Worth billions of dollars and growing year on year, baby sleep is BIG business. Now, I’m sure you were all warned pre-baby that your nighttime routine was about to get flipped upside down. But, did anyone warn you about the sleep sharks?
The fear factor
The baby sleep industry is booming, at your expense. While you’re sending a frantic message at 2am through bloodshot-eyes, the I-have-a-magic-cure sleep consultant on the other end is busy working out how to sell you the dream.
It isn’t just charlatan consultants who are pouncing on sleep-deprived parents. It’s the new must-have gadget with the jaw-dropping price tag that will solve all your sleep woes. Or the tell all book that promises to spill all the secrets on how to get your baby sleeping on cue.
The truth is, there is no universal, one-size-fits-all way of getting your baby to sleep. As much as we want to believe the illusion that we have full control and need to learn how to unlock our sleep-inducing superpower, it simply doesn’t exist. I give you permission to slowly exhale the fear, you’re NOT doing anything wrong if your baby is not a ‘good sleeper’, sticking to a routine or sleeping ‘through the night’.
How to spot a ‘sleep shark’
People are preying on the vulnerability of sleep-deprived parents and I’m not here for it. Here’s how you know you’re swimming in shark-infested water. If you’re told:
- This course/product/coaching programme is GUARANTEED to give you a good night’s sleep
- THIS is the technique no one else knows about
- Your baby’s sleeping trouble is because of YOU, but don’t worry you can fix it with X.
Taking these statements out of context highlights the hard-pressured sales tactics that are used on parents, who quite frankly have enough keeping them up at night.
Before you hit ‘add to cart’ on any sleep-related product or service always make sure you’re a) not doing purchasing in the early hours of the morning b) not signing up as a knee-jerk reaction to fear and c) you’ve given it considered thought.
My top baby sleep aids and advice
No matter the price tag, the 5-star reviews or the celebrity mum influencer backing it, there is not a single product out there that will immediately solve your baby’s sleeping woes.
I’ve never positioned myself as a baby sleep expert, yet the topic of sleep crops up in 9/10 of my one-to-ones and is often the theme of most DMs I receive from mothers. I’ve worked with parents who have bought into strict sleep training programmes (I remember one specifically told me never to rock their child and I obeyed no matter how tempting it was!). Over the years, I’ve witnessed first-hand that no two babies are alike when it comes to sleep.
With all that said, I have spotted ways you can encourage your baby to sleep. You can do things to gently coax your baby towards sleep, but they are not ‘fixes’ or ‘cures’. It’s more about setting up an environment that signals it’s time to sleep and less about finding shortcuts to snoozeville. Here are a handful of ways that can help.
Sourced from The National Sleep Foundation
A fussy, wide-awake baby is often an overtired baby. I’ve found that being mindful of awake windows, nap frequency and sleepy cues, can go a long way. I’ve designed this chart to act as a guide, but it’s OK if life gets in the way at times and your baby doesn’t stick to age-appropriate awake windows. It’s one to keep in your back pocket, or will give you that ‘Aha’ moment if you spot your baby has been awake for a tad too long.
create a soothing sleep environment
Whenever it is possible and feasible, try to create a similar sleep environment for your baby. Whether that’s using a blackout blind to minimise any light interference (this is great for some daytime naps in particular once baby is 4 months +) or a white noise machine, setting up a space that is familiar can be comforting for both you and your baby.
Stop thinking about the ‘shoulds’
Most messages I receive start with ‘should’. It’s like a swear word to me, but I get it. There is so much advice out there that somewhere between your bff being helpful and your mother-in-law interfering, you start doubting your own intuition.
When it comes to sleep, as long you are following safe sleeping practices (outlined by the NHS and the Lullaby Trust) let go of the ‘shoulds’ and go for what feels right for you and your lifestyle. If co-sleeping is helping the whole family keep to a realistic routine, don’t stop because it isn’t widely talked about. If you want to learn how to help your baby self-soothe, don’t let the anti-sleep training brigade put you off. It is your baby, your choice – always.