By Maryanne Sayers
Getting a baby to sleep is the number one challenge facing new parents these days. Ask any parent of a baby or toddler if they have had any issues with sleep and the majority will answer with a resounding “Yes we have!”. Parents everywhere are exhausted and so too are their babies. All caught in an ongoing, relentless cycle of sleep deprivation.
The initial elation of a new baby’s arrival can quickly descend into a highly stressful time for everyone involved. Sleep deprivation is a truly hideous cycle to be stuck in and it affects every individual and every relationship in the household.
This has been happening for many, many years now and it’s a problem that continues to get bigger and bigger. It’s a cycle that is being repeated into the next generation of parents.
A huge factor surrounding the struggles for parents is that there is no consistent education or information out there for new parents in regards to baby sleep. Instead there is a plethora of inconsistent approaches / methodologies / advice.
There is no end of conflicting messages and instruction about baby sleep and routines – do this, don’t do that, try this, don’t worry about that. Every which way parents turn, they are being told something different. Honestly, is it any wonder that parents are overwhelmed and confused? And all of this has taken us completely off track and miles away from what is actually a very simple process for our babies – sleep.
Some of the messages being given to parents of newborns are:
- Don’t worry about getting your baby into a routine until they are at least 4 to 6 months of age
- Your baby can’t (and won’t) sleep well until at least 6 months
- Just go with the flow and feed your baby on demand around the clock if needed
- You have a new baby? Oh well, get used to being utterly sleep deprived day and night – that’s totally normal!
- Your baby probably just doesn’t need much sleep so don’t worry about it
Our forbearers in generations long gone had their babies sleeping beautifully. Many would immediately argue that times were much simpler back then. And this is absolutely true. But the needs of their babies were simple in regards to sleep, just as the needs of our babies are simple in regards to sleep. That is one thing that HASN’T changed.
It is precisely this sort of information being widely spruiked to parents that has led us to the situation of an entire generation of sleep deprived and utterly exhausted parents and babies. Not only that, sleep deprivation can be a real tipping point for post natal depression, anxiety and relationship tensions and breakdowns between couples.
Here’s the thing. Babies thrive on routine and consistency. From Day One. And with that, comes the need for parents to have an understanding of how to manage their baby’s sleep, feed and wake cycles. Sleep is an inherently basic, natural and primal human function and our babies WANT to sleep. In order for them to sleep, we need to be working with them not against them. And this means having everything set up correctly with all the processes, and maintaining that consistently day in day out. And from there everything will flow.
To do this, I have said for years that parents and carers need to be provided with one reliable source of sleep and settling information / education that they can rely on and that they can trust. Going back to basics with it all. Eliminating all the “layers” and complexities and mis-information about baby sleep and routine that have been added into the mix over the years. There will always be parents who want and choose to follow their own methods / practices with their baby’s sleep / routine….and that’s fine.
The majority though, are just so desperately needing and seeking consistent information and guidance without all the mixed messages and conflicting opinions and advice.
Maryanne Sayers is a certified child and maternity consultant (registered with IMPI, the International Maternity and Parenting Institute); who is the co-developer and owner of Dream Start Baby (www.dreamstartbaby.com.au) – a comprehensive educational online resource for expectant and new parents to provide all the knowledge and skills needed to set up healthy sleep habits and routines for newborn babies from day one!
As published in Peninsula Kids – Spring 2017