Infant sleep is a controversial subject, isn’t it?! The support I provide to parents around sleep is different to a lot of mainstream parenting advice out there. I know how confusing it can be as a new parent receiving so much conflicting advice.
In fact, the two approaches to infant sleep I am trained in actually contradict each other in some ways, just to confuse matters more! I don’t want to add to that confusion, I really don’t. But I also don’t want parents feeling like there is something wrong with them or their baby when their baby doesn’t follow the made up baby sleep ‘rules’ so often shared by well-meaning family, friends and health professionals (putting baby down drowsy but awake, not responding when they cry, not making eye contact with baby, sleeping baby in a cot in a different room etc. These aspects of sleep training culture are all based on first-wave behaviourism approaches of the 1950s and unfortunately this advice hasn’t been updated according to what we now know about attachment psychology, neuroscience and sleep science.
I don’t want parents feeling guilty for co-sleeping when they have researched how to co-sleep safely, are loving the snuggles with their baby and are getting a lot more sleep as a result, as well as providing the physical closeness babies love. I want to encourage parents to parent in a way that meets their individual baby’s unique needs and is aligned with their values – focusing on what is important to them as a family and shutting out the noise around them telling them what they ‘should’ be doing. I want to encourage parents to experiment, to find a way that works for their baby and their family as a whole, to be flexible and adaptable. I don’t want them feeling locked into strict schedules with rigid rules, missing meaningful catch ups with friends or other enjoyable activities that would support their mental health because of a clash with ‘nap time’. I want them to enjoy their life with their baby and I want them to know that their baby is, more often than not, just being a normal baby, doing normal baby things.
It’s the lack of support and unrealistic societal expectations that’s making life hard, not their baby. I don’t want them to experience that awful feeling of going against their intuition by doing what they think they ‘should’ be doing rather than what feels ‘right’ – which probably only further exacerbates any stress they were already experiencing. I want them to learn to trust themselves, because unfortunately this is something that has been conditioned out of us and we constantly look to experts for answers, when a lot of the time, the answers are within us and we’re just needing a bit of support, guidance and reassurance along the way.
If what you’re doing with your baby is working for you and them, that’s awesome! If it’s working but you’re worried you’re setting up ‘bad habits’ – you don’t need to! There are ways of making gentle changes if what you’re doing now isn’t working for you in the future.
Despite knowing that I’m going against the grain here, I share this because I strongly believe parents who are parenting intuitively and in a way that works for them (but who may be feeling judged for their parenting decisions or are being told they’re setting up bad habits, damaging their baby’s brain or whatever else others / society may be telling them) need to hear that they’re not doing anything wrong.
And every parent who shares with me what a relief it is to feel heard and validated in their parenting decisions, makes it so worth it.
Edit: I also believe a missing piece in the conversation around sleep is babies being supported to express their feelings in loving arms. It can be very hard to support your baby in this way if it wasn’t safe for you to express your feelings as a child. I believe that receiving support yourself in terms of having your feelings heard and validated can be a useful step towards being able to provide this listening support for your baby.
If you would like some guidance and/or someone to walk beside you on your parenting journey, I offer tailored 1:1 support through my counselling and parenting support packages.