What are you looking forward to once your baby is a great sleeper? Probably the same thing the Grandparents are looking forward to!
For most parents, the answer is right there in the question. They just want their baby to be a great sleeper. To get the sleep they need to be happy and healthy, and obviously, they want the same for themselves.
Once they’ve moved past the first few blissful mornings when they wake up, realise that their baby has slept through the night, and is still sleeping, they start to discover that a well-rested baby brings some unexpected benefits.
The thought of being able to leave baby for a sleep over with the Grandparents starts to become a reality. Minus the anxiety!
Spending the night somewhere outside of your home has a very intimate quality to it. Whether you’re a young kid spending the night at a friend’s house, the first time you and your partner sleep in the same bed, or the first time you stay in a hotel on your own. Sleeping somewhere forges an emotional connection. For Grandparents, having their Grandchild sleep in their home is super special.
It’s a reminder of their days as new parents. A living, breathing testament to the family they’ve built together. A chance to just wrap themselves up in all of that family love.
For Mum and Dad, this is an opportunity to go out on a well-deserved date night!
The majority of parents I work with haven’t enjoyed that luxury since the day they brought baby home from the hospital. Whether that was 3 months ago, or 3 years ago.
Now, there is some groundwork to be done (namely some time with me and my program!). Once you have completed this step, the next step is to coach your parents!
Now obviously some parents are going to be completely awesome. Wonderfully willing to do whatever they need to do to keep great sleep on track. Unfortunately, not all of them are as supportive as this. They may have different views to you, and that’s ok.
It can be a bit of a balancing act to insist that your parents respect your little one’s schedule and sleeping arrangements, while still respecting their role as experienced and awesome caregivers.
Here are a few tips on how to do exactly that:
Respect your elders
Above all, remember that the in-laws are not rookies. They’re seasoned veterans who have been through everything, or similar, to what you’re going through now. So even though you may need to to establish some ground rules, avoid approaching it the same way you would a teenage baby sitter. Demonstrating confidence in their abilities will help to ensure that what you do ask of them, they will adhere to.
I see so many parents trying to play parenthood off as if they’ve got everything under control at all times. Even with their own parents. I mean, if anyone knows how tough raising a child is, it’s Grandparents. Don’t be shy to let them know how difficult it was to function when your baby was waking up every hour at night and how hard you’ve worked to remedy the situation. Understanding the emotional investment you’ve put into solving your little one’s sleep issues will help them feel a personal commitment to the routine.
Explain the incentives
Grandparents crave interaction with their Grandkids. I mean they absolutely crave it. Not that anyone can blame them, of course. Smiles and giggles and burps from a baby are wonderful to anyone, but to that baby’s Grandparents, they’re positively life-affirming. As such, they tend to want to keep baby awake for longer than recommended. This is especially true in the case of newborns, who can typically only handle about 45 minutes to 1 hour of awake time before they need to go back down for a nap.
My favourite approach to this situation is to explain the “long game” incentive of keeping baby on their schedule. If every time you pick baby up from their place, she’s cranky and overtired, you’re going to be reluctant to leave them overnight. If, on the other hand, she’s happy and rested every time you pick her up, you’re going to hand that baby over to them pretty much any time they’re willing to watch her, resulting in much more time spent with her overall.
Share your experience
If you’ve already got your baby sleeping well at night and napping well during the day, then you know what a difference it makes to their personality. Parenting is exponentially more enjoyable when your little one is well rested. They are in a great mood for one! So, make sure you let your parents know how much more enjoyable their time with their Grandchild will be if they adhere to the schedule. Laying down the law and making ultimatums around bedtime and nap schedules is much less effective than appealing to their caring, nurturing tendencies.
One last thing I’d like to mention here because I think it’s super important…
There’s a good chance your parents might end up being guilty of a wee bit of sabotage. If baby wakes up at night and cries, for example, they might respond immediately and feed them back to sleep. Or they might allow your toddler to sleep in their bed with them. They may hold them and rock them to sleep at bedtime.
That can cause some serious anxiety for a parent who’s invested a whole lot of time, effort, and emotional capital into breaking those sleep associations.
However, I want to reassure you that there’s typically no need to panic and call off any future sleepovers. Babies, even newborns, are surprisingly adept at recognising different sleeping environments and understanding the rules in them. Just because they get rocked to sleep at Grandma’s place doesn’t mean that they’re going to revert back to that expectation when you get them home. If they’ve developed some strong independent sleep skills, they’ll be back to normal pretty much immediately.
Now, if it is a regular deal that bub goes to their Grandparents, then it WILL start to impact home and bub’s overall ability to sleep well. So a conversation will need to be had I’m afraid.