When it comes to teaching healthy sleep habits, I talk a lot about building a puzzle – ensuring you’ve got all the elements you need and successfully piecing them together.
The good news: in normally developing children, Mother Nature has provided the individual puzzle pieces that allow for healthy sleep. They’re all there! Nothing needs to be designed or recreated. In other words, your child – infant, toddler or otherwise – is fully capable of being a great sleeper.
The bad news: we do a fantastic job of overriding and sometimes outright ignoring our body’s natural cues and signals. Part of my job is helping parents recognize the role they play in meeting their child’s needs and responding to their cues at the right time.
When we miss tired cues or simply don’t prioritize sleep; feed too frequently or don’t feed frequently enough; provide an environment that is either too hot or too cold; not dark enough, not quiet enough, not still enough and so on, it makes it hard for our children to maintain homeostasis – that relatively equal balance of hormones and elements that make it easy for them to sleep well.
Of course, there are also issues like severe reflux/GERD, apneas or chronic infections that might inhibit a child’s natural ability to sleep well. At Sleep Pea, those are never ignored and always discussed on a per-case basis. But even then, children who experience symptoms of acid reflux; frequent or pronounced spit-up; gassiness; tummy troubles; fussiness or unpredictability at feedings (both milk and/or solids); and even failure to thrive – those children see a sharp decrease or disappearance of those symptoms with healthier sleep habits.
Why? Because the body’s most fundamental needs are being met and it is no longer as stressed as it was during a period of chronic sleep loss. Sleep is that significant!
Getting back on track with anything (healthy) in life – sleep, fitness, nutrition, work/life balance – is always a bit of a bumpy road. Asking for help along the way can be the difference between failed attempts and certain success.
I’m not saying don’t go it alone. Many people do and they see great success! But if you feel like you can’t figure out your child’s sleep puzzle and need additional insight, consider that help is a phone call away!