We know how overwhelmed and exhausted you are. We know that you love your little one so much it practically hurts, but that you are simply drowning in sleep problems. We know that you feel desperate and alone as you try to get your baby or toddler back to sleep at night. We know you sometimes wonder if you’ve done something wrong, or if you’ve “ruined” your child’s sleep…after all, your friends all have sleeping babies!
And to you, exhausted, overwhelmed, desperate moms, we say this: You are doing a good job.
When your baby was a newborn, sure, you rocked and fed him to sleep all day, because you knew that newborns need regular feedings and lots of skin-to-skin contact. You didn’t spend time worrying about whether or not this was creating sleep associations, because you were too busy caring for a new little person.
When your baby was six weeks old, you found that it was just easier to let him sleep in the baby swing, or in the baby carrier – that allowed him to get the sleep he needed and kept him from fussing. Sure, wearing a baby around for hours a day wasn’t exactly comfortable for you, but you did it because you couldn’t stand to hear your baby fuss.
By the time your baby was a few months old, you started trying a pacifier as a way to soothe her. And it worked! Only now you have to replace it a few times during each nap, and pretty often at night. All that pacifier-replacing is making you a bit crazy, but you do it because you love your little one and want her to feel comforted and soothed.
Sleep may have started to improve a bit, but then the 4 month sleep regression hit and everything fell apart again. You were totally stumped as to what had happened, but you knew one thing – there was no way you were going to let your little baby suffer and cry! So you went back to rocking, nursing, holding to sleep. You may have even started to try co-sleeping, as a way to keep your baby close to you for constant comfort. You couldn’t understand why sleep was falling apart, but you did know one thing: your baby needed you.
When your baby was 6 months old, you may have started day-dreaming about what a consistent daily sleep schedule looked like, and how it would feel to actually sleep through the night even once. You looked longingly at your baby, and wondered if it might be possible to teach your baby to sleep better…but then you figured that would probably involve tons of crying (on your baby’s part AND your own!), and you knew you couldn’t stand that – so you kept on rocking and nursing and holding and offering the pacifier, and offering your baby plenty of “help” in falling asleep.
By the time your baby reached 9 months, you were starting to wonder if you’d ever sleep again. You may have started to feel like you weren’t even enjoying your child anymore, and that your constant exhaustion and sleep deprivation were keeping you from being the kind of mom you wanted to be. You knew that by this time, your baby “should” be able to sleep through the night, and take pretty consistent naps, but you had no idea how to get your little one to that point. You thought about sleep training again, but you had no idea where to start…with nights? With naps? With the crack-of-dawn waking? You felt too overwhelmed to even begin, so you just did the best you could to help your baby (and yourself) get some sleep each day.
Now, your “baby” may be a toddler, and those sleep problems that you’d hoped she’d outgrow are still around. In fact, in some ways, they’re worse – now, she’s popping out of her new ‘big kid’ bed all night long, she’s stalling at bedtime and throwing huge tantrums when it’s time to take her nap, she’s up before 5 most mornings…and you don’t know what to do about any of it. By this point, you are no doubt wondering what on earth you did “wrong” as a mother, to get to this point.
Our answer: you didn’t (and you aren’t) doing anything wrong. You are doing a good job. In fact, if you haven’t heard this enough lately, let us be the first to say it: Great work, mama!
See, things like breastfeeding to sleep, rocking to sleep, holding to sleep, co-sleeping to help improve sleep…these are all things that can create sleep associations, which in turn can create short naps and lots of night waking. But you know what else? These are the things that loving, caring, nurturing moms do! You should absolutely not feel guilty about cuddling/holding/rocking/co-sleeping your baby to sleep – those are all things that GREAT moms do!
Remember this, too – nothing about your baby’s sleep is a problem UNTIL IT’S A PROBLEM. If you’re happy putting your baby to sleep, if you love co-sleeping, if you don’t mind the nighttime wakings – AND if you have a happy and healthy child – then you don’t have a problem on your hands.
It’s only when all the things you have to “do” to put your child to sleep, and to help him stay asleep, become unmanageable for you that you have a problem. And fortunately for you, it is a problem that we can help you solve! Better yet, we can do it in a way that fits with your parenting style, with your child’s unique personality, and with your goals for your family. Just connect with one of our trained, expert consultants, and she’ll get to work creating a Personalized Sleep Plan™ just for your family.
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Want to vent about your own baby and toddler sleep struggles? Have a sleep story to share? Leave your comments below!
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If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
For those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.