Just about every sleep book on the market talks about the word “drowsy.” If you have a newborn, for example, many books state that the goal is to put your newborn down drowsy but awake. And in most cases, that works just fine, but sometimes it doesn’t.
So let’s talk about when it doesn’t.
If you’ve moved beyond the newborn phase, with a baby aged four months and up, drowsiness can actually become a sleep prop association. Let’s think about it this way: sleep is a journey, and if you are at point A, which would be wide awake, and are trying to get to point B, which is asleep, how you make the journey from A to B becomes important.
It’s the journey we need to fix in order for your child to start sleeping well. The goal is to have the child learn to make that journey all on their own — or independently, 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.
In some cases, if we help our baby into the journey by getting them drowsy with either rocking or feeding, then 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.
Why this becomes problematic for both baby and parent is that for your baby to return to sleep, you will need to assist them at least part of the way, which becomes frustrating on both sides. That’s why the goal is to teach the baby how to fall asleep from point A(wide awake). The only way to do this is to be very cautious in your bedtime or nap time routine that your baby is not entering into the drowsy phase.
So what does drowsiness look like?
Drowsiness can be tricky to read because in some cases, what you would consider drowsiness could actually be the first stage of sleep. So here are some things you want to keep an eye on.
The goal is to make sure the baby remains alert and wide awake through the entire bedtime routine and goes into the crib ready to start the sleep journey from point A.
You might notice that your baby does a little bit more protesting all of a sudden. This is a good sign that your baby was actually relying on you to help them into sleep in some way and they are struggling slightly with the process of going from start to finish all on their own. But don’t worry — the good news is that within a couple of nights, the baby will be able to make the journey independently and will start sleeping all the way through the night. (depending on age)
If you’d like to chat more about your baby’s sleep challenges, I’m more than happy to offer a complimentary 15-minute evaluation call to see if we can get to the bottom of your struggles! You can reach me by email at CassandrasSleepConsulting@gmail.com