I think that more or less all of sleep books out there talk about the word 'drowsy'. Let's say it is a book about newborns then the book will likely tell you that the goal is to put baby down drowsy but awake. This in most cases, works really well but sometimes it does not work.
Today, we will concentrate on when it does not work.
Now, let's imagine we have move forward past the newborn stage and baby is now around 4 months old. This drowsiness which we have used up until now can become a sleep prop. Sleep is a journey and wide awake is point A and fast asleep is point B.
This journey into sleep becomes really important, as anything external within that journey usually leads to the child needing that 'prop' again and again to fall to sleep.
The ultimate goal is to have the child learn to make that journey all on their own — or independently, we like to say — so that when they have a naturally occurring wake-up during the night, they can make the journey back to sleep easily and on their own.
Sometimes, if we help our little one in the sleep journey by getting them drowsy, rocking or feeding the when they have a naturally occurring wake-up sometime in the night or during a nap, they won't be able to get back to sleep from point A to point B. They will want you to come back into the room and help them get started on the journey.
This becomes an issue for both baby and caregiver when in order for baby to fall back to sleep, they will need the caregiver to assist them either part of the way or fully back to sleep. This is why the goal is to ultimately teach baby how to fall to sleep independently. The only way to achieve this really is to ensure that in the bedtime or naptime routine, the baby is not becoming drowsy.
Ok, so what does drowsiness actually look like?
It can be tricky to judge because in some cases, what you would consider drowsiness could actually be the first stage of sleep. Here are few things to look for:
1. Looking spaced out, or what I like to call “the seven-mile stare.” If your baby seems to start looking into space, this is an indicator of drowsiness. A good way to avoid this is to talk to baby, tickle them, or remove your baby from the breast or the bottle before resuming feeding again.
2. Heavy blinking. Ensure that baby looks alert and are not blinking heavily. This can also be an indicator of drowsiness. A good way to avoid this is to talk to baby, tickle them, or remove your baby from the breast or the bottle before resuming feeding again.
3. Closing the eyes for a few minutes at a time while having the bedtime feed. The key is to make sure that your baby’s eyes stay alert and open through the entire feed.
The ultimate goal is to ensure that your Little Darling remains alert and fully awake through the entire nighttime routine and goes into their cot ready to start the sleep journey at Point A (wide awake).
When starting this, you may notice that your little one protests about going to sleep wide awake. This a a sure sign to know that they are in fact relying on you to help them to fall to sleep. The good news, within a few nights, baby should be able to make the journey independently and will start sleeping all the way through the night.
If you'd like to chat more about your baby’s sleep difficulties, I'm more than happy to offer a free 15-minute call to see if we can get to the bottom of your struggles!