In my pre-sleep consultant days, I used to get annoyed when people would give me a hard time about catering to my child’s sleep needs. I’ve anxiously been waiting to write this blog post because I’ve got some ammo that I’m going to share with you all! Feel free to nicely inform your great aunt/neighbour/co-worker/random lady at the grocery store who feels the need to tell you how to parent your child. This blog also took quite a few edits as I like to keep my content PG….this one was a tough one for me! Let’s get started, shall we?
1. "You’re letting your child’s sleep schedule control your life. Babies should nap on the go."
BAH! You’re right- my child’s sleep IS controlling my social schedule. But this way I am ensuring my child is getting the adequate sleep they need. Babies are far from convenient, but being a parent means putting your child’s needs first. Yes, a baby can nap on the go, and really, so could you. You would have a much more restorative and healthy sleep at home in your dark, cool bedroom than you would in a car seat in a shopping cart. It only makes sense to provide your child with the healthiest sleep possible.
2. "If you only allow your child to sleep in a ‘perfect environment’, they will be too picky to sleep anywhere else.”
See also: my response from number 1. This is similar to “your child will learn to sleep anywhere and on the go if you expose them to it.” Children would still survive if their diet consisted of 80% fast food, but wouldn’t you want to provide your child with healthy, balanced, home-cooked meals? Sleep is like food. You wouldn’t want to feed your kid junk food- so why feed your kid junk sleep? I would like to add that my 20-month old daughter who slept her entire life in her dark cool bedroom for all sleep times, sleeps like a champ at daycare in a bright room full of other children.
3. “You put your kid to bed way too early, they should be staying up later so you don’t have to be home so early in the evening.”
Again, see response to number 1. There’s an actual scientific reason the early bedtime is the bomb. Children (and adults) have our deepest stages of non-REM sleep (the most restorative sleep) in the first 4-6 hours of the night. They then transition to lighter stages of this sleep. If bedtime is early enough, children will have enough time to return to the deep non-REM sleep stages for the last few hours of their night sleep. If bedtime is too late, they won’t be able to return to the deep sleep and then will be missing out on the most important stages of sleep.
4. “If you keep your kids up later, they will sleep later in the morning.”
No. This is 100% wrong. It may seem counterintuitive, but a too late bedtime is a sure way to be greeted by your child at 5:00 am. No thanks. Why does this happen? When children become overtired, their bodies produce cortisol (the ‘fight or flight’ hormone) and then they have an even harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. Getting your child to bed at an age-appropriate bedtime will ensure you catch their ‘sleep wave’ while their bodies are producing melatonin (the sleep hormone).
5. “Your kid sleeps too much during the day. If they slept less during the day, they would sleep later in the morning.”
Wrong! See response to #4. It’s darn near impossible for a child to go to sleep when their bodies are flooded with cortisol! Sleep begets sleep, the more your child sleeps, the more your child will be willing to sleep. Your child has set ‘sleep windows’ that we want to get them sleeping in. If we miss these sleep windows, they will become overtired, their bodies will produce cortisol and will have frequent night wakings and early mornings. AKA a disaster.
6. “We never had ‘Sleep consultants’ when my kids were babies, and my kid turned out just fine. This is a waste of money.”
Hold up, Gam Gam. You’re right, sleep consultants are a new thing, but I can guarantee you, if they existed when your children were little, you can bet your bottom dollar you also would have been contacting one! Since ‘back in the day’, people are now noticing the long term effects of poor sleep and the slew of health concerns associated with it. So, if you’re reading this and are one of those people who make these comments, recognize the fact that this mom is putting her child’s sleep needs before her own social needs. Rather than shaming others, lets all try offering a little praise.
Having children is a life changer- big time. But respecting your child’s sleep needs is part of parenting. Children would much rather stay up and play with mom/dad and friends than go to sleep. Children thrive on routine and structure- so it is our jobs as parents to ensure our children are getting the adequate amount of sleep in a day. Trust me, I know how inconvenient this can be as I’m a Mom of 2 young children (soon to be 3) who both have different sleep needs. Living on a farm and trying to make it to town and back between naps can be quite the juggling act- but to me it’s worth it. I would rather be making it home for naps than have children throwing tantrums at the grocery store because they are overtired I hope this blog post provides you with the knowledge and information needed when someone feels the need to provide you with some ill- informed advice.
Lindsey Hennigar is founder of The Sleep Ranch and a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute. She helps exhausted parents and families get the healthy, restorative sleep they need. Your child can LOVE sleep!