I Don't Care About Sleep, But What I Do Care About Is.........
An acquaintance asked me the other day why I'm so passionate and obsessed with sleep. And it made me realise something….. I actually don't care about sleep all the much ( unless im at home and unable to nod off that is) But what i do care about is being a confident and connected mum. Being a mother is the hardest most demanding job in the world yet so rewarding but going to work on a job with no sleep and n real idea what to do is no fun, being a new mum for many is exactly that. Going to work at a new job without any training or experience and no sleep whatsoever on top of that. We all know we are not at our best without much sleep, imagine having to perform at a job with no training and no sleep. Welcome to motherhood!!
Today im going to get you to look back over the last 7 days of your journal. Look at everything you've written down and also now remember as well. What have you noticed about how your baby eats, sleeps, feeds and plays. You probably realise you
Today we are covering the 4th and last category of sleep thievery.
So far we have looked at being aware,observing and keeping a journal
We have also looked at physical , emotional and intellectual reasons your little one may struggle to sleep. Today we look at environmental reasons, everything outside of your little one that can have an impact on sleep.
Where they sleep
Have you heard of Priscilla Dunstan? You may have seen her on Oprah or seen her Youtube video on interpreting babies cries (it's fascinating and pretty accurate watch it here) She wrote a book many years ago called child sense. It's good read and insight into child development. In one section she talks about sensory modes. Children learn about the world around them through their senses of touch, taste, smell.sound and vision. And as you can imagine these senses are pretty heightened. In The book Priscilla talks of how your little one will have one dominant sense or sensory mode - seeing, hearing, touching or tasting and smelling ( the last two go hand in hand). And how understanding your baby's sensory mode or preference can help you resolve everyday issues that affect babies ( hello sleep!) I read this book when i first starting running a 12 place under two’s unit and it was a real eye opener. It can be tough meeting the needs of a little one who can’t communicate verbally as yet never mind 12. Reading this book was sooo useful. I quickly recognised the dominant modes of the little ones and this made running things so much easier. I knew who would respond well to certain activities we’d have planned and who would find it a challenge
For example a child who was tactile and likes to touch learns lots about the world around them primarily through touch but it was also a good way to soothe and relax them too. We had a couple of very tactile boys who loved messy play activities and running around outside exploring the garden, climbing on equipment, those same little ones would also need cuddles and physical contact and touch to help them calm down ready to sleep. There were children who were very visual and loved lots of colours and high contrast pictures, books and activities to get involved with, they responded well to visually stimulating activities but would also struggle to nod off if the room wasn't dark enough to obscure all our colorful display boards or indeed the other children and grown ups in the room. We had children who were lead but what they heard. They would respond well to language and music , loving cause and effect toys and activities but i would also notice that if things got too noisy or loud they would struggle with overwhelm, i had a good few audial children and found that when i played music or soothing sounds that would help them to wind down and relax too. Lastly we had the smellers and tasters. These would be the little ones who put everything in their mouths to explore ( which is most children under 2 haha) they would LOVE food sometimes develop a love for biting too ( Oh Gosh) one little girl we had would always inhale deeply as soon as the dinner cart arrived in the room ( if she didn't like what she smelt it usually meant she would refuse to eat)
Have a think about your little one's dominant sense. Are they particularly tactile and like touching things or do different textures make them recoil and pull away, do they get overwhelmed in loud, noisy places or do the love all the differents sounds. Is your little one so visually aware in their buggy that no matter how tired they are what they can see around them is far more interesting than sleep?
Now consider your little ones sleep space. Is where they go to sleep somewhere that can encourage them to sleep or perhaps make getting to sleep difficult?
Is it warm enough? Or perhaps to warm? The ideal room temp is between 16-18 degrees.
Is the room dark enough ? are there any lights peaking through the blackout blind that may keep a visual little one distracted from sleep. Sometimes the smallest chinks of light are enough to get your little one's attention. Is where you live particularly noisy or even too quiet?
This is not a criticism ( mothers get enough of that as it is) just something i want to draw your awareness too. I mentioned on day too that sometimes our moods and feelings can impact on our little ones but also there are times when we are so tired and desperate to sleep we don't realise when our little ones are actually telling us to back off and let them get on with things themselves. I’ll give you an example of what i mean. I was working with a lovely mum who had been unwell and needed some sleep as well as some advice and support so i agreed to go in and take over at night so mum could get over the flu and i could see if i could see why her little one wasn’t sleeping. Her little one was asleep when i got there but woke up about 1 am hungry and cross, i fed her and burped her but couldn't get her to settle back to sleep at all. I knew she was tired but she just couldn’t seem to nod off no matter what i did. I rocked, cuddled ssshhhd her but what i didn't do was pay attention. I was so eager to calm her down i hadn’t realised that her wriggling & writhing in my arms was her way of letting me know she didn't want my help to get to sleep. I put her down in her cot for a moment and she stopped crying, she rolled onto her tummy and almost sighed before her eyes closed…. I couldn't believe it. That was easy. The following morning her mum commented and said she ‘ always writhes and wriggles in my arms when she's tired i just assumed she was struggling to get to sleep and needed my help’ it turns out her wriggling was hr way of telling us actually i don’t need help to get to sleep.
From that night onwards that little girl has slept like a log provided we make the room super dark and lay her down she gets into a comfortable position, suckles on her dummy and goes off to sleep. She gets annoyed when anyone tries to assist her off to sleep.
Her mother and i were so eager to help her sleep we had forgotten to be aware and follow her lead ( it still happens to me even now)
Could there be anything that you’re doing that may be stopping your little one from nodding off?
That’s it today
Tomorrow i am going to look at analysing your journals, so that you can identify your sleep thief or thieves and then start planning your solution.
Don’t forget to recap on the previous days of the week in case you missed out
Over the last 3 days we’ve talked about journaling and awareness of your situation. And how looking at behaviour and activity and asking questions can help you find the cause of your little one's struggles Sleep wise.
Sound little sleepers rarely happen by accident and in my years as a mum and night nanny i have noticed that parents of little ones who sleep well and have predictable sleep habits seem to know these 3 things. Wether they realise it or not i have found parents of sound sleepers undertsand that
To understand that the ability to sleep through the night independently is a skill to be nurtured.
Naps! Tricky for some a breeze for others but for those of us who find sort naps tough to solve, I have no qualms in using every trick (safety being paramount of course) in the book to help mums find ways of nailing naps.
Getting your little one down for naps can be tough, perhaps due to daylight and busyness that comes with it being the day an all. If your little ones already overtired getting them down to sleep at any time can be tough but during the day it's Just that much harder. Even if you get them down to sleep, your little cat nappers eyes just seem to pop open out of nowhere after 30 min and no matter
I talk to babies. Especially the babies I get to care for overnight. I talked all day long with 11 babies every day when I ran a baby unit and I still do it now. I do it because I like to put myself in the shoes of the baby i’m caring for and treat them how I would like to be treated.
When I'm working with a group of mums I often say to them “tell your baby what's going on let them know what's up!! Wouldn't you want someone to grant you the same courtesy?”