It is a reality that most babies (and even toddlers!) need some level of parental support to fall asleep. However, suppose there are certain aspects around soothing strategies that aren’t sustainable for you. In that case, I absolutely encourage you to make changes around those aspects while still finding a way to support your child’s need for your presence to feel calm and safe as they enter sleep.
For example, it takes a long time for your child to fall asleep, or the support they prefer is making you uncomfortable or causing pain (for example, bouncing on a yoga ball hurts your back). You can change elements that no longer serve your family while meeting their need for your support in ways that work for you both.
When we support our children’s sleep, we build lifelong sleep health by:
•Lending our adult brain, so infants enter sleep in a rest and digest parasympathetic state of their nervous system
•Create an association between sleep and a feeling of safety and comfort
•Facilitate brain waves in sleep that are more restorative
•Influence less night waking
•Help them go to sleep faster
•Influence their childhood, adolescent and adult sleep to be more consolidated, better quality, reduced insomnia
Depending on your baby’s temperament, some babies need more support to fall asleep while others prefer more space. If your baby communicates that they need your support, that’s simultaneously normal, expected AND challenging.
Due to their immature nervous system, babies often need the soothing presence of an adult, and this isn’t something we can necessarily change without consequence. Our presence makes all the difference in their developing brain, supporting their lifelong mental wellness with nurturing care and support. Nurture is what builds the brain towards resilience and builds sleep health.
Supporting a child to fall asleep independently is a marathon, not a sprint.
Your child doesn’t have to fall asleep independent of parental support in order to sleep well. Regardless of if you feed, rock, bounce, hold or cuddle your child to sleep, it will never create sleep problems or additional wakes. This isn’t a skill that they must learn; supporting your child to sleep, however you choose, does not hinder them from sleeping well.
However, there are often times when parents want to make changes around how they are supporting their child to sleep, either because their current settling strategies are no longer sustainable for them or because they want to gently encourage future goals of falling asleep independently. Perhaps transitioning from bouncing to holding, or from feeding to cuddling to sleep. This is absolutely something that I can support you with. You can absolutely change how you support your child to sleep without removing your support all together; knowing that it is normal for babies, toddlers and even preschoolers to enjoy the warm comfort of your presence as they drift off to sleep.