Is It Too Noisy for My Baby to Sleep?

Our question this month comes from Tammy (an avid Sleep Wise Consulting follower). She writes:

Q: "My in-laws are coming to visit for a week and are under the impression that babies will sleep through anything and that they just need to "get used to" the noise. What are your thoughts on this issue?"

A: On some level, we can get used to certain environmental noises when we sleep. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, you’re going to get used to a bit of baseline noise. However, we’re not in comas when we’re asleep, and neither are babies so whatever can potentially wake you up is probably going to wake your baby as well.

I always tell parents to be respectful that someone is sleeping and to keep in mind what kinds of things you would or would not do if your spouse were taking a nap. For example, would you vacuum right beside him?  (Well, maybe some of you would!)  Just be mindful that there’s someone in the house that’s sleeping and everyone needs to be respectful of that.

If you’re too quiet and tiptoeing around the house during naps, then any kind of little disturbance from dead quiet is probably going to wake up your baby, such as the telephone ringing or the dog barking. Therefore, you don’t want to be too, too quiet.

It can be difficult sometimes to convince in-laws or friends and family members that the things you’re doing for your baby are what is in the best interest of your family.

A lot of people write in and say they get tons of flak from their friends because they have to go home for nap time or can’t go out past seven because they’ve got to get their baby to bed. I understand where those people are coming from; they probably want you to stay out and have a good time. Once they see that your child is well-rested and happy when he is awake, most friends and family members come around.

I remember the first time my in-laws babysat for a weekend, while we went away. When we got home they told us that our son was an excellent baby... as long as they followed the schedule and stuck to his routines!  That told us that they might have tried to mess with his schedule a little bit and then realized that it wasn’t a good idea. They then saw the longer term rewards of keeping the routine because when he was awake, he was happy, engaged and playful. When he was ready to sleep, he went to sleep.

Since then they have always jumped right on board with our children's schedules. Now, anytime they babysit they’re very supportive of our routines. I even find them bragging to their other grandparent friends about how well their grandchildren go to bed and sleep and what good children they are. I think eventually your friends and family will too see that you’ve made a good decision for your child.

Another thing I hear a lot about is the issue of light sleepers. A lot of new clients or new parents to the program worry that their child is such a light sleeper and with the tiniest noise, he’ll wake up. That is common when a child is, what I consider, tricked into sleep. (For example, if you rock a baby to sleep and then try to carefully transfer him to his crib.)

What will happen then is that if there is a bit of environmental noise, he’ll probably wake up with a start and realize that he's not in your arms anymore. Often he will wake up crying right off the bat because he's no longer where he was when he fell asleep. For anyone, that would be fairly alarming. Those types of situations sort of create this hair trigger, with the tiniest noise your baby is going to fly awake and probably start crying.
 
Once children learn the skills for getting to sleep, they’ll become fairly deep and successful sleepers. If, for example an ambulance goes by in the night, I might wake up and acknowledge that it’s an ambulance but I’ll go right back to sleep. I wouldn’t need anyone to come to me or do anything for me. I’ll know that it woke me up but I will have the skills to get myself back to sleep. When a baby has those same skills, and your loud friend is laughing or telling a story that wakes him, he acknowledges that he heard a noise and he’ll go back to sleep. You’ll probably find that your once super light sleeper becomes a fairly deep sleeper, within reason, he will be capable of getting himself back to sleep should he be awoken by something.

Tammy, I agree that you do need to ask your in-laws to be mindful that someone’s sleeping and that they help keep the noise level to a minimum.

And – as always – I’m here for you when you’re ready to get started.

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