One of the biggest struggles for many parents is the sleep issue. It’s something we all love and want, but inevitably will be disrupted on multiple occasions during your child’s early years. That’s your sleep I’m talking about. But one of the most important things I learned during the first year is to protect your child’s sleep.
You have to be their advocate in this area because friends and family sometimes don’t realize in the moment just how important it is for your baby to be well rested – especially when “they are doing so well” or if it’s a holiday. The truth is, they aren’t around for the repercussions of an overtired baby when all the distraction is gone. And, ultimately (and understandably), they just want to spend more time with your little one. So although their intentions are good, it’s time to practice some boundaries, because your responsibility isn’t to keep other people happy, it’s to keep your baby happy and healthy.
If there’s a book to read before your baby gets here, I would recommend Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. It’s not an overly stimulating read. In fact it’s downright dry in my opinion. But it’s loaded with great information about what’s going on biologically for your child throughout all their sleep transitions and milestones – even into toddler and adolescence years. For example, a 1-2 week to 6 week old tends to have…
“increasingly alert, wakeful, gassy, and fussy behavior…often misinterpreted as resulting from maternal anxiety or from insufficient or “bad” breastmilk…The culprit is a temporarily uninhibited nervous system that causes excessive arousal. Relax; this developmental phase will pass as the baby’s brain matures. It’s not your fault.”
Knowledge like this offers so much peace of mind when you are thinking that you must have done something wrong.
Another of the most amazing things I learned from this book is the earlier bedtime. There is serious anxiety when you are debating in your head: if I put my baby to sleep too early, will they then wake up at some crazy early hour? I don’t want that to happen! But somehow, this just isn’t true.
An overtired baby sleeps worse and less than a baby who is being put down early enough, before they get overtired.
Even an accumulation of an hour late bedtime here and there can accumulate as sleep loss and affect your child’s quality of sleep and brain function. Brain function people! Think about how we feel when we consistently don’t get enough sleep. Enter: Crankiness!
It’s important to learn to read your baby’s cues and this book will help you figure that out.
There is so much more great information in this book, and I really believe it’s helpful at every stage. But the best, best, best thing you can do is read this book in preparation for your baby, and not in reaction to a sleep problem. Yes, it will help you fix sleep problems, but it’s so much easier to start your baby on the road to successful sleep before problems occur. Because, let’s face it, healthy sleep habits, happy child translates into happy and well rested parents. Just remember:
Prevention is better than reaction.
So I am sorry if you were hoping to read this short post and it would have all of your sleep questions summed up in a few paragraphs. This is one area that just takes a little bit more. Hopefully this at least helped steer you towards a particularly helpful book, since there are so many out there.