Written by Sam Poulton at Karma's Lullaby
There's no true Sleeping Through
Sorry to break it to you guys! If you’re holding out for that time, bear in mind we all wake multiple times throughout the night, we’re just so well-practiced with getting back to sleep that we often don’t realise the extent of our own night wakes.
Children are exactly the same, they will always wake in the night. It’s how they get back to sleep, using the learned skill of self-settling that finally achieves the 12-hour dream known as ‘sleeping through’. But what this truly is, is them successfully resettling after waking without needing assistance.
Sleep crutches, such as feeding/rocking/cuddling/stroking to sleep, or your presence in the room or bed are absolutely fine to give your child for as long as you want and are able to (I actually encourage this for newborns, providing it’s all done safely). You won’t get any judgement from me, I did it all with my daughter, as that’s what felt right to me then and I loved every precious moment of it. But if a child over 6 months has dependencies like these, they’re likely to continue relying on a sleep crutch each time they wake. This can hinder the practice of self-settling.
This isn’t just true for babies
I often see it in toddlers and older children too. If your child is 3, 4, 5 years old, don’t assume that they mastered the skill long ago. Self-settling can be forgotten with lack of practice, typically if alternatives are offered, as new dependencies can arise when children form preferences.
If you had a wonderful sleeper as a baby, but they’re now 3 years old and regularly waking in the night to venture into your bed or call out for you, it could be that bed sharing or being tucked back in 3 extra times a night has become their newly developed sleep crutch and the behaviour they’ll hold out for.
It’s not all doom & gloom and baggy eyes
Offering rock-solid consistency to prevent mixed messages will go a long way to help them. Keep in mind, quality sleep is crucial for the physical and mental health and wellbeing of both you and your child.
When the bedtime battles, night wakings and early mornings become a problem, or start affecting you, your child or your family, rest assured there are gentle ways to introduce a different approach.
Make sure these remain the most precious of memories, don’t let them become ones you want to forget.
About Sam Poulton
Sam is a certified baby and child sleep consultant, offering a gentle and holistic sleep support service for children aged 6 months - 6 years. She spends her days adventuring with her spirited daughter and evenings running her business, Karma's Lullaby. Find out more at www.karmaslullaby.com