"Babies will sleep when they need to sleep" - True?

Has anyone told you 'Don't worry, your baby will sleep when they need to sleep'? It's an interesting conversation to have. There are a few important things to consider with this statement.

Firstly, yes sometimes babies and children will sleep when they need to because they end up with so much 'sleep debt' that they end up with a biological catch up. Literally they become unable to resist the need or 'pressure' for sleep as they become so so so tired. (Please do note this is very different for newborns. Newborns can become so overtired that they literally are unable to find sleep and this is very distressing for them.)

Have you yourself ever experienced that overwhelming tiredness when you literally feel you could lie down in the middle of the floor and fall asleep? Or even standing up!? Like you cannot keep your eyes open another second? That's the biological catch up. They can often give you one or two nights of 11 hours straight, out of the blue then resume the frequent waking and nap refusal.

So while there is some truth to this statement about 'they will sleep when tired' we can probably agree that there is another path we could take for our little ones.

You will hear us say time and time again that sleep is developmental. It's a skill that benefits from practice and support. Often we believe it's just automatic but that idea often goes out the window when sleep becomes a concern. Babies benefit greatly from time and effort spent on helping them learn sleep skills. They benefit from predictable sleep routines and our respect for their awake times.

So while a baby can definitely sleep when they are tired wouldn't it be nicer to enable them to find sleep before they are so tired and in so much sleep debt that their bodies and minds crash out?

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