How many moms out there have seen the endless parade of ‘tired as a mother’ coffee mugs and shirts? Or all the funny memes about how parents never get any sleep once they have kids? I’ll be honest and say that I’ve laughed at a few of them myself because BEING A PARENT IS HARD! It is exhausting and draining and you’re constantly second-guessing yourself and hoping that you aren’t screwing up your own children. What I don’t think is funny is the way that our society has encouraged this idea that moms just don’t get to sleep. We tell moms to suck it up and forget about ever getting another uninterrupted night of sleep until their children are grown and gone!
For all you tired moms out there, I’d like to encourage you by saying, You don’t have to be tired for the next 15+ years! Your babies have the ability to sleep well at a young age and that means that you can get sleep too! Sleep is extremely important for your growing baby. It is during sleep that their bodies are able to restore themselves effectively. Muscles grow, tissues repair, proteins are synthesized, and growth hormones are released. This will not happen as efficiently and effectively without proper sleep. Poor sleep can cause your baby to be tired and cranky and even have an effect on their ability to reach milestones. Not only is sleep important for your growing baby, but it is also important for you! For all the reasons mentioned above. Sleep helps refresh us and is imperative for our mental health. Depression is associated with poor sleep and moms are especially at risk postpartum. Studies also show that children do not simply outgrow sleep problems. If your baby is a troubled sleeper who relies solely on you to fall asleep, they will still struggle with sleep 3 years later unless good sleep habits are established.
Today I am going to give you 3 changes that you can make to help improve your child’s sleep.
1) Optimize their sleep environment
Your child’s sleep environment should be very dark. Unless you have an older child that is afraid of the dark, I usually discourage parents from using nightlights of any kind. Light can inhibit the production of melatonin and that is the important sleep hormone. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being light and bright and 10 being pitch dark), you want your child’s room to be an 8-10. Not only is this a good signal to their brains that it’s time to sleep, but it can also keep older children from getting distracted from the task at hand, sleep! If you child is old enough to be in a bed, remove all toys and books from the room so that the temptation to play is not there. Finally, white noise is your friend! For young babies, it can mimic the sounds of the womb and be very soothing. As your child grows, white noise is extremely helpful in blocking out the sounds of the rest of the family.
2) Consistent bedtime routine
You’ve probably heard this one before but it is so important and so often neglected. From the very beginning, you should have a consistent bedtime routine that you take your child through each and every night. This is another way of signaling to your little one that it is time for sleep. I’m always amazed that my 2-year-old can be awake and happy one minute but as soon as he gets his teddy bear and hears his sound machine he starts yawning and rubbing his eyes. He has learned what those cues mean and his body responds perfectly to them. Bedtime routines don’t have to be long and drawn out. The main thing is that they are consistent. Here’s an example: Go to bedroom, change diaper and put pajamas on, sing a song or say a prayer, hand your child their lovey, give family kisses and hugs, lay down in bed. Ta-da. The earlier you can start these routines, the better!
3) Follow age-appropriate wake times
Babies are very different from us adults and they’re only able to handle so much awake time at once. For example, did you know that a 2 month old should really only be awake for 1 hour at a time? That’s not much time but if they stay awake longer than that they will begin to get overtired and that can result in increased levels of cortisol in their little bodies (not a good thing). On the other hand, an 8 month old is capable of staying awake for up to 3 hours at a time. I find that parents have the hardest time with this change because our adult schedules don’t mesh very well with that of a baby. It can be extremely hard to get out of the house and run errands within the time frame that you child should be awake. However, parents who are consistent about protecting their child’s sleep reap the benefits of having a consistent sleeper. This guideline is more specific to children under the age of 2 but the spirit of the idea can be applied to older children as well. If your 4 year old wakes at 6am and is staying up until 9pm or later, they are not getting their recommended amount of sleep overnight. If you’re interested in seeing your child’s age-appropriate wake times, check out my Wake Time Chart.
Overall, being a mom is one hard job! There’s no reason to make parenting even harder by having tired and cranky children (or being tired and cranky yourself)! I hope these tips will make life a little easier on you! Hang in there tired mommas!
Meet Carianna Gibb, owner and founder of All The Sleeps Baby Sleep Consulting. Her goals is to help families with newborns, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers get adequate rest. She is the mother of two boys, Ethan and Campbell, and when she’s not spending time with her family or helping other families sleep, she enjoys running and reading. Follow All The Sleeps on Instagram or Facebook for sleep tips and more!
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