Feeling Stressed or Negative? Your Baby Can Feel It Too
By Expert Contributor Katie Kovaleski
I am constantly stressing the importance of a healthy positive attitude with my clients who are sleep training. I’m sure at this point I sound like a broken record to many of them. But the fact remains that when it comes to not only sleep training but also any interaction you have with your child, your attitude not only matters but can actually be felt by your baby.
“Your infant may not be able to tell you that you seem stressed or ask you what is wrong, but our work shows that, as soon as she is in your arms, she is picking up on the bodily responses accompanying your emotional state and immediately begins to feel in her own body your own negative emotion” (Huffington Post, Infant Mother Stress, 2014).
In regards to sleep training this is especially important. It is imperative to approach the process calmly and confidently. I never sugarcoat or downplay the intricacies of what sleep training entails. My goal is to prepare families beforehand so they don’t experience undue stress while training. Sleep training isn’t and doesn’t have to be a stressful process if you know what to expect. It is harder on the parents than it is on their babies. The stress a baby might experience is most likely coming from the parents, which is a good thing; that parental stress can be alleviated and eliminated through the help and support of their sleep consultant.
One of the most common examples I hear often is when one parent or caregiver has a much harder time putting the baby down for naps or night sleep. By much harder time I mean that the baby takes much longer to fall asleep and/or puts up a fight. I always advise whoever is experiencing this to take a step back, take a deep breath and do a quick attitude adjustment.
It’s a chicken and egg scenario, did your stress levels and attitude influence the baby first which then influences and increases your amount of stress? Whatever the case may be we have to break that cycle in order to have your baby sleeping well. Instead of approaching bedtime with thoughts of “oh no, I hope he doesn’t cry, this is going to be awful, I feel so bad, etc.” you need to be calm and confident and think “this is easy, I am well prepared, I know he can do this, he is a good sleeper, this will work.” Those thoughts will not only influence your stress levels but also your body language. Rigid, negative thoughts will lead to a rigid and tense body and your baby will feel that right away when you pick them up.
If you’re considering sleep training and don’t feel confident I encourage you to seek the help of a sleep consultant. It is our job to prepare and guide you each step of the way and follow up with you daily to help you maintain that healthy positive attitude. There is also nothing wrong with taking a step back and waiting until you are confident and ready. We are here to help when you are ready to take that first step.