I have been asked this question a lot as the holiday season is upon us.
“My in-laws are coming to visit for a week and are under the impression that babies will sleep through anything and that they just need to “get used to” the noise. What are your thoughts on this issue?”
On some level, we can get used to certain environmental noises when we sleep. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, you’re going to get used to a bit of baseline noise. However, we’re not in comas when we’re asleep, and neither are babies so whatever can potentially wake you up is probably going to wake your baby as well.
So, I always tell parents to be respectful that someone is sleeping and to keep in mind what kinds of things you would or would not do if your spouse were taking a nap. For example, you’re not going to vacuum right beside them. Just be mindful that there’s someone in the house that’s sleeping and everyone needs to be respectful of that.
If you’re too quiet and tiptoeing around the house during naps, then any kind of little disturbance from dead quiet is probably going to wake up your baby, such as the telephone ringing or the dog barking. Therefore, you don’t want to be too, too quiet.
It can be difficult sometimes to convince in-laws or friends and family members that the things you’re doing for your baby is what’s in the best interest of your family. Many people say they get tons of flack from their friends because they say they have to be home for nap time or can’t go out past seven because they’ve got to get their baby to bed. I understand where those people are coming from; they probably want you to stay out and have a good time. Once they see that your child is well rested and happy when they are awake, most friends and family members come around.
I remember the first time I had a nanny to help me when we first got settled in Fayetteville. She always commented on how easy my kids were to put down… if she followed the schedule and stuck to their routine! She saw the long-term reward of keeping the routine because when they woke, they were happy, engaged and playful. When they were ready to sleep, they went to sleep.
Now she is a mom herself and sticks to her son’s routine and he has
been a great sleeper since birth and she can proudly and confidently tell her family that his sleep schedule is an important factor in his growth. I think eventually your friends and family will see that you’ve made a good decision for your child and realize they too want a happy, well-rested child.
Another thing I hear a lot about is the issue of light sleepers. A lot of new clients or new parents who hire me worry that their child is such a light sleeper and with the tiniest noise, they’ll wake up. That is common when a child is, what I consider tricked into sleep. (For example, if you rock a baby to sleep and then try to carefully transfer him to his crib.)
What will happen then is that if there is a bit of environmental noise, they’ll probably wake up with a start and realize they’re not in your arms anymore. Often they wake up crying right off the bat because they’re no longer where they were when they fell asleep. For anyone, that would be fairly alarming, so those types of situations sort of create this hair trigger; with the tiniest noise and your baby’s going to fly awake and probably start crying.
Once a child learns their own skills for getting to sleep, they’ll become fairly deep and successful sleepers. If, for example an ambulance goes by in the night, I might wakeup and acknowledge that it’s an ambulance but I’ll go right back to sleep. I wouldn’t need anyone to come to me or do anything for me. I’ll know that it woke me up but I will have the skills to get myself back to sleep. When a baby has those same skills, and your loud friend is laughing or telling a story that wakes them, they’ll acknowledge that they heard a noise and they’ll go back to sleep. You’ll probably find that your once super light sleeper becomes a fairly deep sleeper, within reason, and capable of getting themselves back to sleep should they be awoken by something.