Every child eventually learns to settle themselves to sleep at some stage – whether it is at 6 months of age, or a child who has moved to their own bed at 5 years old – the skill is still the same. Sometimes it needs to be taught again, as a child transitions from cot to bed, then from bed to a different room! Add in ditching a dummy and you’ve got it - Sleep will regress and you will need to guide your little one to learn the skill without their sleep association.
Either way, we are still providing guidance with a skill that is going to leave our children sleeping independently, and being able to fall back asleep after each sleep cycle ends, instead of frequent night wakes. ✖ As a newborn, baby’s do not have the ability to calm themselves down or fall asleep on their own. They respond to familiar soothing techniques such as by being rocked, shushed and patted - (think much like your body in the womb, and shushed by the sounds of your blood being pumped through arteries and veins, and other external stimuli, including your voice!) ✖ Newborns don't have the neurological capacity to self settle – they are comforted by the biological need to be close to their parents who provide their nurturing, protection and survival needs. They may give a longer stint of sleep, rolling into sleep cycles easier or be able to fall asleep when placed down at times. But when we are talking self settling, their brains don’t know how to handle this until closer o 4, maybe more so 5 months in most cases. Again - every baby is unique! ✖ As a result, newborns love to be rocked, patted and shushed to sleep! All things that naturally calm and push a baby off into sleepy land, and although these may have been successful til around 4 months of age, from 5+ months babies begin to mature with their sleep cycles and can actually become more stimulated and reliant on these practices to fall asleep. ✖️Motionless sleep soon becomes a more restorative sleep - meaning laying flat in a cot allows for a deeper sleep to occur then being rocked in a pram. It’s not at this age that babies need a quiet, calm and consistent environment in order to achieve a greater duration and restful sleep period. This is why we focus on the noon nap being nice and lengthy, and almost all of the time done at home when possible! ✖ At 4 months of age your child's sleep cycles are becoming more adult-like, meaning that the length of their sleep cycles have gone from 45-50 to around about 90 minutes, and they no longer spend as much time in REM sleep, but more time in a deeper sleep at the beginning of the night. ✖ Night sleep cycles can change from 4-6 hourly to 2-4 hourly as your child's brain develops and sleep hormone regulation and production changes occur after a second burst of melatonin, and daytime sleep cycles become even more apparent, meaning they wake more after one had ended. ✖ Baby's older then 4 months now spend less time in NON-REM sleep during the later parts of the night, or can skip these periods all together – which means the likelihood of more frequent night wakings increases dramatically - cue the 4 month sleep regression! ✖ Babies will naturally wake at the end of a sleep cycle, however, now is the time you may notice the increase in overnight wake times as they rely more heavily on parents to assist [if required] to return back to sleep – which is why we now encourage the introduction of self- settling and re-settling to meet this. ✖ What we are teaching our children is that falling asleep is a natural occurrence, and that since their little brains have developed and can now pick up when mum or dad aren't around – that it is OK to fall asleep on their own without mum or dads help (without being left to cry and cry and cry!!!) We work through from our newborn settling strategies, backing off slowly towards a gentle and gradual reduction in hands on settling to independent sleep, as each family feels comfortable, and as individual baby’s may respond.
✖️Think about how you fall asleep. As adults we get into bed, fluff the pillows, toss and turn a little and maybe wait a few minutes, (or more!) before we nod off. Sometimes we wake up overnight, turn over and fall back asleep. Other times we don't even realize we wake up, and reposition ourselves to get back to sleep. What we are saying is – no one actually ‘sleeps through’ the night! It's the fact that we KNOW how to get BACK to sleep on our own that see's us sleep, and this become a habitual practice. ✖️ Having some positive, nurturing and comforting sleep associations when settling your baby will help the process. Think a good wind down ritual, sleepy time phrases, a lovey or comforter, white noise, sleeping bag and so forth! It moves away from the parent needing to do all hands on settling, and gives bubs the tools to become more independent with this skill.
✖️ Want to learn more about achieving easier settling and sleep? Contact us to arrange a 1:1 30 Minute Appointment.