Few things have left me lying on the bathroom floor in the fetal position, crying, like my children’s erratic sleep schedules. When my kids can’t sleep I can’t sleep, which means I’m running on fumes for days on end as I work, parent, and maintain a home all simultaneously. And now that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been found to cause sleep disruptions in kids and adults, these days it feels even harder to help promote a consistent sleep schedule that everyone can rely on.
If there is any solace to be found in a sleepless night holding a crying baby or comforting a toddler, it’s the knowledge that I am far from alone. A 2018 study found that it’s common for parents to have trouble getting their kids to bed, getting them to fall asleep, and getting them to stay asleep throughout the night. And a 2019 study found that new parents can face up to six years of sleep deprivation as a result of their kids’ erratic sleep schedules.
So while us moms all face a slew of unique challenges, when it comes to sleep it’s safe to say that we’re all in the same boat. And in that boat, we’re likely thinking the following things when our kids just can’t seem to go (and stay) asleep.
1. “What am I doing wrong?”
Of course, more often than not our initial reaction is to look inward and consider how we’re contributing to or even causing the problem. And while it’s often not inherently our fault our kids don’t sleep as often and consistently as we’d like — and since growth spurts and developmental milestones can impact a child’s sleep, sometimes it’s just out of your control — there are a few “bad sleep habits” us parents can come to rely on that inhibit a child’s ability to get their snooze on.
Food, light, physical activity, and room temperature can all impact a child’s ability to sleep, Dr. Alan Greene, renowned pediatrician and co-founder of Bambini Furtuna, a mom-driven, doctor-aligned wellness brand dedicated to giving parents natural wellness solutions, said at HeyMama and Bambini Furtuna’s recent Childhood Sleep 101 Workshop. Your child’s room temperature should be between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit; there should be minimal light (especially blue light), as the absence of light tells our bodies it’s time to sleep; if you’re breastfeeding and feeding your child pumped milk, make sure it’s milk pumped at night and not during the day, as a mom’s breast milk will change at night to help her baby go to sleep; and make sure your child has had sufficient physical activity during the day, as working out at the same time every day promotes a healthy sleep schedule.
2. “Why does my child hate me?”
It’s difficult to not take your child’s sleep strike personally. Is this because I made you clean your room? Are you doing this to me because I’m weaning you off the boob, kid? Because for the love of our Lord and Savior Beyoncé, if you keep boycotting sleep I have no choice but to believe you just hate me.
3. “Is there something wrong with my child?”
If you’re an anxious meatsack like yours truly, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually start to worry that there’s something serious going on that’s causing your child’s sleep issues. And there are a number of physical, behavioral, and developmental issues that can cause sleep problems in infants and children, so it’s not like any of your concerns aren’t valid. If your child is snoring, their breathing pauses whale they sleep, they have a problem staying awake during the day, or they begin sleepwalking or having nightmares, it’s probably a good idea to talk to your pediatrician. Otherwise, as Dr. Greene recommends parents think back on how light, physical activity, food, and room temperature might be impacting their child’s sleep and adjust accordingly.
4. “I guess I’m never sleeping again.”
“A mom’s happiness depends on how much sleep her kids are getting,” Amri Kibbler, co-founder and chief experience officer at HeyMama, said during the Childhood Sleep 101 Workshop. I mean… spot the lie. As parents we are obsessed with our children’s sleep schedule and how that schedule impacts our own ability to sleep. And since working moms are still shouldering the majority of the parenting responsibilities, if our babies aren’t sleeping we’re often the ones charged with getting and staying up with them.
While it can often feel like we’re on our own in the sleep department, we absolutely are not. There are things you can do, and products you can purchase, that can assist your kid in getting the sleep they need. Dr. Greene suggests parents create a consistent sleep routine that your infant and/or child can come to rely on. Find ways to relax before bedtime, be it a bath or reading time, and set (and keep!) a consistent sleep time.
There are also products available that are specifically designed to promote sleep. Bambini Furtuna offers parents their Dreamy Hush Time roll-on oil ($27), a blend of herbs and flowers that help promote peaceful, restorative sleep. Many parents use antihistamines to knock their kids out,” Dr. Geene says. “While that can help them to not be awake, it doesn’t offer all the benefits of natural sleep. A nightly ritual of sleep cues is one of my favorite solutions.”
6. “Should I call my kid’s pediatrician?”
When in doubt, yes. That is what pediatricians are here for. I’m a big fan of calling my children’s pediatrician whenever I am overly worried about a rash, fever, or change in behavior. Sure, the front desk person and I are on a first-name basis and I have heard an exacerbated sigh on the other end of the phone a time or two, but peace of mind is more than worth it.
7. “Oh, no. I Googled it and now I’m convinced my kid has at least 10 rare diseases.”
Do not do this. Ever. Dr. Google is a liar 99.9% of the time and will bring about nothing but stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
8. “OMG, just go the f*ck to sleep.”
For the love of unconsciousness, just go the f*ck to sleep, kid
This story is powered by Bambini Furtuna. To us, our partnerships with brands are about so much more than business. We endeavor to carve out relationships with brands whose values reflect our own and those of our members, and work together to thoughtfully tell stories and create experiences that speak to moms’ real lives and real interests. We’re thrilled to work with them to bring stories like this to our community.