Before I became a mum for the first time in 2011, I had this set of ideals about having a child and the way things were going to go. I wasn’t going to be the kind of mum who had no sleep and a screaming child.
…And then I actually had him. And everything changed.
He didn’t sleep for longer than a 30 minute sleep cycle, day or night. Everyone told me to leave him to cry. I was holding him too much. Never bring him into my bed. And so on.
Did I really have to leave him to cry to get any sleep myself? Or wait it out for 3 or 4 years? I was convinced there must be another way.
Fast forward 6 years (and a new baby!) and I’ve spent the last several years teaching other mums what I discovered when I began working on gentle ways to help my boy sleep. I’ve since helped hundreds of mums across the globe get the sleep they and their Little Ones desperately need without having to resort to techniques which push against their natural instincts.
Here are the 6 things I wish I had known about baby sleep before I became a mum:
Development leaps impact Little Ones’ sleep
All babies go through mental ‘leaps’ in their brain development at predictable stages, and The Wonder Weeks is a book and app which collates years worth of research detailing what to expect and when. Knowing when to expect the next leap and what they are learning really helps to avoid a Little One getting overtired and developing a sleep deficit.
Some Little Ones have busier minds than others
>I was always quite baffled seeing friend’s pictures of their babies and toddlers having randomly fallen asleep in some hilarious place or position because it just never happened for me! And then I discovered that some Little Ones need extra help to wind down and switch off because their minds are just on-stop and eager not to miss a single trick!
Little Ones remember their births
Even calm, non-invasive births can be a shock to the system for a baby. They sometimes haven’t reached the necessary stage of brain development to be able to process an emotion they feel at a particular time and so store it up for a later date. If something triggers an emotional memory for a Little One you can be certain it will impact their sleep.
Little Ones don’t work on a schedule
…..or rather they do, but their own internal one, rather than one dictated by a book, society or whatever a friend is doing with their child. Discovering and working with what that natural rhythm is instead of fighting against it makes for much easier bedtimes and sleep patterns.
Little Ones need a bedtime
Lots of people advise letting children stay up until they basically pass out of their own accord in the hope it with regulate their sleep pattern and cause them to sleep in later in the morning. This practice actually has the opposite effect! Little Ones have natural ‘sleep windows’ where their brain and body are ready for sleep. If they miss this window they will have a release of adrenaline and cortisol to keep them going (and this is what a ‘second wind’ is). With each missed window comes another dose of adrenaline and cortisol and build ups of these over time cause chronic overtiredness, which can present in ways such as poor behaviour, multiple meltdowns and aggression.
The atmosphere can impact Little Ones’ sleep
Little Ones are incredibly sensitive and can easily pick up on the feeling around them, whether at home or elsewhere. If the feeling is negative or overwhelming, the child can internalise it and it can crop up again at…you guessed it, nighttime!
The one thing I found hit me most hard was the loneliness of it all, trying to figure out a way to help my little boy to sleep that was gentle to him and also fair to me. No one got it. It would have been so easy to give up on so many bad nights.
That’s one of the reasons why I started my Sleep Deprived Mum’s Club, to be a safe, welcoming community of mums who are all working on gentle sleep and who truly get it.
You can find out more about my monthly Sleep Videos and Clinics, Guest Experts, Private Facebook Group, monthly Energy Sessions and my back catalogue of 20+ Sleep Classes>>>>>HERE. What’s more, for readers of Motherhood: The Real Deal, I’m offering an exclusive discount of your first month in the club for half price…that’s just £4.99 (and just £9.99 per month thereafter)!
There is always a reason a Little One can’t sleep and always a gentle way to help.
Jennie works with hundreds of Mums and Little Ones all over the world, helping them to have more sleep, teaching that there is always a reason why Little Ones aren’t sleeping and a gentle way to help. You can contact Jennie via her website, Facebook page or Twitter and you can also find her on Pinterest.