This blog will give you three key takeaways to help you understand infant sleep and crying, and particularly focusing on the responding that comes with that.
First thing I want to share with you is an understanding of the difference between responding versus ignoring. Responding is when a response comes. Whether that be responding with soothing, responding with an answer, responding with comfort, responding with a nappy change or with milk, or whatever it might be, it’s a response. It means that your little one has a response, it might not be a response that they wanted, it might not be the exact response that they were looking for, but it is a response. So you are there, you are present. It’s pretty much, that’s the minimum requirement of a response, is that you come and show that you are present. Ignoring is when you don’t react. It’s like, I can hear that crying, and I’m not doing anything about it. I’m just going to ignore it and hope that it stops. In a nutshell, that’s the difference between responding versus ignoring.
Now, the thing I think that muddies the water, and that can confuse people, is the length of time it takes for a response to come. Does a slow response mean ignoring? Or is it just a bit of a delayed response? So sometimes you might be tied up with another child, a sibling, and one is crying and you’re like, “Yep, okay. Right. I’ll be right there.” Or you might have a baby napping and they’re sleeping peacefully so you take the opportunity to go to the bathroom, and then, oh gosh, baby’s crying. And you’re like, “Okay. Right. I’ll be right there.” And you just have to finish up and get over there. Sometimes there are things that delay your ability to respond. You don’t have to respond instantly for it to still count as a response when the response comes.
If you don’t respond for a prolonged amount of time, and I’m talking half an hour or more, then you’re starting to get to the point of, yeah, that’s just ignoring. But minutes are fine. Anyone can wait minutes for a response. And actually, it’s good too. It’s good practice. Anybody can wait that length of time. Once that response comes, then everything’s calmed down anyway.
The second thing I want to share with you is the response that you bring, ideally, needs to be one that best suits the child’s personality and you. It needs to be aligned, it needs to match. Now, there can be loads of different responses, of course. You can respond to a dirty nappy, a need for food, a need for comfort in all kinds of different ways. A response to pain is going to be different again. But when you’re responding to just, I don’t know, just almost like, for instance, with a wake up in the night, that response needs to suit that child. So some little ones respond better or receive a response of lots of comfort and physical touch and really knowing you’re there. Some little ones prefer that kind of response. They do better with that kind of response.
Others do better with the less is more, they’re like, “Okay. Yeah, that’s cool. That’s fine.” They’re more easily calmed. So for some, just going, “It’s okay, I’m right here,” is going to calm them. Whereas for others, it’s like, “Hey, hey, hey, I’m right here,” and they need the full-on touch and cuddle and everything. And that’s just personality differences. And that happens. And we are the same.
The third thing you need to consider, is once you know what response does best suit your child and that you feel comfortable delivering, and you’ve got that all aligned, is to then be consistent with it. So every time you get that particular outcry, be this night wakings, which is the one that we’re most commonly talking about here. We’re calm. We’ve woken up again. Okay, and we’ve got another waking. Is to be consistent. Every single time that they get that same response, they get used to it then. They come to expect it and they come to respect it, and they are calm and they are happy. Even if it’s not just the exact response that they wanted, they are reassured and they are responded to, which means you are miles away from any kinds of fears or distresses, senses of abandonment. None of that’s happening because you are responding.
If you can get really clear on what responding actually is and how it looks, and what works and doesn’t work for your child, is really going to help you. They are all different, like I said. There is no perfect response that suits everybody. There just isn’t. And what completely appeases one child will really annoy another. And so, it’s really good to get to know what that looks like and then you will be absolutely fine. So when those cries come, know what your response is going to be and be consistent with it.
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