Your baby’s ability to soothe themselves to sleep, of course, has to be learnt. In the first few months this is unlikely, although if you are able to put your baby down awake right from the beginning, it can often help things to go a lot smoother, but this might not always feel or be possible. As your baby gets older and they are gradually able to sleep for longer stretches, you might find that they are resisting falling asleep, or waking seeking comfort. You can find yourself getting up multiple times a night, perhaps feeding your baby knowing that it is unlikely they are hungry.

There are of course sleep regressions that occur when your little one Is working particularly hard on achieving a milestone, be that turning over, sitting up, or becoming more aware of what is around them. You have probably noticed them trying out their new skills in their sleep, which can often disrupt their night. There are some very helpful apps that let you know at what point in your baby’s life you can expect this to happen, The Wonder Weeks being a good example. When these periods arrive, it is really important to maintain the consistency in your routine and respond to moments of waking as you have done, as far as is possible, to enable your baby to pass through this period and for their sleep to resume its previous pattern.

Your baby will of course require a little more comfort and help during this time, as they are in essence unintentionally waking themselves up with the effort they are putting into mastering their new skill. Your little one can feel quite frustrated as they battle to acquire their new ability and this often spills over into night time. This is very tiring for your baby and just as much for you.

For lots of people, without enough sleep it can feel really hard to be able to function well enough in the day, to carry out the tasks of daily living, but particularly to remain calm with your children, frustration and irritability tends to often increase and can lead you to feel guilty and also resentful towards your baby for the night wakings.

When you prepare your baby to sleep and put them in their cot, you might be looking forward to having a little time for yourself, it is after all the end of what might have felt like a long day. You are perhaps hoping to spend some time with your partner, or perhaps this is the only time you feel you can get to do some needed chores. During the night, when your baby wakes, it is probable that you feel very tired, groggy from being woken and you want to simply get your baby back to sleep so that you too can return to your own rest. When your baby begins to whimper and cry out, you might feel you want to respond straight away. It might also be that as you imagine your baby lying by themselves, that you imagine they feel left, even abandoned by you.

You can hear their upset and feel that to leave them to try to manage this themselves is unkind, even cruel. As we thought in ‘Baby’s slEEp and You,’ baby’s need to develop the capacity to soothe themselves and they can only do so if given the opportunity. It is important to listen to the quality of your baby’s upset and that there may come a point that they cannot calm themselves. It might help to hold in mind that their upset can often be a protest and it is not uncommon for the height of this expression to also be the point at which baby accepts that you are not going to come, that they are able to manage.

These are after all the developments of slightly new ways to tolerate emotions such as frustration, sadness and anger. It is all done in gradual steps, steps that your baby is able to take, though it is of course hard as these emotions are hard. But if your baby is to be able to sense that these feelings are not overwhelming, that they are bearable, then they need to be given the opportunity to feel them and to know these feelings will not take them over. This is a bumpy process and only by tuning into the nature of your baby’s expressions, will you begin to discern when your baby is working through their emotion and when they come to the point they cannot recover by themselves and so need your help.

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