We are all creatures of habit, no matter the age- newborns, older babies, toddlers, school age kids, teens, adults, and seniors. We have our ways, we know what we like, and we like to know what to expect.
Remember how in college when there were no assigned seats, how people generally sat in the same spot each class? When someone had the audacity to STEAL your SPOT…cue the outrage!
Or how families ‘claim’ their pew at church and sit in the same spot each time?
Or how you and your spouse have a side of the bed and you DO NOT SWITCH.
What about kids? They may like the same thing for breakfast everyday.
They may know that after lunch it’s always nap time.
Or when they wake up in the morning the first thing they have to do is go to the bathroom.
Or sit in the same fancy chair for every book.
The Safety of Routine
Kids crave routine and consistency, especially toddlers and preschoolers. It’s what makes them feel safe. They love to know what to expect and what comes next. Nothing throws little kids into a panicked, chaotic mess than when something happens they aren’t expecting.
Habits & Sleep
Just like other habits and routines in our days, we also form extremely deep habits around sleep, sometimes without even realizing it. As adults, you probably do the same thing before bed each night or always have to have your pillow a certain way or have your body positioned in a particular direction for sleep to come.
Kids are no different.
It takes about 3 days for a child to form a habit- so if you repeat the same thing 3 times in a row (even in the same night), there’s a higher chance your child is going to expect it the next time as well.
Hear me though, this is not necessarily bad. Habits can be GOOD, it just depends what it is.
Have you heard the phrase, “You can’t create bad habits with newborns” or similarly, “Newborns don’t have bad habits.”? I totally get the heart behind this saying. We don’t want parents to feel guilty for holding their babies all day, for rocking them to sleep, or for savoring all those snuggles and I wholeheartedly agree. The newborn phase is so precious and parents should be free to savor this tender season as they so desire.
BUT. There’s always a but. Newborns DO develop habits. If you rock your baby to sleep for every single sleep for the first 3 months, that is how your baby is going to know how to go to sleep.
If you put your baby to the breast every time they fuss, that is how they will always expect to be soothed.
If every nap is in a car or baby carrier, they will expect naps to always be that way.
If you bedshare from day one, your baby will be used to always sleeping in bed with you and not initially be happy in another location for sleeping.
Like it or not, what you do every single day with your baby does develop habits.
Not all habits are BAD
However, and this is a BIG however, not all habits are BAD. It’s not about good habits or bad habits, but rather is that habit sustainable and good for your family?
Take the above examples: If you enjoy holding your baby for every nap, that habit is GOOD (aka sustainable).
If you are starting to feel resentful for holding your baby for every nap because you need to get things done, that habit is NOT GOOD (aka not sustainable).
If you are out and about a lot, your baby’s habit of only sleeping in the carrier/car is GOOD (sustainable).
If you are purposefully having to drive your baby around, even when you want to be home for a nap, that habit is NOT GOOD (aka not sustainable).
If a habit you have created in your family works for you, GREAT! There is no need to change or defend yourself against naysayers.
When a Good/Sustainable Habit Changes
Our lives are constantly changing, and what works in one season or phase of life may not work later on. For example, all those contact naps at the beginning of your life may no longer serve you or your baby as they get older.
Breastfeeding your baby at every wakeup through the night is just fine as a newborn, but can quickly turn into an all night buffet for older babies.
Laying with your toddler as they fall asleep is fantastic for awhile, until you become a prisoner to their room.
Bringing your kiddo to your bed may help get you through a few tough nights during a regression or sickness, but can quickly turn into the only place your child will sleep and now you’ve lost your bed.
What habits have you created in your house?
Take some time to think about the sleep habits that have formed in your house. How do they make you feel? Do they really work for your family? Are they the best for your family? If so, great! No need to change that habit.
Spoiler alert: Just because the habit results in sleep for your child, it doesn’t mean it works for your family. Your mental and emotional health matter too 🙂
When you’re ready to change a habit
While it take just a few day to FORM a habit, it unfortunately takes longer to change that habit. Younger babies adapt to changer more quickly (within a few days to a week) but toddlers and older kids often take 2-3 weeks to see change (especially if that habit is deeply ingrained).
If you want to change a habit:
- Make a Plan.
- Stay 100% Consistent.
- Give it TIME.
- Ask for help.
Helping your family change the sleep habits in your house is WHAT I DO. No matter how ‘bad’ or how long that habit has been going on, we can change it. You don’t need to feel stuck in a bad sleep situation just because you think it’s the only way your kiddo will sleep.
I’m here for you with personalized sleep plans and 1:1 unlimited support for 2-3 weeks. If you’re ready, we WILL see change.
Please, will you let me help?