Why 'every baby is different' is a bandaid statement...
We hear it all the time. You will have heard it too - you may even have said it: "every baby is different". Usually this well-meaning sentence is spoken to a mum who is asking for some advice or admitting she is struggling with her baby's sleep or unsettled behaviour. The thing is, it's not necessarily true. This small cliche sentence can actually cause more harm than good. Heres why:
Babies have different hair colour, skin colour, head size, lengths, but ALL babies have the exact same basic primal needs - the need for food/milk and for sleep. In this sense, all babies are the same, not different. No matter what your baby's temperament or social conditions, they have the same sleeping and feeding needs as any other baby, meaning there is no way a 3 month old baby needs 5 hours of naps a day while another 3 month old only needs 2 hours. In fact, the younger the baby the less different they actually are as their primal needs govern them so strongly. As babies get older and their developmental stages are more noticeable, their needs do start to show differences, to an extent, in their sleep needs, for example one toddler might be ready to drop their daytime nap at 2.5 years old while another toddler is closer to 3. It is important for babies of all ages to have the best chance to meet their sleeping and feeding needs. Accepting your baby's poor sleeping as "every baby is different" isn't going to help your baby get the proper sleep they biologically need and may mask an underlying sleep, feeding or health issue.
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A temperament is the thing that controls your baby's behaviour. Until they're older, a baby's temperament is a very unconscious, instinctual thing - they aren't consciously in control of their behaviour. Temperament is really the only main point of difference from one baby to another at a young age. And temperament has very little effect on their sleep or feeding rhythms or needs. It instead governs their mood while they're awake; whether they have to cry a little before bedtime to wind down, whether they like lots of stimulation or are happy to just chill out. All of these things happen in their waking hours and are what make our babies unique. Temperament does not impact their sleep needs, so blaming a baby's poor sleeping on their temperament or the fact that they are a very "alert" baby is putting a bandaid on the real cause of that baby's sleep issue. You can definitely work with your baby's temperament to make things easier on everyone: if you have a "wise owl" or active baby - things like having more wind down time before naps or a less stimulating room are ways to help these babies switch off for example.
MISSING THE BIG PICTURE
Unfortunately telling a new mum that her 6 week old baby's unsettled behaviour and constant waking is because "every baby is different" is not actually addressing what might be going on to cause that behaviour. Not to mention it's the last thing she wants to hear when she's sleep deprived and asking for help! All babies cry or are unsettled for a reason, so by first meeting their sleeping and feeding requirements we have discovered babies with undiagnosed lip/tongue ties, reflux or feeding issues because we don't accept the excuse that every baby is different when it comes to baby sleep and feeding. If given the chance to feed and sleep at the optimum times/lengths and in the right conditions, all babies are actually remarkably similar. Any difference or deviation from this is very often a symptom of something else going on; more often than not it is a simple fix and a matter of tweaking feed and nap times. However dismissing unsettled behaviour or poor sleeping as babies merely being "different" can mask a real issue going on, which won't just go away with a bandaid.
So, when it comes to sleeping and feeding needs, most babies are, incredibly, the same. When it comes to temperament and behaviour, yes, all babies are different. If your baby is doing something out of the ordinary like catnapping, early waking or not settling well, there is always a reason and we're here to help figure out what that reason is!
Burnham, Melissa M et al. “Nighttime sleep-wake patterns and self-soothing from birth to one year of age: a longitudinal intervention study.” Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines vol. 43,6 (2002): 713-25. doi:10.1111/1469-7610.00076
Rybak, Anna et al. “Gastro-Esophageal Reflux in Children.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 18,8 1671. 1 Aug. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms18081671
Abulizi, Xian et al. “Temperament in infancy and behavioral and emotional problems at age 5.5: The EDEN mother-child cohort.” PloS one vol. 12,2 e0171971. 15 Feb. 2017, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171971
The best way forward is to take the guesswork out of it all by allowing your baby to fall into the rhythm of our Sleep Program.
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