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What is preventing your baby from sleeping through the night?
By Elizabeth Pantley
Here’s something that may really surprise you: As much
as we may want our babies to sleep through the night, our own
subconscious emotions sometimes hold us back from encouraging
change in our babies’ sleeping habits. You yourself may
be the very obstacle preventing a change in a routine that disrupts
your life. So let's figure out if anything is standing in your
Examine your own needs and goals
Today’s society leads us to believe that “normal
babies” sleep through the night from about two months.
My research indicates that this is more the exception than the
rule. The number of families in your boat could fill a fleet
of cruise ships.
last day care parent meeting, one father brought up the
that his two-year-old daughter wasn’t sleeping through
the night. I discovered that out of 24 toddlers, only six
stayed asleep all night long. -- Robin, mother of 13-month-old
You must figure out where your own problem lies. Is it in your
baby’s routine, in your management of it or simply in
the minds of others? If you can honestly say you want to change
your baby’s sleep habits because they are truly disruptive
to you and your family, then you’re ready to make changes.
But if you feel coerced into changing Baby’s patterns
because Great-Grandma Beulah or your friend from playgroup
says that’s the way it should be, it’s time for
a long, hard think.
if your little one is waking you up every hour or two, you
don’t have to think long on the question, “Is
this disruptive to me?” It obviously is. However, if your
baby is waking up only once or twice a night, it’s important
that you determine exactly how much this pattern is disturbing
to you, and decide on a realistic goal. Be honest in assessing
the situation's effect on your life. Begin today by contemplating
I content with the way things are, or am I becoming resentful,
angry, or frustrated?
* Is my baby’s nighttime routine negatively affecting my marriage,
job, or relationships with my other children?
* Is my baby happy, healthy, and seemingly well rested?
* Am I happy, healthy, and well rested?
answer these questions, you will have a better understanding
only what is happening
regard to your baby’s
sleep, but also how motivated you are to make a change.
Reluctance to let go of those nighttime moments
A good, long, honest look into your heart may truly surprise
you. You may find you actually relish those quiet night wakings
when no one else is around. I remember in the middle of one
night, I lay nursing Coleton by the light of the moon. The
house was perfectly, peacefully quiet. As I gently stroked
his downy hair and soft baby skin, I marveled at this tiny
being beside me — and the thought hit me, “I love
this! I love these silent moments that we share in the night.” It
was then that I realized that even though I struggled through
my baby’s hourly nighttime wakings, I needed to want
to make a change in our night waking habits before I would
see any changes in his sleeping patterns.
need to take a look at your own feelings. And if you find
you’re truly ready to make a change, you’ll
need to give yourself permission to let go of this stage of your
baby’s life and move on to a different phase in your relationship.
There will be lots of time to hug, cuddle and love your little
one, but you must truly feel ready to move those moments out
of your sleeping time and into the light of day.
about your baby’s
We parents worry about our babies, and we should! With every
night waking, as we have been tending to our child’s
nightly needs, we have also been reassured that our baby is
doing fine — every hour or two all night long. We get
used to these checks; they provide continual reassurance of
time my baby slept five straight hours, I woke up in a
cold sweat. I nearly fell out of bed and ran down the hall.
I was so sure that something was horribly wrong. I nearly
wept when I found her sleeping peacefully. -- Azza, mother
of seven-month-old Laila
parents are not exempt from these fears. Even if you are
next to your
you’ll find that
you have become used to checking on her frequently through the
night. Even when she’s sleeping longer stretches, you aren’t
sleeping because you’re still on security duty.
are very normal worries, rooted in your natural instincts
your baby. Therefore,
for you to allow your baby to
sleep for longer stretches, you’ll need to find ways to
feel confident that your baby is safe all night long.
reassure yourself that your baby is safe while you sleep,
have taken that first step toward helping her sleep all night.
Belief that things will change on their own
You may hope, pray, and wish that one fine night, your baby will
magically begin to sleep through the night. Maybe you’re
crossing your fingers that he’ll just “outgrow” this
stage, and you won’t have to do anything different at
all. It’s a very rare night-waking baby who suddenly
decides to sleep through the night all on his own. Granted,
this may happen to you — but your baby may be two, three
or four years old when it does! Decide now whether you have
the patience to wait that long, or if you are ready to gently
move the process along.
Too fatigued to work toward change
Change requires effort, and effort requires energy. In an exhausted
state, we may find it easier just to keep things as they are
than try something different. In other words, when baby wakes
for the fifth time that night and I'm desperate for sleep,
it's so much easier just to resort to the easiest way to get
him back to sleep (rock, nurse, or replace the pacifier) than
it is to try something different.
parent who is truly sleep deprived can understand what I’m saying here. Others may calmly advise, “Well
if things aren’t working for you, just change what you’re
doing.” However, every night waking puts you in that foggy
state where the only thing you crave is going back to sleep.
Plans and ideas seem like too much effort.
are to help your baby sleep all night, you will have to force
to make some
and follow your plan --
even in the middle of the night, even if it’s the tenth
time your baby has called out for you.
So, after reading this section and you’re sure you and
your baby are ready, it’s time for you to make a commitment
to change. That is the first important step to helping your baby
sleep through the night.
Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Publishing
from The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby
Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 2002.
educator Elizabeth Pantley is the author of numerous parenting
books, including the widely cited The
No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep
Through the Night. She is a regular radio show guest
and is quoted frequently on the web and in national family
and women’s publications. Her next book, Gentle Toddler
Care, will be available in 2004. Elizabeth lives in Washington
state with her husband, their four children and her mother.