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Is Baby Sleep a Matter of Luck?

I hear it all the time. “I got so lucky with a good sleeper” or “My friend’s child is just naturally a good sleeper. She got lucky!” As a mom we find ourselves comparing our children with others. It is so second nature that we discount the truth behind the statements we make. Did this mom really get lucky? Or did she have something to do with it?

Why do some babies sleep well?

The real reason some babies sleep well is because knowingly or unknowingly, the parent or caregiver is doing something right. Sleep is like a puzzle and it’s not an easy one, and many factors play into having a “good sleeper”. How well your baby sleeps depends on their sleep hygiene:  Their wake times, feed times, nutrition, daytime activities, strategy to fall asleep, and so on. A chronically overtired baby can’t be a good sleeper. Similarly, it would be impossible for a baby to be an independent sleeper if they’ve never been allowed to try.  Unicorn sleep babies are not bringing their parents’ luck and the parents, intentionally or not, have established healthy sleep habits. 

Do genetics play a role in your baby’s sleep?

Similar to our genotype, all of us are born with a chronotype. This will determine whether we are morning people, night owls, or in between. There are medical conditions, both genetic and not, that can interrupt sleep. But even when there is a medical condition that is fragmenting sleep, healthy sleep hygiene will make a big difference. Sleep hygiene, good or bad, is the number one contributor to how well someone is sleeping.

My baby is a good sleeper, will they always be? 

Your little one’s temperament is a huge factor. While some little ones have an easy time with life changes, others don’t. Additionally, the first year of a baby’s life is the most fluid. Sleep needs and routines constantly change, and milestones can cause temporary sleep regressions. The key to keeping your baby on track when you hit a bump on the road is to stick to the sleep habits you’ve taught them.

Do babies figure out sleep on their own?

Sadly, most babies don’t. I wish it were the case because it would make things easy for us parents! The truth is over 80% of babies who don’t sleep well take until age 5 or older to develop independent sleep habits1.  Most of the time, kids who have developed poor sleep habits will carry them over into adulthood. 

There you have it.  Good sleep is not a matter of luck, it’s a matter of a lot of pieces coming together. It is the product of establishing habits (intentionally or not) that are appropriate for your child’s age and stage of life, and that are healthy for sleep. Don’t discredit what you’ve done to get you and your child sleeping well. Give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve worked hard! For those of you who haven’t reached your goals yet, keep at it. You weren’t cursed with a terrible sleeper. If you need some guidance, I’m happy to help. Book a free call with me and let’s get started!

-Lindsey Colburn, your Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant in San Diego, CA.

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Sleep Coach for Families