There’s a reason, back in 2011, parents all over the country responded to Samuel L. Jackson, reading a profanity-laced children’s book about getting a child to sleep.
The book, aptly titled “Go the #$%& to Sleep”, was written by American author Adam Mansbach after a particularly difficult night trying to get his little one to sleep.
Parents crave sleep. I know I do.
Unfortunately, my kids don’t always and that was especially true when they were babies.
I’m sure many an exhausted mom has asked herself, “Why do babies fight sleep?”
Why Do Babies Fight Sleep?
Perhaps the most obvious answer to this question is the same as to “Why do some houses sell and some houses don’t?” Location, location, location. Think about it. The environment is totally new for a newborn. A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks and babies get pretty used to the comfort of the womb.
I, of course, can’t remember being a fetus, but I certainly remember trips to the beach. I think for a newborn, getting used to this new world outside the womb is a little like going back to work after a beach vacation for us. The kind of vacation where they bring you food, drinks, and all your concerns are drowned out by the waves hitting the shore.
In the womb, your baby was surrounded by amniotic fluid. Her needs were instantly met. She was soothed by your movements, lulled to sleep by a muffled cacophony of sounds and curled up in a cocoon of comfort.
The most obvious problem with baby sleep is they have needs that need to be met at night. My babies were breastfed. That meant that especially early-on, they would wake because they were hungry. The first few months of life meant feeding them almost every two hours, even at night. Other needs and comfort issues include changing diapers or finding the right comfort level — room temperature and sound level.
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Part of the problem isn’t that babies won’t sleep, but that they won’t sleep when we need them to sleep. For me, this problem existed even before birth. I remember many a sleepless night with my little ones performing late night somersaults in utero. Even as fetuses, my children’s schedules didn’t always align with my own.
According to askdrsears.com, babies don’t have the same sleep cycles as we do. Their sleep cycles are shorter and move from light sleep to deep sleep more often. Night time wakings commonly occur when babies are transitioning from deep sleep to light sleep. Babies also sleep lighter. While it leaves us asking, “Why do babies fight sleep?”, science has a few theories, including that light sleep and night waking is important for an infant’s brain development and learning. It may not be all that comforting now, but when you are up with your baby at night, try to think about how she is going to kill it when she reaches kindergarten.
So, How To Get a Baby To Stop Fighting Sleep?
It’s a question with a thousand different answers. Chances are you’ve heard a few. When I had my first child, I remember desperately seeking out solutions from family, friends and even, on occasion, strangers. You’re tired and you just want sleep. There are things you can do to help your baby to sleep, but what works for one baby might not work for another. Your best friend’s baby might be sleeping through the night at three months, while yours is still waking every few hours. Don’t worry, you’re not doing anything wrong and neither is your little one.
When I had my first baby, the nurses at the hospital taught me how to swaddle him. I never really got the hang of just using a swaddling blanket, but soon invested in a few swaddling sleepers that helped the process. The theory behind swaddling is that the snugness of wrapping is reminiscent of the womb, which helps the baby sleep. It worked pretty well for my first guy, but it worked even better for my next baby. For safety reasons, always put your baby on her back when swaddled and make sure not to swaddle too tightly. You don’t want the swaddle to interfere with breathing or hip movement. Once your baby starts rolling over, stop swaddling .
One thing many parents find useful is keeping their baby in the same room with them. I know my little ones slept right next to our bed in a bassinet for the first several months. It was a comfort to us both, mother and child. It made the middle of the night feedings go more smoothly, enabling me to transition them back to sleep more easily. Also, when a baby’s sleep cycles are going from deep to light sleep, a reassuring hand on the chest may prevent the child from waking. If a baby is in the room down the hall, it’s likely that you won’t hear the baby stirring until she is fully awake. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies share a room with their parents for at least the first 6 months. The video bellow talking about this AAP recommendation.
Sound machines that create white noise are helpful for some parents. There are many available on the market now in various price ranges. I used one that mimicked the sounds in the womb for both my babies. Most sound makers will have options, as my babies got older I experimented with other noises like ocean waves and rainforest noises.
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Another soother that is helpful is a pacifier. Unfortunately, my babies never took one. I was always a little jealous of moms who could pop one in their babies’ mouths and watch them drift off to la la land. The AAP recommends pacifiers because studies have shown that they can be helpful in the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Don’t worry, if your babies are like mine and won’t take them, doctors say not to force the issue. If you are breastfeeding make sure that breastfeeding is well established before offering a pacifier.
Perhaps the most important sleep tip for your baby is ensuring she’s sleeping safely. The APP recommends that your baby should sleep on her back on a firm sleep surface, like that of a crib or a bassinet, with a tight fitting sheet…that’s it. Forget the bumpers or the cute stuffed animals. Trust me, your house will be taken over by stuffed animals soon enough.
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Also, trust me, you will sleep again. Look, you’ve been hanging out with your baby for 9 months while she was inside the womb, but you really are still getting to know each other. Sometimes it is just a matter of finding out what works for your little one and for you.