When you have a new baby, you can’t get away from talking about infant sleep. Sleep becomes this overarching measure of how you are doing as a parent. In fact, it’s the first question many well-meaning individuals will ask you. How is the baby sleeping? Does he/she sleep through the night? Why has how well or how much our babies sleep feel like some direct correlation to our parenting skills or even worse, if our babies are considered “good” babies.
The market for infant sleep has become enormous, and it is worth a lot of money. It seems like everyone on Instagram is a “sleep consultant”, I mean how did babies even sleep before the invention of white noise machines and black out curtains. We are given an array of choices for swaddles and sleep sacks, and what one parent swears by, doesn’t work for another. This is an area that parents are willing to pay for, because let’s face it, when you are exhausted with a baby that won’t stay asleep you become desperate. I know that I personally have fallen victim to 3:00 am amazon purchases, trying to find anything that will help my baby fall asleep with less hassle.
What I have come to realize is that every baby is different, and there is no simple answer or one product that is going to work magic every time. My baby needs about 20 minutes of rocking/walking in order to fall asleep EVERY time, whether it’s a nap or bedtime. I have to be constantly in motion with her, that means no sitting or standing in place or I will hear her loud protests. Her hardest thing has always been the actual act of falling asleep. She now takes her naps in the crib, which at one point I never though would happen. When I look back to the early months, I remember every nap had to be on either my chest or my husband’s chest. That means there were times where I had her sleeping on me for sometimes 2 hours. We tried to transfer her to the bassinet, but that would always wake her up crying. Now of course, this is not a practical answer forever, but I am just talking about the first 2 initial months. Then I gradually started adding in crib naps, at least one time a day I would put her down in the crib, with time and dedication she now takes all her naps in the crib. I worked with her and followed her cues for when she was ready for this.
Now as I reflect, I think why was it so bad that she had to sleep on us? Clearly that didn’t last forever as she now naps in her crib. The warmth and comfort from our bodies was something that her body needed to regulate. Just like her body needs vestibular input to fall asleep. Shouldn’t we be giving our babies what their bodies need? Now this is the occupational therapist in me talking, but I think we should feed the sensory system accordingly to help the body regulate
So, I have to ask are we expecting too much from our little ones? We need to cut our babies and ourselves some slack. It’s ok if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night and its ok if he or she does. It’s ok if you rock her to sleep every night or if you choose to sleep train or if she will only take naps on your chest. Different methods work for different families and babies and my opinion is DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!