed in our daughter good sleep habits that she’s been carrying with her ever since. It has now been a year and a half and she still sleeps like magic.
While some parents think that it is selfish of them to expect uninterrupted nights, we believe it is selfish to not teach children how to sleep independently and give them the opportunity to rest all they need in order to learn, develop, play and be happy when they are awake.
There are now several products that help with sleep in the early days, most notably the Snoo, but also the Babocush and others. These are great tools to help with early day adaptation, but parents have to always be mindful of the development of dependencies.
When babies are dependent on something external to fall sleep they tend to develop resistance to that dependency which results in a sleep problem.
Knowing that a 5 month old baby is ready to be transitioned to independent sleep helps avoid later problems.
What are your experiences with baby sleep?
Contact us if you have sleep issues, let’s share experiences and learn more!