“Why isn’t my baby sleeping?”
“Why can’t I get my baby to sleep easily?”
“Why does my baby cry to sleep?”
These are common questions we are asked as sleep experts. There is no “easy” answer, but one recurring theme we see is sleep associations.
Sleep associations are things that your baby associates with their needs to fall or stay asleep. While these can be helpful at first, they can also impede your baby’s ability to sleep independently. When they become attached to a certain sound, comfort item, or even sleeping with their parents it’s difficult to take these things away from them. They, in turn, cry or sleep restlessly.
Some babies have unique sleep associations but there are some very common ones we see almost every day.
Feeding to sleep is one that many, many babies have. Whether you breast or bottle feed, the combination of sucking and warmth often soothes baby into dreamland. This can be helpful when your baby is little but once they get bigger it can make for a long, demanding bedtime. When baby associates feeding with sleep, they can also fall asleep at times they aren’t necessarily ready for a nap. With sporadic naps and a reliance on nursing or feeding to sleep, baby can have a sleep schedule that doesn’t serve anyone well! We also see this often create a reliance on mom to get baby to sleep.
Co-Sleeping is also common. Though it’s not necessarily AAP recommended for safe sleep, what are exhausted parents to do? Baby ends up in bed with you. You may have said, “Oh, one night won’t hurt…” and then one turned to two, which turned to a week, which turned to a habit. Now your little one won’t sleep anywhere but in your bed, sometimes in your arms! As we all know, naps and bedtimes are peak times when parents can get things done. While your baby may be sleeping, parents often have very broken sleep when their infant is in bed with them because our bodies are so attuned to them. This can often leave you even more exhausted than before.
While these practices are super common, they’re not always helpful and they’re certainly not sustainable. When your little one develops a reliance on you to get to sleep you’re often unable to do...well...anything. Parents often feel they don’t get a break, nor do they get adequate sleep (and, really, they aren’t). With sleep deprivation setting in, parents can find themselves not operating at their full capacity during the day.
Breaking these sleep associations can be challenging but is possible. An excellent option for creating healthy sleep habits for life is working with a sleep coach or a sleep program to help baby learn to sleep independently. When your baby falls asleep and stays asleep all by themselves, you can end the bedtime battles and the bedtime tears! Nobody wants to hear their sweet baby cry themselves to sleep.
Some families find sleep associations helpful to them. If that’s you, great! We know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to baby sleep. If you’re finding yourself stressed, tired, or overextended, though, consider evaluating what your baby associates with sleep. Is it their crib and white noise or is it you? Getting your baby to sleep on their own doesn’t have to be a battle and step 1 is looking at your current situation and what can change.
Charlotte families have found rest and reprieve by using our guaranteed sleep coaching method. Contact us today to see if you’re a good fit.