Is your baby a perfect sleeper?

Are your sleep expectations helping or hurting you and your baby?

I am a bit of a perfectionist.

It's one of those things that, as Monk would say, is a blessing and a curse. I am dependable, organized, and don't just do an ok job, I do my best job. I like that I can be counted on with whatever needs to be done, whether it's in my own life, my family's life or for someone else.

But then there's the 'curse' part of this scenario. That happens when I move from doing my best job to a perfect job. That turns whatever I do into a never ending project--because it will never be perfect--or into a constant disappointment--because I just can't do perfect.

That test in college that I'd already spent 15 hours studying for, I would keep studying for until I was sitting down to take the test and bleary eyed from lack of sleep. That healthy eating I'm working on? I will never eat as healthy as I feel I should (which means guilt and failure) and just to make it extra fun, I will fail at whatever healthy eating I'm working on. Because it's hard to eat perfect all the time--food is kind of one of my favorite things! And that clean house I dream about? Um, did I mention I have 4 young children?

After all is said and done, my perfectionism (which I am working on, by the way!) tends to hurt me a lot more than it helps me. I have a hard time seeing when something is complete or good enough. And instead of focusing on everything I've accomplished--which leads me to feel satisfied and proud of myself--I focus on what I did wrong or what's lacking. Not very helpful for life, folks!

So what does that mean for babies and sleep? You were probably wondering when I was going to get to that!

When it comes to babies and sleep, I believe in having high expectations. But there's a difference between high expectations and having impossible to reach and absurd expectations.

Let's look at what this might mean for sleep with your child. When I'm helping a child sleep better, I aim for good naps, a restful and long night's sleep (for everyone in the family) and a child that goes to sleep easily. I expect that a child may have a bumpy road while working towards this point. I expect that they might even get worse before they get better. And I expect that once they are sleeping well, they will still having some hiccups along the way like:
  • sleep regressions
  • resisting going to sleep (18 months is a common time for this)
  • some occasional night wakings (just don't let it turn into a habit)
  • illnesses, surgeries, moving, teething (short term!)
  • manipulating at sleep times - "I want or need ..." water, another book, another hug, anything you can think up they will try!
  • fears  (short term!)
  • testing boundaries (getting out of bed, yelling out to you, etc)
If I had too high of expectations, my thinking might be somewhere along these lines:
  • sleeping training will only take a few days (often not the case)
  • my child will always go to sleep happily
  • my child will never have a night waking
  • my child will not resist at all during sleep training (regardless of method)
  • my child will only cry for x amount of time and for x days
  • my child will never try to manipulate me at sleep times (I have yet to meet one of these children...)
  • once sleep trained, I will never have to worry about sleep again!
If you fall in the too high of expectations category you are probably fighting a losing battle. And you might be feeling endlessly disappointed in yourself and your child. OR, maybe the idea of having a perfectly sleeping baby seemed so far out of reach you gave up before even trying. OR gave up early on after things didn't go perfectly as planned.

I know how it goes. I was there with my oldest child. I read a sleep book. I felt encouraged. I felt like if I just did x (which was suppose to be easy, may I add), then I'd have a perfectly sleeping child in a matter of days. And you know what, that DID NOT HAPPEN and I felt like a failure and I felt like my child was impossibly difficult and maybe there was even something wrong with him or me.

So think about it honestly for a minute. Do you expect your child to be a perfect sleeper (nope!) or do you expect your child to be a really good sleeper (yes!)? If you can line up your expectations with what is reasonably possible, then you'll feel a lot more chill about things when they don't go perfectly--because it's what you thought would happen anyway. If things go better than expected, then awesome for you! This doesn't mean you should have low expectations or not do your best, it just means your expectations aren't so high they are unachievable and result in endless disappointment and frustration.

Because when it comes to sleep, good enough is....enough. And when we really feel that way about things, life gets a whole lot more peachy. And everyone sleeps easier.

And oh yeah. Stop comparing your baby to other babies (you can deny it, but I know you are doing it). All babies are not created equal. Let's just focus on this little bundle of joy and how they are doing, not how the whole world of babies are doing. Everyone will sleep better that way, too.

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