Studies have shown that children who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behaviour, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Over time, not getting enough quality sleep each night can produce a range of behavioural, cognitive (mental) and emotional symptoms that can flow on into adulthood.
But, does it matter how your baby is falling asleep in order to achieve an adequate amount of sleep??
You may be surprised that my answer is NO!
Plain and simple, our babies are all different and so are we! What works for you may not work for someone else. The reality is that all babies (all humans for that matter) wake up throughout the night. This absolutely doesn’t change if your baby self-settles or happens to fall asleep with some assistance.
How your baby falls asleep will never be more important than how much your baby is actually sleeping. What is super important, is that your baby is given the opportunity to get the quality sleep that they need, however that looks. The difference may only ever be seen in the length of time a baby is wakeful. Self-settling babies, just like us, can wake partially and go back to sleep quickly and independently because the conditions are the same.
You may still be assisting your baby to sleep (whether that is through feeding, rocking, bouncing or cuddles) and you are able to repeat this same step as soon as they wake with a speedy and calm return back to sleep, which means that very little quality sleep is being missed! Low disruption to sleep, sleep consolidation and a healthy, happy, thriving bub are amazing signs that this method is not a problem for you or your baby. If this is working for your baby and your family, then please be assured your baby is getting restorative sleep, so stress less about your choices and keep doing what you’re doing! 🙌🏻
But are you wondering when might be a good time to reconsider your approach?? 🤔
Maybe you have been experiencing frequent wakes up during the night, leading to extended periods of settling and disrupting a large chunk of your baby’s night sleep? This could be a sign that it might be the right time to change up your settling approach. It probably was not always like this, but maybe the onset of frequent waking is causing a lot of stress and lengthy disruption to your baby’s sleep (and yours!) and you are seeing the effects of this during the day for you and your baby’s behaviour.
Techniques that once soothed and supported our younger babies can also begin to overstimulate many older babies. They may display signs such as back arching, pushing away and sounding very angry and frustrated. They are growing and changing so much which means sometimes we have to adapt what we are doing, changing and growing ourselves to continue to support them more effectively.
Another scenario may be that your circumstances or life has changed…perhaps you are back at work, your baby is getting looked after by someone else, daycare, etc. and things are getting harder? Even though the wakes are reasonably quick, the frequency may be getting to you or you are just not loving them like you used to. This is 💯 ok too!
I can assure you that the quality of YOUR sleep is no less important and being able to make changes and look for alternative solutions to your baby’s sleep without those harsh approaches or judgment is absolutely necessary! I find it absolutely reassuring to know that you can improve on sleep without “teaching” a baby that no one will be responding to them overnight. Gradual supportive changes and development of sleep confidence I believe is key in working towards results at a time and pace that works for you and your baby. ❤️
On that note, did you know that self settling is an inbuilt biological function that is a physiological process which relates to subcortical control in the brain?? This means that we all have this skill available to us from day dot! 😱
This in no way means that sleep is always that simple. As our baby’s grow and systems begin to mature, we can create more opportunities and support them to strengthen this ability. Self SOOTHING, however, is the ability to regulate emotions which definitely does not come as a built-in function! This is a skill that develops throughout childhood and beyond! As adults we can still require help to self soothe. Parenting with confidence allows you to work in partnership with your young one to support ALL emotions. Self soothing is 100% about being available as a parent for co-regulation, by responding to your child and supporting them through an emotion helps them to be able to develop their own emotional intelligence in a guided and responsive way.
While it is possible for babies to self settle before they can self soothe, sleep more often than not involves both. When it comes to supporting our baby’s sleep, learning the difference between self settling and self soothing is really important. There are so many age appropriate, responsive and nurturing ways to approach sleep without the term ‘sleep training’ in the traditional sense ever being mentioned! Our role is less about “teaching” our babies to do something unnatural, but rather begin to allow opportunities for growth in this area while supporting confidence, security and emotional intelligence via co-regulation.
All of my approaches are guided and responsive, entirely based on your journey with sleep so far. My goal is to fill in any gaps where you would like to learn more and support you to become sleep confident in understanding your baby, to reduce the overwhelm and stress it can bring.
If you feel like you’re ready for a change in how your baby sleeps, I’ve got a variety of approaches (1:1 sessions, either at home or over the phone, or sleep guides) that are available to you. Please, have a browse through my website or reach out for a free 15 minute consultation to find out more 💕