Do you have sleep perfectionism? It’s out there, the myth of perfect baby sleep. But is “perfect” really attainable?
Sleep perfectionism has a way of sneaking into a new mum’s life. And that can cause even more anxiety than normal. As a sleep specialist I want to let you know what’s “normal” and attainable around baby sleep to help you avoid or let go of sleep perfectionism. Including some practical tips for easing anxiety if the quest for perfect baby sleep is causing your eye to twitch.
I know a lot of you have worked hard to create good sleep habits and are well on the way to recovering some of your sleep debt. But what happens when you start striving for the unattainable “perfect” sleep for your baby? Yes, sleep perfectionism can easily sneak into a new (and not so new) mother’s life, turning the normal irregularities of a baby’s sleep schedule into a source of anxiety. Have you felt it?
I get it, as a Mum, it’s natural to want the best for your child – including their sleep. But the thing is, you’ve birthed a little human being, not a robot.
The quest for perfect baby sleep
The quest for perfect baby sleep can lead to increased stress levels and often leaves mothers feeling anxious. Instead of relaxing into a hot drink and a well-deserved break during nap time, some mums are left feeling nervous the whole time. Maybe that’s you?
Have you caught yourself watching the clock, and fretting if the nap isn’t exactly as long as it’s supposed to be? That’s sleep perfectionism.
In reality, there’s no such thing as perfect sleep. Honestly. Not many babies nap for exactly the same length every single nap time. There are lots of factors that go into nap length.
Don’t get me wrong, there is often “better” sleep. But it will never be “perfect”. We all have good nights and bad nights, good days, and bad days. It’s called being human.
Sometimes we can take a well-earned nap easily, and at other times we struggle to get to sleep (at any age). Understanding this can be the first step in freeing yourself from the uncomfortable shackles of sleep perfectionism.
Practical tips to ease anxiety and banish sleep perfectionism
Let’s talk sleep and discuss some practical tips and strategies that I hope can help you shake off the fear of failure and sleep perfectionism. Let’s ease your anxiety going forward in motherhood.
**1. Understand the Sleep Pattern of newborns vs infants**
Here’s the thing. Newborns don’t start following a regular sleep-wake cycle until they’re about 3 months old. They need time to develop their own circadian rhythms. When you start recognising that irregular sleep is perfectly normal for babies in the first few weeks or months of life, and it doesn’t reflect your competency as a mother, then you can relax into it a little more.
**2. Create a Consistent Bedtime Routine**
Babies thrive on routines. Create a soothing bedtime ritual that can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and sleep. It works! Your bedtime routine can involve a warm bath, a lullaby, and/or a bedtime story. Consistency is more crucial than perfection here. What’s important is creating a safe, soothing environment that encourages sleep to come.
**3. Use “the Pause”**
A technique suggested by many baby sleep experts is “the pause.” It’s a good one. When your baby wakes or stirs, instead of rushing in, pause for a moment. Just wait. Babies often self-settle and fall back to sleep on their own (yes, they do). This pause can help them develop those self-settling skills and reduce sleep-related anxiety for you. It’s a win-win.
**4. Limit Screen Time**
Blue light from electronic screens can interfere with your baby’s sleep-wake cycle (and yours too). Try to limit your baby’s exposure to screens, especially close to bedtime. Instead, engage in calming, screen-free activities.
**5. Practice Self-Care**
Taking care of a baby is demanding. It’s likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. Remember to take care of yourself too. Self-care can include simple activities like a short walk, a relaxing bath, or a moment of mindfulness. When you’re calm and relaxed, it’s easier to cope with sleep disturbances without escalating into anxiety.
**6. Join a Coffee Group**
Connecting with other mothers who are experiencing similar challenges at the same age can be comforting. It’s also a great way to share advice, experiences, and reassurances. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help, and no one is perfect – despite what social media reels might suggest.
Sleep Perfectionism is a Myth
Striving for perfect sleep for your baby can easily slip into sleep perfectionism, which only amplifies stress and anxiety. It’s important to understand that perfection is a myth – in sleep and in motherhood. There’s no such thing as super mum, and practice doesn’t make perfect (but practice will make you proficient).
You’re doing a great job even if your baby’s sleep isn’t perfect. Break free from the sleep perfectionism trap, and you’ll find that both you and your baby can have a more restful night. Oh, and that eye twitch? It could be lack of magnesium. Include more of that in your diet (or pop some Epsom salts in a bath) and that will go away too!
If you ever feel that sleep is not going well, please reach out. Chances are I can help! Sleep can be good without being “perfect”. There’s no need to suffer through sleep deprivation (which is at the other end of the sleep perfectionism spectrum). Book a free initial call and we can chat through what’s happening in your family. The fix is often easier than most parents expect!