One morning last week, like most mornings, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed while drinking my coffee and watching my little one eat breakfast. My Instagram feed is full of tiny squares that show things that I love; home décor, food, fashion and of course, parenting. That’s when I came across one of my favorite mom bloggers talking about her two “horrible sleepers”. My first thought was: poor mama! I mean, the chances of getting not just one, but TWO horrible sleepers?? But as a sleep consultant, it also had me super curious. What ARE the chances of having two children who both struggle with their sleep? So, I dug a little further.
I continued to click on her blog where she was sharing what her bedtime routines look like with both children. It was there that I discovered the reason why this mom described both of her children as horrible sleepers; both kiddos were being held and fed to sleep. She went on to explain that after a small amount of time sleeping in their own beds, they wake up and eventually are taken into mom and dad’s bed every night.
Now, this post is not about whether or not I think this mom is right or wrong in the way she puts her children to bed. There are many parents who aren’t currently looking to sleep-train their children and never will, and that’s more than acceptable! These parents don’t want to change up their bedtime routines and aren’t concerned about their children waking up several times throughout the night. They have no problem with co-sleeping or helping their children fall asleep. If you are this parent, I say; good for you! Seriously. Every parent and child has their own rituals surrounding bedtime. As a sleep consultant, it’s my job to educate people in general about the importance of sleep and only help those who are seeking my help. BUT, if you are this parent, please just don’t call your child a horrible sleeper.
The fact is, your child is just a child who hasn’t been taught the skills to fall asleep and stay asleep independently yet…and that’s okay! Why? Because every child needs to be taught this skill, just like they need our help with any other skill. Some little ones may take to this ability quicker than others but truthfully, every child is capable of being a great sleeper if given the opportunity. Therefore, if he hasn’t been taught this healthy skill yet, it’s not actually his fault that he continues to wake in the night or has a hard time falling asleep without you.
All humans – babies, kids and adults alike – wake at some point in their sleep. We go through periods of light and deep sleep throughout the night and many of us actually wake up enough to be aware of our waking (I know I do). But this isn’t necessarily “bad” sleep; this is just normal sleep. The difference is, babies need our help with sleep. Of course, sleep is a natural thing; we don’t need to teach our children how to be sleepy or how to fall asleep. But independent sleep is something we do need to teach them.
From the moment our babies were in the womb, they’ve depended on us and our bodies in every way. We’ve been responsible for feeding them, clothing them and essentially keeping them alive! But somewhere along the way, our babies grow and pick up on the skills they have learned, the ones we have taught them. Soon enough, they become efficient, independent little people who want to take on the world. Like any other skill, sleep is no different. If you can teach your child to be independent through sleep, it’s a skill that he will benefit from for the rest of his life.
If you think your child is a “horrible sleeper”, but you help him to fall asleep with one or more sleep prop (you can learn more about what sleep props are in another blog post here), be happy to know that he is anything but a horrible sleeper! He just needs to learn the skills to fall asleep and stay asleep on his own. One of the most crucial elements for teaching children this skill is by eliminating sleep props and instead, helping them develop self-soothing strategies. With my help, your child will be doing this in under two weeks; regardless of his age!