Are you anxious about your baby’s sleep?
Do you find yourself thinking about your baby’s sleep all the time? Do you find you are often talking to others about how their baby is sleeping? Do you find you are frequently doing google searches about infant sleep? Do you dread nap time, and bedtime?
It’s common to ruminate about sleep, especially when you aren’t getting enough. We all go through phases where all our focus is on sleep, because we are so in need of it ourselves. We may worry that our baby won’t develop properly because they aren’t sleeping enough. Early parenting can be full of worry, so I understand where the anxiety comes from. Unfortunately, sleep rarely goes better when we worry about it.
Sleep anxiety is usually born from uncertainty. You can’t make your baby sleep, so for those of us that like to know how to make things happen, we really struggle with this reality. You can feed, bounce, hold, walk, and drive to get your baby to sleep, but ultimately, they are the ones that have to get themselves into a sleep state, and stay there.
Trusting your baby is getting enough sleep is hard to do when you read about how many hours your baby should be sleeping, and you know your baby is nowhere near that amount. You may have read that babies who don’t sleep enough are at risk for delayed development, which can be very scary to think about. So you worry, which in turn can make it hard for both you, and your baby, to get to sleep. It can be a vicious cycle.
How do you shift sleep anxiety?
First, recognize that you are spinning your wheels on this issue. Notice when you are going ‘round and ‘round in your head about how much sleep your baby is getting. The first step is to acknowledge what you are doing. Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders. Bring yourself back to the moment.
Try to keep in mind that sleep amounts will vary from baby to baby, and from day to day. This is ok, and to be expected. There is a wide range of normal when it comes to infant sleep, so try not to look too closely are the numbers for each day. Your baby may sleep more on one day and less on the next. Or, they will settle into a groove of sleeping a lot, and then something changes, and they are more restless for a time. This is normal development, and, as hard as it is to keep having to adjust to a growing baby, this is what you must do.
Stop googling sleep in the middle of the night! I mean it. It’s not helpful, and unless you are planning on being a sleep consultant, you are not going to glean anything helpful by constantly looking to see if there is any new information out there about how to get your baby to sleep.
Stop comparing how your baby sleeps to your friend's baby. Different kid. Different household. It is not helpful. You won’t gain any new insights, and you will drive yourself nuts thinking there is something wrong with your baby (or you!).
Try and look at sleep as a learning process. The goal of enough sleep is important, but so is how your baby gets there. If you can look at sleep as a continuum of helping your child learn about themselves and the world, then it takes some of the pressure off.
It can be helpful to have a game plan for each age and stage your baby is in for helping them with sleep, but remember that flexibility is as important as consistency. Don’t stop your life because your baby has to sleep at home for every nap. Unless your baby is a total mess if they have a nap on the go, it’s ok to find a balance between sleep at home and sleep on the go. You have to have a life!
Feeling anxious every time you have to help your baby get to sleep for a nap or for bedtime is exhausting. It can make the whole process more time consuming, and leave you feeling defeated and frustrated. It’s tempting to want to rush through the process, but try instead to slow down. Spend some time unwinding before you lay your baby down. Listen to music, sing, play on the floor in your baby’s room before you start your sleep time routine. Stay calm and use a calm voice, even if your baby is screaming. The more calm you remain, the better you can help your baby regulate their feelings, and the sooner they can settle into sleep.
If you find you are spinning your wheels with sleep worry, reach out for support. It can make a world of difference to have a knowledgeable, grounded, and rested sleep consultant helping you sort through what to do to help your baby get the sleep they need, so you can get the sleep you need. (And if you are worried your baby or toddler is anxious about sleeping, contact me.)
Disclaimer: Elizabeth Green's Early Parenting Sleep Consultations and written materials are for educational purposes only and are not meant as medical advice. All spoken and written information is to be used at each parents' discretion.