Why should you guide your little ones towards their own sleep skills?

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There are many things said about teaching your little one to sleep and a lot of those negative points make parents feel guilty for teaching their little one how to sleep. It is, in fact, the most important skill they can be taught because of it’s health and developmental benefits! We have already written a blog on that here so here are more reasons not to feel guilty – and the facts behind those myths.

“Get used to it, sleep deprivation is part of being a parent”.

This sort of phrase is said all the time. And yes, when you have a baby you generally do wave goodbye to your 8 solid hours sleep and a Sunday morning lie in, for a little while at least. However, this type of thinking can instil guilt in parents in that just by feeling that they need a bit more sleep this makes them inadequate.

“Sleeping through the night isn’t normal”.

Another common phrase often cited by people who are anti “sleep-training” and it is actually 100% correct; babies – in fact all humans – wake between sleep cycles throughout the night. However, if we wake for less than a minute or so, we don’t remember waking up at all. The definition of “sleeping through the night” is when your little one can put themselves back to sleep during these brief wake ups without needing any help. Even if they need a feed during the night, this doesn’t mean this needs to result in multiple wake ups, in fact babies who sleep well tend to take fuller feeds when they do wake – meaning they don’t need to ‘snack’ through the night.

The term “sleep-training” implies that parents aren’t involved with the process, that there’s endless amounts of crying and that one approach suits all little ones. That’s why Little Dreams Consulting don’t sleep train. We sleep “teach”. We educate parents in the importance of sleep and support them whilst they teach their little ones this lifelong skill.

In a nutshell, sleep is crucial for babies, and here’s why:

  • It’s only during the deep phase of sleep that the growth hormone is secreted
  • Sleep deprivation is linked to childhood obesity and diabetes. There are several reasons for this; babies who need to feed to sooth themselves are likely to be waking up a lot during the night and topping up on extra calories, and children who are well rested are typically more active during the day and therefore better placed to develop muscle tissue
  • Our immune system needs us to sleep in order to produce the necessary proteins to help fight infection – so for little ones this is especially important as their immune systems take a bit of a hit in the early years
  • During the day, a well-rested child has increased cognition and creativity, and what’s more – research has shown that babies actually learn during their sleep!

In addition, sleep is also crucial for parents. Sleep deprivation is linked to many physical and mental health conditions in adult life, as well as the strain in puts on relationships. More often than not, the families we work with are close to breaking point in one way or another.

We work with lots of different family circumstances for example, a mum who is waking up to feed her 10-month-old 6+ times a night and she’s due to go back to work, surviving on 4-5 hours of broken sleep a night. Or an 8 year old whose school work is suffering because they are not sleeping enough. Or a 2-year-old whose speech is not developing and his daytime behaviour is very challenging.

As already discussed in this blog, waking up during the night to feed your little one, is, for the early months at least, completely normal and necessary. However, prolonged sleep deprivation does not have to be “part of being a parent”, in fact, aside from all the reasons sleep is so important to little ones, having healthy parents needs to take precedence over the common misconception that not sleeping is something parents just have to “deal with”.

Once people understand this, our hope, as sleep consultants, is that parents will let go of the guilt that they feel about longing for more sleep and see this as a necessary skill to teach their little one, which will benefit their little one for the rest of their lives. If you feel ready to give yourself permission to address any sleep issues your little one may be experiencing, we’re here to help so just get in touch.

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