Written by: Petro Thamm (Certified Sleep Sense Consultant)
Sleep. We all need it, and we don't know how important it is until we can't get enough of it? Are you a mother? Then you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.
Can you still remember what it felt like to look into your partner's eyes? To have time to read a magazine, take a long bath and just generally have a life? Or are you constantly on pyjama drill? Wondering when this "punishment of motherhood" will end.
Sleep is vital for all humans to be healthy: it's when we recharge so we're at our personal best. Bad sleeping habits are linked to obesity, poor performance, ADHD, car accidents... you name it! If your child isn't sleeping well, you're likely not to either, and this could be detrimental to your health as well as your child's! However, if addressed early on, sleep problems can be overcome. The bad news is bad sleepers do not just "grow out of it". But the good news is there is a lot you can do about it!
Here are a few myths about sleep that you need to be aware of:
Myth #1 ~ All soothers are good for my child's sleeping habits.
Unfortunately not all soothers (be it dummy's, taglet blankets, mommy's fingers or milk) are good for your child's sleeping habits. It depends on your child's age and tendency's, but chances are that your baby can use some of these to aid him/herself in falling asleep which never teaches him the skill of self soothing.
Myth #2 ~ The later I put my child in bed and the more tired he gets during the day, the better he will sleep.
Actually it works the other way around. The better rested your child is, and putting him/her to bed at an appropriate bed time, actually makes them sleep better and longer.
Myth #3 ~ Some children are just bad sleepers and they will grow out of it eventually.
Did you know that studies have shown that adults who tend to have insomnia and bad sleeping habits were actually bad sleepers as children? Sleeping is actually a skill we need to teach our children, just like walking, eating and drinking. Your child will not grow out of it! The earlier you address it the better!
Myth #4 ~ I can wait to start teaching my child the skills to sleep when he is older or on solids.
The fact of the matter is, that we as parents interfere with our children's healthy development of good sleep cycles. There is so much that we can do better from the day they are born to implement healthy sleep associations and awake-sleep cycles.
Myth #5 ~ The only way I can teach my child to self sooth is to leave him to cry-it-out.
Teaching your child to self sooth is not just a matter of leaving him to cry. There is so much that you can do as a parent by following a structured sleep plan that will give your child the skills he needs. Sleep is influenced by so many things; stimulation, routine, feeding habits, bedtime, health, discipline, and a trained professional can help you to implement changes in your child's life that teach him the art to self soothing. But remember that crying is your child's way of protesting against change, and not all crying is bad.
Myth #6 ~ It is selfish of me to want to have my child sleep through the night.
Remember that teaching your child self soothing strategies is not about you! Continuous, uninterrupted 11/12 hours of sleep is what your child needs.
By taking the necessary steps to achieve restful, continuous sleep for your child, you will be giving him a skill he will carry with him throughout his life. And this is truly a great gift.
Petro Thamm is a mom, and founder of Good Night, a certified Sleep Sense Consultancy.