Why Won’t My Baby Sleep?
Well, some wakes will be down to need, but only in young babies who have genuine hunger needs due to their dinky tummies! The vast majority of babies I have worked with since birth who have developed wonderful sleep habits drop these naturally of their own accord when they have doubled birthweight, often around the 4-month mark.
The other reason they wake in the night?
Because wakes are a COMPLETELY normal part of your child’s, and your, sleep pattern!
Why…? Because sleep is a cyclical process
Although sleep has been studied extensively, it is still a very hard area to draw conclusions on why things are the way they are! There are theories that these wakes in babies are down to an inbuilt protection system for survival, which may well be true, and may also be a leftover from our caveman days when we needed to keep safe from harmful predators.
Regardless of the reason, they are a part of sleep and we’re going to change that.
Many parents are surprised (and often a little terrified!) to hear that we’re not even trying to change that when solving sleep difficulties!
Your child and you will always continue to wake in sleep, even when you don’t hear a peep out of them in the night.
That moment when you turn over in the night, or realise your foot is out of the covers and freezing? Its highly likely that it’s the end of your sleep cycle, unless you’ve been disturbed.
Each cycle lasts about 45 minutes for babies and 90 minutes for adults where you go from light sleep to deep sleep and then back to light sleep, over and over again… cyclically! A bit like one of those funny ‘cycles’ you see at the circus that the saddles go up and down on…
What Is Sleep Onset Association Disorder?
Sleep Onset Association Disorder (SOAD) is not really what I think of as a disorder. I really dislike that it’s given that name! It’s really just a fancy term for a habit – A habit that confuses their little brains into thinking that they can only fall asleep under certain specific conditions. This result in them thinking they need that same condition/environment (a.k.a. sleep prop) to go back to sleep after waking up at night.
For example, the child may only fall asleep when a parent rocks or feeds her, or only in the parents’ bed. In many cases, I’ve seen parents have to put the baby in a car and drive around for hours for her to sleep!
This bad habit (I won’t dignify it by calling it a disorder) can cause parents many troubled and sleepless nights. However, like all bad habits, it too can be cured.
Of course, our babies are born pretty helpless, especially compared to other species! They have a TON of needs that we have to fulfil for them as they just aren’t capable of doing many of them for themselves until much older, but one thing they actually do have the ability to do all by themselves from day 1, is fall asleep.
(It’s us parents that inadvertently mess that inbuilt natural skill up, and turn it into a dependency issue with, of course, the very best of intentions!!)
Does your baby not sleep? Here’s a new year’s resolution for her! Why not help her learn to sleep independently? It’s a fantastic life skill and sleep is as important as air. We all need it!!
Can My Baby Sleep Independently?
Yes, children are born with the innate ability to sleep, and sleep independently. That’s where the phrase ‘sleep like a baby’ comes from!
Though a child’s behaviour may seem to indicate that babies ALWAYS need someone to help them go to sleep, they don’t. However, some children have simply ‘lost’ the ability to sleep independently, and that’s what SOAD is.
It’s not gone for good and can be re-found if you help them and put in a little bit of work (a bit like my waistline after Christmas 😉).
But, like I said, modifying your behaviour just a little bit can help your child relearn this habit.
It might require you to be strong for a couple of nights, but usually, children learn to sleep on their own very quickly when implementing my gentle sleep training plans.
How Does a Baby Develop SOAD?
SOAD develops when the baby starts associating falling asleep with some kind of external help, rather than using their internal skills. It’s the O of the SOAD – the onset, that is the start of the problem as it occurs, as you would imagine at the start of the cycle.
They then incredibly quickly develop a habit that associates exactly the same thing at the end of every sleep cycle in the night. Well, to be specific it’s the start of the next one that is the problem.
Reality to them naturally becomes that someone or something else is required to get them to sleep, and that they can’t fall asleep sleep independently. They, being babies, cry when they think they can’t fulfil that need alone, and a horrible pattern of frequent waking and crying commences – and this can be every 45 minutes… ALL. NIGHT. LONG.
This can often result in babies becoming inconsolable at those wakes no matter what you try to soothe them. Its SAVAGE! I’ve been there! I nearly crashed my car with all three of my daughters in it after one particularly bad night with my then 5-month-old. Seeing those cars swerving in all directions on the motorway as I had drifted between lanes in my sleep deprived stupor is a moment I will never ever forget as long as I live.
That day, and the help I subsequently got that taught my formerly nocturnal baby to resettle herself happily every time she woke, is what made me determined to start a sleep revolution in the UK nearly 12 years ago! We didn’t hear a peep out of her within 3 nights, it was an absolute transformation for her and for the whole family.
Why did no one tell me how to prevent SOAD?
It’s not the parents’ fault that SOAD happens so commonly. It’s one of my biggest bugbears that new parents aren’t given enough information about cyclical sleep. That is precisely what is to blame, along with parenting not being easy!
Even with all of the information, it’s easy to get it wrong without an expert to guide you through the process. It’s precisely why I’ve train others to do what I am expert at and help parents avoid all the pitfalls!
I’m incredibly proud to have the largest group of certified sleep consultants in the whole of the UK trained and certified to practice my methods helping parents across the whole country.
The knowledge in the UK in the medical profession is sorely lacking when it comes to sleep. I hear such horror stories about the advice given, and so many frequent fob offs saying, they’ll grow out of it, it’s normal.
Excuse my language – but I call bullshit on that one! A whopping 84% of children who have sleep difficulties on their 1st birthday will continue to have difficulty until between 3-5 years without intervention. That’s one hell of a lot of nights for both parent and child waiting for them to just ‘grow out of it’!
What Parents Should Know About Their Baby’s Sleep Habits
Here is the information all new parents SHOULD be given:
- Very young babies have smaller stomachs, and they wake up several times a night because they are hungry.
- They will very often have other wakes too that are NOT hunger related.
- Within a few months, their stomachs grow, and they can eat enough to keep them happy and satisfied during a full night’s sleep (with of course natural wakes that they resettle at super quickly on their own). Once they have doubled their birth weight and are developing normally, they don’t NEED night feeding.
- ALL babies wake up in the night – more than once, actually. (Does every 45 minutes sound familiar?)
How Does ‘Sleep Training’ Work?
I’m not actually a fan of the word training ‘teaching’ and ‘helping’ are words I prefer but it’s so widely used it’s a better title to spread this knowledge! As I said, I think SOAD is a bad habit rather than a disorder. Like any other habit, it can be changed.
If you think about it, many adults also have these ‘conditions’ that must be met before they go to sleep – they must have this particular pillow, they can only sleep in their own bed, the room must be dark, or quiet, or they need music.
It could be anything!! (I’ve heard some really weird ones over the years, believe me!)
However, this is something we’ve taught ourselves to believe, stories rather than facts. We can still go to sleep without any of these conditions being met. We have trained ourselves to sleep with these props, and we can always train ourselves to get over this dependency.
It’s the same with babies. They may think they need mummy to feed them or rock them to sleep, but they really don’t. However, since we can’t really talk, discuss, or rationalise with them, we need to demonstrate it to them.
Sleep training is just a simple way where you get help from a professional to demonstrate sleep hygiene and good sleep behaviour to your child. Babies tend always to protest at change, be it changing of a nappy, their clothes or anything else, so there is often some protest at changes to their sleep environment too, just like you would protest if I took your pillow away.
Working with a fully certified, professional who has undergone extensive training themselves, means that you can navigate the objection knowing what to expect, what’s normal and also what’s not! Without help, the protest will very often cause parents to you second-guess themselves and very often do things which make the whole process 100x harder than it needs to be, and very often to fail time and time again.
Do it once and do it right is by far the easiest way on your baby and you and the protest normally subsides very quickly (have a read of the testimonials on the website and you’ll see!!)
Why do we recommend it?
Firstly, because while sleep is EXTREMELY important to our health as adults, it is even more so for children. If a child never learns to self-soothe and sleep independently, it affects the quality and amount of sleep they get, which in turn has an effect on their health, concentration, memory, and much more.
Secondly, lack of sleep caused by waking up multiple times a night just to help the child go back to sleep also affects the health of the parents. New mothers are three times more likely to develop postnatal depression if their babies aren’t sleeping through the night.
It can also affect your marriage, as lack of sleep can alter behaviour, making you more stressed, irritable, forgetful, and unable to think rationally.
- Is Sleep Training Safe for My Baby?
- Why and How to Help Your Child Adjust to Daylight Saving Time?
- Highlighting the Importance of Mental Health for New Parents
If you are looking for help with getting your baby to sleep, you can get a FREE 15-minute consultation with any of the Baby Sleep the Night ™-certified consultants. They can help your baby deal with SOAD as well as sleep regression, so do get in touch.