The Normal Reasons Your Baby Sleeps Like Sh*t
I had a bit of an epiphany last night..
I know you are probably going to say. Wow, Lara. How did it take you so long to come up with this one?
But what I realized for the first time last night, as clear as crystal… is the simple fact that..
if babies slept well, I would not have a job..
I mean – I could have a job. Yes, for sure. I have two degrees, a couple of diplomas, and know how to teach a room full of rowdy teenagers. But, my business would not exist. Simple as that. The baby sleep industry is HUGE and growing by the day, and recently I have been thinking a lot about why this is.
My entire business is built around the fact that people’s babies do not sleep.
My business survives because of people’s sleep deprivation.
People recommend my business because there is a belief that babies can sleep well with the right foundational elements, and quality support. And, for the most part, this is very true.
But the fact of the matter is, babies are born, and many of them straight up don’t sleep. If they were born designed to sleep, the baby sleep industry would NOT exist!
The sleepless nights are a problem for us as their adult caregivers because we know how to sleep. Our sleep cycles are fully matured and what I call “adult like”. They are long. We know how to put ourselves back to sleep after we wake in the night. We feel safe and secure in our beds. We trust in the process of sleep, and go to it happily almost every night of the week. And after 30+ years of uninterrupted sleep, it is pretty difficult to go to the place of having our nighttime sleep disrupted 5+ times every night of the week. It sucks! And it is HARD.
In an industry that is always trying to make it appear that your child can be “fixed” that your child should be “trained” and that you are doing them a disservice by not getting them a one hour nap in their crib each day… I just want to say, f*ck it! Ha!
As a mom, I have been on the receiving end of this fear mongering. I have felt the guilt associated with having a sleepless baby. I have felt the pressure to DO something about this! And, as a result, I have made a few parenting decisions I still regret to this day.
In my business, I want to support families in this time of great need. A sleepless baby is no fun, but if you are responding to your sleepless baby with love, care, compassion and empathy – then you are doing nothing wrong! Did you know that only 16% of 6 month olds sleep thru the night every night reliably? Did you know that everyone argues over what sleeping thru the night is actually defined as at every developmental age and stage?! Did you know that there are no conclusive sleep training studies that exist without some kind of flaw?!
Every day I make it my goal to help families get their babies and themselves more sleep in a way that is a little gentler, a little more empathetic, and a little more compassionate, than the routes they feel are available elsewhere.
Now, I know some people won’t understand this. Won’t understand me. My rants. And the truth is, I am not for everyone. I can help your baby learn to sleep. Yes. But I want to go about it in a way that is biological, more normal, and strengthens the bond between caregiver and child. I want to do it without judgment, guilt, or fear mongering.
So today, let’s just talk about the normal biological reasons why your baby sleeps like Sh*t, and not try to “fix” anyone.
- As newborns our babies are biologically built to wake frequently in the night. They sleep extremely light for their survival. This is nature’s way of protecting our infants. They sleep light so that they can come out of sleep easily. This is one of the reasons they stay alive! Yay!
- Newborn infants need nighttime feeds for growth and development. Their tummies are small, and yes, they will wake frequently to be fed.
- Frequent nighttime feeding increases a mother’s milk supply, and improves the mom and baby breastfeeding relationship. A nursing baby knows middle of the night milk is best! It is rich, creamy, extra fatty, and contains sleep inducing hormones which do help baby and mom go back to sleep!
- Until 4 months of age a baby is still developing their own circadian rhythm. They are still learning to decipher day from night. They are not yet producing melatonin in their own bodies, and thus sleep remains incredibly inconsistent and unpredictable.
- Beyond 4 months of age our babies brains continue to grow and develop at a rapid rate! They are firing more synapses in their brains, than exist webpages on the internet! And yes, all of that growth and development is going to be a little disruptive to an infant’s sleep. Have you ever learned something new that was so incredibly mind-blowing that you could not sleep?! Yeah. Our babies do that too. All the freaking time.. because their brains grow so rapidly in their first 5 years of life.
- Then your baby learns how to sleep a little better than they did before, and BOOM they are sick with their first cold. Yes. A sick baby is going to wake-up and need a little extra help from mom and dad to get back to sleep. Don’t you want to CRY when YOU can’t breathe out your left nostril?! No.. just me? Yeah.. I didn’t think so.
- Then come the molars. And if you want to argue with me for one minute that teething does not affect an infant’s sleep.. Fine. Okay. But open wide, sister! Let’s see how it feels when you have a sharp dagger pressing down into your gums. Tell me if you could sleep like that?!
- Then come the changes in sleep routine, and sleep needs. As your baby grows older, they tend to need less sleep. You are transitioning from 3 naps to 2, then 2 naps to 1, etc etc. Bedtime moves and shifts, wake-up times move and shift, and yes, before you know it that baby is waking again in the nighttime needing a little extra support until they get the handle of this new routine and rhythm.
- Genetics play a factor people! Some people are good sleepers, and come by this naturally. Some babies are too! When a child experiences night terrors, it is more likely than not that their parents did as well, as this has been proven to be hereditary. Some babies sleep well from birth. You people are best to keep your mouths shut! Haha. Because most babies DO NOT. And you may be met with the wrath of a sleepless baby on baby #2, or baby #3.
- And then we have the toddler years where your child is learning to decipher real from make believe. Has no clue what is going on, and believes that the ghosts in his dream are in fact real. That is some scary sh*t people!
Okay by now you get it. I could go on and on and on. Teething, illness, developmental leaps, changes in routine, travel, the introduction of new siblings, big life changes and events. Sleep does not exist in a vacuum! Our little human beings are just as susceptible to all of life’s changes, just as we are.
And despite all of the above, majority of the time, yes I can help. And yes, I can get your baby sleeping well. But the timing has to be right. Developmentally baby has to be ready. Parents have to be ready for a change to take place. And we have to go about it in a way that feels comfortable to you, and builds baby’s trust in going to sleep.
So today instead of offering you a quick fix, I am offering you a little empathy. As a mother I too have been in the trenches. Hang in there. Hand off your baby. Get a little time in nature, grab a coffee, or book a mama night off at your favourite local hotel if you can… this too shall pass, and you are doing GREAT sister!
Thank you to Stacie-Lynn Photography for the beautiful images featured here.