I want to talk about one of the most important factors in getting your baby to sleep well: having an independent sleeper. Why is independent sleep SO important?! We all go through sleep cycles and wake up during the night but usually go back to sleep without even noticing. A baby that is helped to sleep at the beginning of night by feeding, rocking, etc may have a hard time falling back asleep because they are expecting that same thing that put them to sleep to put them back to sleep. If your baby is unable to transition through sleep cycles independently, this may lead to many night wakings and short naps.
How can I get my baby to sleep independently?
Sleep props are the most common reason that babies wake up frequently. When your baby is nursed, fed a bottle, rocked, bounced, etc. to sleep they associate going to sleep with those props and become reliant on them to go to sleep and fall back to sleep. This becomes a problem in the middle of the night when they wake up and cannot go back to sleep without the prop that put them to sleep at bedtime. All babies go through sleep cycles and wake up during the night. If your baby knows how to go to sleep independently without any props, going back to sleep in-between these sleep cycles will not be a problem. As long as your baby is not dependent on any sleep prop from the beginning, you should not have sleep problems later on! That is why we want to create healthy habits from the start. Start putting your baby down drowsy but awake as much as they allow from the beginning. Offer a feeding in the beginning of the bedtime routine instead of the end so they are not falling asleep while eating. Putting your baby down awake allows them the opportunity to learn how to put themselves to sleep independently. This is a learned skill and will take time!
Signs that a baby is reliant on sleep props:
Your baby will not go to sleep without nursing, having a bottle, rocking, bouncing, or any other prop.
Your baby cannot get back to sleep during the night by themselves
Your baby sleeps while comfort nursing
Your baby needs a pacifier reinserted multiple times a night
Your baby takes short naps and wakes after one sleep cycle (this is sometimes common under 6 months and isn't always a sign)
Your baby cries when laid down awake
Your baby is fussy throughout the day and seems overtired
These signs usually present themselves in babies 3+ months when habits are set in place. We want to let newborns take the lead- they are most likely going to fall asleep using a sleep prop once in a while and that is okay. At this age we just start practicing good habits whenever they accept it. If your baby is showing any signs of being reliant on sleep props and you would like more information on sleep training visit my services page to see how I can help! I also have an in depth e-guide for newborns!
Having an independent sleeper doesn’t mean you can’t love and snuggle your baby! Just make sure you are putting them down awake as much they allow. Creating an independent sleeper will prevent sleep troubles later on and will help you and your baby get a restful night’s sleep!