Perfectionism and What it Means for Your Baby’s Sleep

Do you identify with being a “perfectionist”? Or maybe you feel you are a perfectionist when it comes to your baby’s sleep? 


Do you have a lot of stress or anxiety around wanting your baby to sleep a certain way? Maybe it’s around their sleep schedule, or their sleep needs being different from what the “average sleep needs” are for their age. Or maybe it’s around never knowing when or how often they are going to wake up. 


If this resonates with you, then this blog post is for you! 


Sleep can feel like a personal validation. It’s one of the few “measurables” we have with our babies. It’s SO easy to tie our own success or failure as a mom to how well our baby sleeps. But that’s just not accurate. You are doing an AMAZING job, and whether or not your baby is sleeping perfectly is not a reflection on you as a parent. 


Please also know that you are certainly not alone, it’s very common to feel this way. There are things you may be doing to exacerbate the issue, though, and there are also things you can do to mitigate the issue. 


In this blog post I am going to talk about: 


What is perfectionism with regard to baby sleep? 


How to know what you can control versus what you cannot control


How to deal with feeling perfectionism around your baby’s sleep 




What is perfectionism with regard to baby sleep? 


For MANY of the families we work with, feeling stress or anxiety around their baby’s sleep is a big part of why they are reaching out for support. 

When we are sleep deprived, a vulnerable new parent, have perfectionism tendencies to begin with, have OCD, have postpartum anxiety, or postpartum depression, etc. we often feel better by seeking control. And this can look like wanting to control our baby’s sleep. 



Baby awake in crib |The Peaceful Sleeper


There is a fine line between working hard to optimize what you CAN control about your baby’s sleep and falling into a negative place of having unrealistic expectations and trying to control what you ultimately cannot. 


So learning what you can vs cannot control is the best place to start. 




How to know what you can control versus what you cannot control



First thing’s first. I’m going to remind you of something no parents wants to hear: You cannot MAKE your baby sleep. 


Baby not sleeping |The Peaceful Sleeper



I know. It can be hard to accept that. Sometimes there is this feeling that if we just do our part and do “everything right” then they’ll “obey” and SLEEP. But it just doesn’t work that way.


Let me break this down and also validate when it does make sense to be concerned about your baby’s sleep. 


Similar to the “division of responsibility” for feeding, you have what your responsibilities are around sleep (what you can control) and then there are your baby’s responsibilities (what they control). 


What parents can control around sleep: 

  • Environment 
  • Choosing when to offer sleep 
  • Offering support to sleep 


What parents cannot control around sleep: 

  • If your baby chooses to sleep and how much sleep they get


So the responsibility of actually sleeping, falls on your baby. Not you. 


Of course, they are just babies and as such we want to give them as much support or opportunity to sleep as makes sense, and try our best to play detective and figure out what they need to optimize their sleep (more on this below). However at the end of the day, you can’t make a baby sleep. 




How to deal with feeling perfectionism around your baby’s sleep 



There are things you may be doing to exacerbate your sleep perfectionism tendencies, so first you would want to address those. It’s important to determine what warrants concern about your baby’s sleep (or lack there of) versus you just feeling that you want more control over their sleep, when in reality they are getting the sleep they need. 


Optimizing your baby's sleep |The Peaceful Sleeper


First of all, be aware that you are not comparing your baby to other babies or their siblings. We also don’t want to put too much weight on sleep “averages”. Every baby is different and has different sleep needs. What’s most important is that your baby is getting the sleep THEY need. Some babies have lower sleep needs (meaning they are thriving on less sleep than the average for their age) and some babies have higher sleep needs (meaning they require more sleep than the average for their age to be happy and healthy).


There is also a lot of pressure out there around when your baby should be hitting “sleep milestones”. 


For example: 

  • When your baby should be sleeping through the night
  • How many night feedings they should be having
  • What time they should wake in the morning
  • How many naps they should be taking 
  • How long naps should be


It can be very stressful and frustrating if you feel that your baby is not where they “should be”, at a certain age. But the fact is, every baby is different.  


So here’s what you CAN do: 


Do what you can to optimize your baby’s sleep, but know that they may not fit the mold of what you want their sleep or sleep schedule to look like. Ultimately, what is most important is that they are getting the sleep THEY need. 


Hint: If your baby is happy and healthy and meeting their developmental milestones, those are good signs they are getting the sleep they actually NEED.


That being said, if you don’t feel they are getting the sleep they need, and/or their sleep schedule is not working for your family, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. 


This is where we come in. We are here to help you determine if your baby is getting the sleep THEY need, and then optimizing their sleep, so your baby is sleeping the best they possibly can be. 


We give you a variety of strategies and help you choose ones that are a good fit for your baby and family. If there are concerns around something preventing your baby from getting the sleep they need, we take a holistic approach and play detective with you to dig into the “why” behind their lack of sleep.


Every baby can get better sleep, but what that looks like is different for every baby. So for example, if someone is promising you they can get your baby to sleep through the night by a certain time, that to me is a red flag. 


Recap on perfectionism and what it means for your baby’s sleep 



If you are experiencing stress and anxiety around wanting to control your baby’s sleep, please know you are not alone, and we can certainly help. 


The big piece is determining what you can control/what warrants intervention versus what you can’t control/doesn’t need intervention/is you having unrealistic expectations. 


There is zero shame or judgement here. We all struggle with wanting to control what we cannot to some degree. 


When it comes to your baby’s sleep, our team is always here to help you. We will work with you to support you in your sleep goals, and help you optimize your baby’s sleep to the best it can be, while also helping you have realistic expectations. 


Click here to check out all of our consultation options!


Christine Lawler

Christine Lawler

MS, LMFT, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Hi! I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, practicing for over 13 years. I’ve set out to do ALL of the research and I created a method to optimize baby sleep that is tuned in, empowering and WORKS. There absolutely should be joy in motherhood, and I have learned that every baby CAN get better sleep!

Read more about my team here.

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