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? Sleep perfectionism can sneak into a new mother's life, turning the typical irregularities of a baby's sleep schedule 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 is shorter than it's supposed to be.
In reality, there's no such thing as perfect sleep; we all have our good and bad nights. 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 doesn't reflect your competency as a mother.
**2. Create a Consistent Bedtime Routine**
Babies thrive on routines. Create a soothing bedtime ritual that signals 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 sleep perfectionism, which only amplifies stress and anxiety. It's important to understand that perfection is a myth - in sleep and in motherhood.
Even if your baby's sleep isn't perfect, you're doing a great job. Break free from the perfectionism trap, and you'll find that you and your baby can have a more restful night.
Erin Neri - Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Owner of To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting since 2016.
To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting
Providing families the tools & support they need to get their little ones sleeping through the night and napping like champs! Everyone has more fun when they are well rested!
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