For babies, sleep is like a nutrient!
Sleep is a nutrient for your baby, just like milk is. When a baby sleeps is when they grow, when their learning consolidates, when their body repairs and strengthens their immune systems, when their brains create and connect new neurons, when their emotions are regulated.
Milk and food sustains a baby's physical development. Sleep sustains their physical, mental, emotional and social development. Simple as that.
Sleep needs to be held in the same esteem as food. We cannot simply skip naps or miss bedtimes; you would never dream of skipping a feed or giving your baby less milk than they need?!
Bad sleep shouldn’t be normal for a baby
I'm talking, to an extent, about the general acceptance that poor sleep is "normal" for a baby, that you shouldn't seek to improve your baby's sleep situation if you've got a bad sleeper, that chronic sleep deprivation is ok for both baby and mother. Poor feeding is quick to be addressed and improved upon; if a baby isn't feeding well and is losing weight it becomes a medical concern and appropriate, intervention steps are taken. This needs to happen with sleep too
Sleep is a nutrient.
When your baby has decent naps a whole raft of incredible things happens - your baby's growth hormones are released, their energy is restored and stress reduced, memory is repaired, new brain connections are created, immune system is strengthened and their appetite is regulated.
Get your little one’s sleep back on track.
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Over tired babies
When a baby naps poorly or has a broken night sleep because they were over or under tired or they are too reliant on a parent-controlled sleep association, they will be in a constant state of overtiredness. This raises cortisol (stress) levels in their bodies, inhibits their ability to concentrate, hinders social function and of course causes extremely unsettled behaviour.
Achieving good sleep isn't hard or complicated, just misunderstood and poorly prioritised.
Sleep is a nutrient.
But not only is good sleep important for it's own benefits; it is also part of a healthy cycle for your baby that incorporates a baby's other main nutrient: feeding. If a baby is sleeping poorly they can also be feeding poorly. This can be due to your baby being too tired to take a decent feed, relying on feeding to go to sleep therefore not taking a big enough feed because they fall asleep, snack feeding all day or general lack of appetite associated with lethargy and fatigue. One of our customers, Emily, recently said:
"Our baby is happier and healthier than he has ever been before! He was always a smaller baby but now, thanks to sleeping much better, has put on lots of weight and has a lot of energy to explore and play during the day! We no longer have bouts of screaming and whinging for no reason."
Sleep must be provided for babies in the same way milk/food is. Sleep is something our babies fundamentally need in order to thrive. But, I hear you say, exactly how are we supposed to improve our baby's sleep?! Well first of all, giving sleep the respect it deserves and accepting that you can make some changes is the biggest step forward. From there, it might be as simple as tweaking a baby's awake hours, adding or taking some things away from their sleep environment, changing their nap structure around a little bit or guiding your baby to falling asleep independently in their own cot.
Sometimes, it does come at a price and the cost is usually a short-lived sacrifice of time in order to prioritise and work on a baby's sleep. Some people balk at that, but I look at it rationally - it is only temporary and in return you will gain a baby who naps well, sleeps well at night, is happy while awake, and, most importantly, is getting the good quality sleep they need.
It's a price I gladly pay, afterall, sleep is a nutrient.
- Golem, D. L., Martin-Biggers, J. T., Koenings, M. M., Davis, K. F., & Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2014). An integrative review of sleep for nutrition professionals. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 5(6), 742–759. doi:10.3945/an.114.006809
- Karraker, K.H. and M. Young. Night Waking in 6-Month-Old Infants and Maternal Depressive Symptoms. J Appl Dev Psychol. 28(5-6): p. 493-498. 2007.
- Scher, A., W.A. Hall, A. Zaidman-Zait, and J. Weinberg. Sleep quality, cortisol levels, and behavioral regulation in toddlers. Dev Psychobiol. 52(1): p. 44-53. 2010.