Teaching a baby the skill of falling asleep is one of the first skills we will ever teach our little ones and indeed one of the greatest skills we can teach them. We all know how vital sleep is for ourselves and for our children. Having adequate sleep is even more important for babies and young children who need sleep to grow, store memories and develop, mentally and physically. It goes without saying how very important sleep is.
To sleep and to fall asleep is a wonderful natural activity. A baby would have been sleeping in his mother’s womb for much of the time before he was born. Sleep is not a difficult thing for a baby to do, but if you begin to do too much for baby to get him to sleep, you begin to take away his sleep independence. He slowly learns to become dependant upon you to help him sleep. In fact, he begins to learn that he needs external help in order to fall asleep.
It can get tiring very quickly for you if you take away baby’s sleep independence. By teaching baby good sleep associations and encouraging good sleep habits from early on, baby will be assured of the vital sleep that he needs.
What you teach a child, they will often take as the absolute truth. Imagine you taught a child that a sock was called a banana (we wouldn’t do such a thing) but imagine it. The child, until corrected, would think the word for sock was not sock but indeed banana. That is how children believe so passionately about Father Christmas and The Tooth Fairy. They have taken us at our word. Until they learn differently, they believe it to be the truth. Similarly, if you teach baby that by rocking or feeding him to go to sleep is the way to go to sleep, he will believe that that is the only way to go to sleep. Each time you rock or feed baby to sleep, you take away from baby the precious chance and opportunity to fall asleep alone.
It may feel that we need to help babies fall asleep or actually put them to sleep each time, but in reality it is not always necessary. As adults, we are not put to sleep. We fall asleep. Sleep is not a science, but a skill.
By teaching a child good sleep habits and positive sleep associations you are setting them up for great sleep in the future. It’s never too late to start. Teaching sleep should always be done in a gentle, loving way. Just as if you were teaching anything else to a child in life: with time, patience and consistency, sleep independence is absolutely achievable.
About the author
Tracy Newberry, a baby sleep coach and sleep consultant, is the founder of Happy Baby and Me. She teaches sleep in a gentle reassuring way; never using any of the ‘cry it out methods’. Tracy was passionate about working with children from an early age and began working as a nanny in London when she was 18. A year and a half later, she returned to her home country of South Africa, where she nannied and worked as a nursery school teacher.
Arriving back in London in 2009, Tracy continues to work with families, growing her experience and childcare knowledge. As her passion for teaching sleep grew, she set up her own business Happy Baby and Me. Tracy now helps many babies and young children learn the wonderful skill of falling asleep in a gentle, caring way.