Learning how to ride a bike, just like any new skill takes time, patience and practice to master… the same goes for learning how to fall asleep on your own.
What’s the big deal about falling asleep on your own though?
The biggest problem most parents face if a child can’t fall asleep without assistance at bedtime, is that they won’t be able to get back to sleep in the middle of the night if they wake up – because they don’t know how to do it without help. That means that they will always need you to intervene and that makes for an exhausted family rather than a well rested one.
If you think about learning to fall asleep independently being the same as any other learning process, it helps put it into perspective. Take trying to teach a toddler to cut with a pair of scissors – if you are constantly bombarding them with suggestions, and cannot help yourself from taking over; they aren’t afforded enough time to practice and figure it out on their own. They will simply give up and let you do it for them because it is easier than trying.
Doing something for the first time can be daunting and maybe even a little scary. While things are unfamiliar, they can be frustrating and uncomfortable when we don’t feel like we are in complete control. Once we know what to expect and how to react, we quickly start to feel confident in our abilities. The learning process then becomes a lot less overwhelming, and maybe even enjoyable.
The same is true for our babies and young children when it comes to sleep. A lot of the time, a lack of sleep is a source of stress and anxiety for us, but it doesn’t have to be. Becoming a parent doesn’t mean your sleep and wellbeing have to suffer!
Transitioning from fully awake to fully asleep is a journey.
Think of a car accelerating from 0 to 100, with zero being awake and 100 being asleep.
If you are helping your little one for part or most of the way through this journey, you will have helped them 90% of they way, they would only have had to do that last 10% on their own.
When they wake in the night, they will need assistance to get back to sleep because they don’t know how to do that 90% by themselves. Even if you are only helping them 30% of the way to sleep, this can continue to cause you a headache. They will still be dependent on your assistance EVERY time they wake, whether in the middle of the night or after a 30 minute nap.
All these external factors – what I like to call dependencies – that are aiding your little one drift to a state of drowsiness are also most likely part of the problem. Identifying these is half the battle won and that makes implementing change so much easier.
Take care of the factors that you have control over. Set the stage perfectly for good quality sleep, and then the rest is up to them. Ensure they’re in a dark and cool room. Run through a quick and predictable pre-sleep routine that cues them for sleep. Make sure that they’re tired enough, but not too tired when it is time to turn the lights out. These small things all go a long way to making it easier for our little ones when it comes time to fall asleep independently.
It isn’t always easy stepping aside while your child learns something that is new, but sometimes too much help isn’t actually helping. As well meaning as our intentions can be it can be counter productive if you’re standing in the way.
I can help you with this part of your parenting journey if you are struggling and together we can take control of your little one’s sleep. When babies and children sleep well – so do parents!
Book a FREE call today and find out how I can help you and your family.