We teach our babies sleep habits that make them dependent on us rather than ones that build confidence and self-calming ability. The most common baby sleep habits that lead to poor slumber are bed-sharing and being put in bed asleep.
For example, the Sleep in America poll found that:
- 60% of infants are usually rocked to sleep (which is wonderful for newborns but can become a problem later on).
- 75% of infants fall asleep every night nursing or drinking a bottle.
- Many infants bed-share, which makes it easy for them to insist that their parents soothe them back to sleep—each time they awaken.
- As previously mentioned, only a third of parents use independence-building sleep cues like white noise or loveys every night.
Doctors in Rhode Island found that 3- and 8-month-old infants fell asleep easily—at bedtime and after nighttime awakenings—if they used loveys and pacifiers. The doctors also reported that all the poorly sleeping 8-month-olds—about 1 in 3 infants—were put into their cribs already asleep…and none routinely received a lovey!
Ditching Bad Sleep Habits Is Good for Baby—And Good for You!
Being your baby’s sleep aid is fun and cuddly, and I’m all in favor for it as long as you’re happy with it (and you take precautions like bed-sharing safety). But if you’re tired and frustrated, this is the right moment to help your infant learn some new habits. Here are clues that it’s time for a change:
- You’re exhausted: You’re overeating; short-tempered with your toddler or husband; spacing out at work; driving dangerously because you’re so tired; feeling depressed; or considering smoking cigarettes again.
- You’re frustrated: You don’t know what to do about your infant’s sleep resistance, night waking, dependence on bed-sharing and frequent night nursing. And you are bickering a lot with your spouse.
- Your child’s unhappy: She’s extra cranky; cries at everything; has no patience; seems overtired; gets super irritable at bedtime; or wakes crying during the night.
If you’re seeing these trouble signs, it’s time to swap your problematic sleep cues for ones that boost sleep and nurture your tot’s calm, confidence, and competence. Don’t get me wrong…you should give your little lovebug tons of holding, rocking, patting and suckling. But to avoid sleep problems later, you need to focus on sleep cues and routines now that will teach her to self-soothe.
The best way to start removing a dependence on being held and rocked to doze off is to use the wake-and-sleep technique every time you put your little one down to sleep.