Sustainable Settling Tips: Part One
Updated: Oct 5, 2022
One of the main aspects of my approach to sleep is an understanding that supporting babies (and toddlers, and children) into sleep is developmentally appropriate and biologically normal. Whilst some babies seem to prefer their own space to fall asleep, and some babies adapt to falling asleep independently fairly easily, it is something that many children want or need until childhood. There is plenty of research indicating that physical closeness and emotional availability as a child falls asleep supports their development optimally. Babies are designed to fall asleep in the presence of a loving caregiver.
The understanding that supporting children into sleep is normal, and desirable, is in contrast to the model of sleep training culture, which holds that falling asleep independently is a goal we should all be striving for as early as possible.
So, if we see that supporting our children into sleep is a normal process that we might be doing for quite some time… How do we make it sustainable for ourselves? Or even, dare I say it, enjoyable?
Part of this is the mental reframe - turning “putting baby to bed” from a chore or an obligation to a privilege and an opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, there have been dozens of bedtimes that have felt like a chore and a burden and something I was desperately ready to be over. Of course there have. I am a human being with competing priorities and my own needs. But I have also had hundreds and hundreds of moments as I have supported Rowan to sleep that have felt beautiful, and peaceful, and relaxing.
So my question to you (and every parent I ever work with) is - how do you make this sustainable for yourself? Here are some ideas…
Tip #1: Making things physically sustainable - although rocking and bouncing are wonderful ways to help a young baby into sleep, they can feel pretty unsustainable for a toddler. So moving away from using motion once it begins to feel burdensome is a good idea. This might look like habit stacking in some more physically sustainable settling cues (patting, rubbing, cuddling) and slowly weaning off the bigger movements.
Tip #2: Whilst bed sharing can be a great tool to get everyone more sleep, if you are in a phase of multiple night wakes then sitting up to feed each time can be really tough and wake you up enough that it becomes harder to get back to sleep after each wake. Side-lying feeding can be a total game-changer for many bed sharing breastfeeding parents. Help your baby go to sleep or get back to sleep WITHOUT EVEN GETTING UP!
Tip #3: Floor beds are such a brilliant tool for making things sustainable. If helping your baby fall asleep looks like lying down and having a cuddle for a while… That’s a pretty different prospect to spending 20 minutes rocking, pacing, then waiting more time for a baby to be in a deep sleep, then transferring to a cot. If you haven't downloaded my free floor bed guide yet, what are you waiting for?
Tip #4: Headphones! Use one headphone to listen to podcasts, radio, or audio books while you settle your baby. If you fall asleep with them, make sure wires are inaccessible to baby and you only use one so you are still able to hear baby if they need you.
In my next post, I'll be looking specifically at naps and how we can make supporting our babies to sleep for naps more sustainable for ourselves.
So, how about you - what has helped you make settling your baby more sustainable? Or what things do you think you could try?