Waking Up in the Bathtub

Imagine this: it’s a normal night. You snuggle up with your partner, fluff your pillow and pull your covers up to your chin and sink into a deep sleep. A couple hours later, your eyes snap open. But something is not right. The surface below you is too hard, and you can’t feel your pillow anymore. Your partner is nowhere to be found and you sit straight up, only to realize you are sleeping in the bathtub. You freak out, start yelling “How did this happen??” while you step out of the tub and head back to your bed.

Weird, right? Imagine that this happens five times a night, every night.

Stay with me…

While my clients have children with many and varied sleep issues, 9 times out of 10 the culprit is that they feed, rock, bounce or sway their child to sleep in their arms and slip them quietly into bed and sneakily tiptoe out the door. Once their child has gone through a sleep cycle or two and wakes slightly, they feel that they are “in the bathtub.” They fell asleep rocking with their bottle in their mother’s arms and the next thing they know, they are alone in their crib. They freak out, and I don’t blame them!

All babies (and humans, for that matter!) wake about 2-6 times a night in between sleep cycles. And they will never be content and comfortable to put themselves back to sleep without panicking and needing assistance until they wake up, comfortable and in the same place that they fell asleep.

This is why falling asleep independently is the absolute cornerstone of any successful sleep plan. Once children get used to falling asleep in their crib, it is no longer “the bathtub.” It is their cozy bed! They will still wake up through the night but are happily reassured by the fact that they are in a familiar place, make themselves comfortable and fall back asleep. But until then, they will often wake up in confusion and frustration, finding themselves in a place they don’t know how they came to be!

As with hitting any milestone where our children become more independent, as parents, our job is to assist them in any way we can to become more and more comfortable in this new skill. Gentle methods of sleep coaching do just that. At an appropriate age, helping your child learn independent sleep is a gift to them, and to your whole family!

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I’m Katelyn,
Award-winning pediatric sleep consultant, child development expert, and most importantly, wife and mom.
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