The Power of ‘Calm But Awake’

When it comes to teaching our little ones how to sleep independently, one phrase we often hear is “drowsy but awake”. The idea is to put your baby down to sleep when they’re sleepy but still conscious, theoretically allowing them to learn to fall asleep on their own. While this approach can work for some, for many others, it can seem as elusive as a mythical creature.

As a sleep consultant, I’ve worked with many families who find the “drowsy but awake” concept frustrating and, more often than not, unattainable. That’s why I want to introduce a different concept: “calm but awake”.

The Myth of ‘Drowsy But Awake’

The problem with the “drowsy but awake” state is that it can be incredibly tricky to pinpoint. Babies, especially young ones, have a very short wake window. They can go from being alert and active to overtired in a matter of minutes. Trying to catch that fleeting “drowsy but awake” moment can be a source of stress for parents, and it can often lead to babies becoming overtired, making it harder for them to fall asleep.

The Power of ‘Calm But Awake’

So what does “calm but awake” mean? This approach shifts the focus from trying to time sleep perfectly to creating a calm and soothing environment that encourages sleep. It’s about setting the stage for sleep, then allowing your baby to drift off in their own time.

With “calm but awake”, you might engage in a peaceful activity like reading a book or singing a lullaby, then place your baby in their crib or bed while they’re relaxed and sleepy, but not on the brink of falling asleep.

Why ‘Calm But Awake’ Works

The “calm but awake” approach has several benefits. First, it places less pressure on parents to get the timing exactly right. This can lead to a more relaxed bedtime routine, which in turn can help your baby feel more relaxed.

Second, it encourages healthier sleep associations. If your baby falls asleep in their own sleep space, rather than in your arms or at the breast, they’re more likely to associate their bed or crib with sleep. This can make it easier for them to fall back asleep if they wake up during the night.

Finally, “calm but awake” respects your baby’s individuality. Every baby is different, and what works for one might not work for another. This approach gives your baby the space to find their own path to sleep.

The Journey, Not the Race

It’s important to remember that teaching a baby to sleep independently is a journey, not a race. It takes time, patience, and often a lot of trial and error. It’s okay if your baby doesn’t take to the “calm but awake” approach right away, or if they still need some help falling asleep. What matters is that you’re making progress, however slow it might be.

A Helpful Resource

To help guide you and your baby on this journey, I’ve created a 5-12 month sleep guide. This guide is filled with practical tips and strategies to encourage independent sleep, including more insights on the “calm but awake” approach. It’s available for download for just $27.

I hope this post has given you a new perspective on baby sleep and some useful strategies to try. Remember, the goal is not to achieve ‘perfect’ sleep, but to create a peaceful and positive sleep environment that meets your baby’s unique needs. So, forget the elusive ‘drowsy but awake’ state. Instead, let’s focus on fostering a state of ‘calm but awake’ for better, healthier sleep.

Remember, every child is unique and their sleep journey is their own. Be patient, be persistent, and know that you are doing a fantastic job. Happy dreaming!

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