Tackle Common Baby Sleep Issues with Expert Natalie Willes

While families often hear (and believe) the refrain “all babies are different,” a striking commonality abounds across certain sleep issues that seem to come up again and again across a wide swath of different kids. We asked Infant Sleep Expert Natalie Willes to discuss the most common baby sleep issues between 0-12 months and share some ideas on how to solve them once and for all.

3am Club: Hi Natalie! We can’t wait to hear your secrets to good infant sleep.

Natalie: Before we get to the topic of infant sleep, I’d love to introduce myself. My name is Natalie Willes and I’m the founder of Baby Sleep Trainer. Through my work I’ve helped over 10,000 families around the globe get their babies to sleep through the night and take healthy naps. There are few people on the planet who’ve had the privilege I’ve had to spend thousands upon thousands (upon thousands!) of hours helping navigate infant and toddler sleep issues and I’m thrilled for the chance to share my experience and wisdom with you via the NUK 3am Club. I’m here to help show you how to help your baby, and you, get the best sleep possible. So, let’s jump in!

3am Club: What are the most common sleep issues babies face?

Natalie: Among the myriad of sleep issues babies face, they all fall into one of two categories: nighttime sleep struggles and issues related to naps and daytime schedules. Both categories can present various problems. For nighttime, the most common issues families experience are frequent night wakings, inability for baby to get back to sleep easily once they wake, waking too early in the morning, or being awake for lengthy periods overnight.

3am Club: And what are some daytime issues you see?

Natalie: While popular culture seems to frequently focus on nighttime sleep struggles, daytime sleep issues are perhaps even more common than nighttime ones. Whereas it’s quite clear what everyone (infants and adults alike) should be doing at night—sleeping—daytime sleep is far more nebulous. Parents struggle to know how many naps their child should take, at what times they should take them, and how long they should last. Babies are often unable to sleep independently for naps, relying on caretakers to get them to sleep in the first place, and often also relying on their help to remain asleep for any significant length of time. Especially common are issues around short naps in babies of all ages, but particularly those younger than 7 months of age.

3am Club: So is there a secret to solving baby sleep issues?

Natalie: While I would love to be able to give you the key to solving your child’s sleep issues once and for all in the next few sentences, I am instead going to let you in on a little secret. The truth is, navigating your child’s sleep issues is a lot like taking on a new form of discipline. At the root, the cause of almost *all* sleep issues babies experience lies in a child’s inability to fall asleep unassisted. Falling asleep independently is often known as “self-soothing”. Many babies struggle to fall asleep without help from a parent or sleep prop because it’s next to impossible to get out of the newborn stage without having gotten into the habit of soothing your baby to sleep. As your newborn grows into an infant, they don’t suddenly attain the ability to fall asleep on their own. Like riding a bike, gaining the ability to fall asleep independently is a learned skill like anything else. If a child attains the skill of independent sleep, they will be able to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up overnight. Falling asleep on their own for naps means it is far, far easier to get baby on an age-appropriate daytime sleeping schedule.

3am Club: So how should a parent choose a sleep training method?

Natalie: I imagine many of you reading this are already feeling overwhelmed. The amount of information and opinions on the internet and in books about infant sleep can make forging a path forward very confusing and maybe even impossible. Thankfully, once you know the issue you’re trying to solve, finding solutions becomes much easier. As you identify your child’s core sleep issues (likely all related to being unable to fall asleep on their own), remember that it’s important to identify a method or training program that helps your baby learn how to fall asleep on their own. Once you’ve found a method you feel comfortable with, make sure it includes information on how to get your baby on an age-appropriate daytime schedule, as well as information on how to maintain healthy sleep habits into the future.