As a mother, it's natural to want the best for your child - including their sleep, especially if you've worked hard to create good sleep habits and are recovering some of your sleep debt. But what happens when you start striving for the unattainable "perfect" sleep for your baby? Normal irregularities of a baby's sleep schedule can be quickly turned into a source of anxiety.
The quest for perfect baby sleep can lead to an increased stress level, and leave moms feeling anxious. Instead of relaxing into a cup of tea and a well-deserved break during nap time, some moms are nervous the whole time, watching the clock, and fretting if the nap isn't exactly as long as it's supposed to be. In reality, there's no such thing as perfect sleep, we all have our good nights and bad. Sometimes we easily take a well-earned nap, and sometimes we struggle to get to sleep. Understanding this can be the first step in freeing yourself from the shackles of sleep perfectionism.
Here are some strategies that can help.
1. Understand the Sleep Pattern of Infants
Newborns don't start following a regular sleep-wake cycle until they're about 3 months old. They need time to develop their own circadian rhythms. Recognize that irregular sleep is perfectly normal for babies in the first few weeks of life, and it doesn't reflect your competency as a mother.
2. Create a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Babies thrive on routines. Create a soothing bedtime ritual that can signal to your baby that it's time to wind down and sleep. This can involve a warm bath, a lullaby, or a bedtime story. Consistency is more crucial than perfection. What's important is creating a safe, soothing environment that encourages sleep.
3. Use a "Pause"
A technique suggested by many baby sleep experts is the "pause." When your baby wakes or stirs, instead of rushing in, pause for a moment. Babies often self-soothe and fall back to sleep on their own. This can help them develop self-soothing skills and reduce sleep-related anxiety for you.
4. Limit Screen Time for Babies
Blue light from electronic screens can interfere with your baby's sleep-wake cycle. Try to limit your baby's exposure to screens, especially close to bedtime. Instead, engage in calming, screen-free activities.
5. Practice Self-Care
Taking care of a baby is demanding. Remember to take care of yourself too. Self-care can include simple activities like a short walk, a relaxing bath, or a moment of mindfulness. When you're calm and relaxed, it's easier to cope with sleep disturbances without escalating into anxiety.
6. Join a Support Group
Connecting with other mothers who are experiencing similar challenges can be comforting. It's also a great way to share advice, experiences, and reassurances. Remember, it's okay to ask for help, and no one is perfect - despite what social media might suggest.
Striving for perfect sleep for your baby can easily slip into “sleepxiety.” It's important to understand that perfection is a myth - in sleep and in motherhood. You're doing a great job even if your baby's sleep isn't perfect. Break free from the trap, and you'll find that both you and your baby can have a more restful night.
And, if you find that your sleepxiety is actually more related to your baby not sleeping well at all, I know a great sleep consultant who can help. Email me and I’ll get you her contact info. ;)