Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness. Jessica is the facilitator of our Online Postpartum Support Group: New Baby, Happy Life where she shares more practical tips for new parents.
Sleep Makes Everything Better
By day, I am a marriage and family therapist. I love helping new moms and dads make the beautiful and often challenging transition into parenthood. However, my after-work hours consist of practicing what I preach in my parenting coaching and family therapy sessions as a mom of two littles myself. One of the most valuable lessons I can share with new parents is to prioritize sleep for both you and your children!
Sleep Training Can Be a Lifesaver
When my daughter was 4 months old she went from waking a manageable one time per night to waking up every 2 hours. I thought I was going to lose my mind! I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed by this new pattern. I decided it was time to sleep train.
I packed her up, went to the library, and checked out several books on sleep training. It was a Wednesday when I decided to make this life change and my plan was to start sleep training by that Friday. On Friday evening I skimmed through the rented books and decided sleep training was imminent.
Within a week my little one was sleeping through the night and I was reclaiming my sanity.
When You Educate Yourself You Can Teach Your Kids
During pregnancy, I went to many classes but not one of them talked about sleep, even more importantly, infant sleep. It had never occurred to me that good sleep habits are TAUGHT, and parents are the teachers.
Teaching your baby the habits of good sleep is a lifelong gift. Think about how often people talk about sleep, how great they feel when they get it, and how destroyed they feel when they don’t. Sleep matters.
Research shows that sleep is a critical component of good health, both physically and mentally. We need sleep to function at our optimal level.
Here are three reasons to prioritize your baby’s sleeping skills
When baby is sleeping, everyone is sleeping!
- Teaching your baby to sleep through the night means that you, the parents, also get the sleep you need. People who are severely sleep deprived often experience increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Parents who are in a serious need of sleep may find that they are lacking in other ways as well including distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and general self-care.
- Parenting is a hard job (not to mention any other employment/roles you may hold) and it is critical that you, as a parent, are getting enough sleep to manage it all.
Teaching good sleep habits also teaches babies how to self soothe.
- Self-soothing is a fundamental developmental skill. At some point, babies must learn how to calm themselves down from a state of stress or irritation independently of their primary attachment figure.
- This is a skill they will utilize throughout life. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Sleep Medicine found that one of the factors that determine an infant’s ability to sleep through the night is based on their ability to self soothe during the first five months of life.
- Self-soothing may come in the form of sucking on their thumb, pacifier, stroking a security blanket, rubbing their eyes, playing with their hair etc. When a baby is able to self soothe, they are able to fall asleep without being held or rocked AND are able to put themselves back to sleep during the middle of the night without needing mom or dad!
Knowledge is power.
- Understanding baby sleep cycles, sleep cues, and positive sleep associations give you, the parent, back a sense of control.
- When I talk to parents who have little ones that are not sleeping they share a sense of powerlessness, defeat, and frustration. They want their baby to sleep, they want to sleep, but they are unsure of how to make it happen.
- Understanding the basics of sleep and the sleep teaching strategies provide a framework to operate from. It will help you dispel the myths that might be negating your progress (e.g. babies that sleep during the day, don’t sleep at night- THIS IS NOT TRUE!!!) and it will give you a roadmap for how to manage the sleep regressions that will undoubtedly come even after your baby is trained.
- Once you have a handle on your baby sleep needs, sleep will come.
Remember, you are the parent, you can do this! May the sleep gods be with you.
P.S. If you need more support please join our Postpartum Support Group! It is a fantastic way to connect with others, learn new skills and strategies for managing this new job you are learning, and getting some extra support.