If you hold your baby to sleep, he might get used to your comfort If he gets used to your comfort, he might expect it there all the time If he expects your comfort, he might cry when it’s not available If he cries, you’ll have to comfort him some more If you comfort him when he cries, he might think you are reliable If he thinks you’re reliable, he might expect you to understand him when he’s upset If you understand him when he’s upset, he might learn to regulate his emotions If he regulates his emotions, he might have an easier time forming relationships If he has an easier time forming relationships, he might become well adjusted If he becomes well adjusted, he might become self sufficient And if he becomes self sufficient… Chances are… He won’t want you to hold him to sleep anymore
This was originally posted to my Instagram account. It was inspired by the book ‘If you Give a Mouse a Cookie’
For a free printable version of this poem, click the link below:)
Every parent has been asked the question: ‘Does your baby sleep through the night?’. I have never used separation-based techniques with my son. And last night, a few days after turning 17 months he slept through from 7PM to 7AM without calling for me. Here’s how I did it.
First, let me back up a bit. Here’s the funny thing about this situation. That day, I wrote an Instagram post about how my toddler wakes an average of 2 times per night. My intention was to normalize toddler wakings, as this is a topic I feel is not often talked about. That same night, he slept through for the first time.
Maybe it’s a funny coincidence. Or maybe there’s a reason. I know a lot about sleep and I constantly talk to parents about following their children’s lead. This is what I do, I follow my son’s lead. But even so, in the back of my head there was always that thought: ‘Am I doing this wrong?’
You see, our culture is so saturated with this notion that ‘sleeping through the night’ is a necessary milestone. Not only that, but it is somehow insinuated that if your child does not, it’s your fault. It means you haven’t done enough to ‘teach’ them how to sleep.
And so that day, when I finally let go and announced to the world that I have a normal toddler; I relaxed a bit more. I knew that it didn’t matter whether or not he slept through. And so he did. Kids are amazing like that; they are always teaching us a lesson if we pay attention.
The other incredible thing that happened after that post is that I received countless messages from parents thanking me. They too felt there was something wrong with their toddlers, or that they had spoiled them, or that they should have sleep trained. Hearing that it is NORMAL for toddlers to wake up at night made them feel more confident in their parenting. Even further, many of them admitted that it wasn’t really their toddlers waking at night that was exhausting; but rather the many modern day pressures of parenting, including the pressure to get your kid to sleep through the night. Yes, it really is all as ridiculous as it sounds yet here we are.
How Did I Do It?
Now this is the part where I admit I may have misled you. You probably clicked on this to learn how to get your child to sleep through the night. The truth is, I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t get him to sleep through the night, he did it all by himself when he was developmentally ready to do it. Don’t click away in frustration yet! Let me explain why this is important:
I did not ‘teach’ my son to sleep
Sleep consultants all over North America are quick to tell you that your child will never connect sleep cycles unless you teach them to sleep. But the truth is your child is born knowing how to sleep! They spent most of their time in the womb sleeping, as a matter of fact. Sleep is a biological function that cannot be taught. What we CAN do is provide a loving safe environment that is conducive to rest. That is all I did.
I did not make my son fall asleep independently
Along the lines of this need to teach our children to sleep, sleep consultants will tell you that a child must fall asleep independently otherwise they will never know how to connect sleep cycles. Well this is just plain false. My son was nursed and cuddled to sleep in his floor bed and he proceeded to spend the night alone in his room. Did he wake at some point in the night? Probably. Everyone wakes up at night! But what probably happened is that he looked around at his environment, knew he was safe, and settled himself back to sleep.
I didn’t avoid ‘bad habits’
Another myth that drives me insane. They’ll tell you ‘Don’t nurse your baby to sleep’, ‘Don’t bring them in your bed or you’ll never get them out’, ‘You better night wean already’.
In the early days of parenting I did avoid all of those things. Read more about that in this blog post. And all that did was give me anxiety. Once I finally learned to trust my baby, I started allowing my intuition to lead and stopped parenting out of fear. I maximized my own sleep by safely bedsharing on my son’s floor bed (read more about our floor bed journey here) and adjusting my expectations. The truth is, waking once or twice a night was no longer an issue for me. I quickly nursed my son to sleep and fell right back asleep with him. Now that he slept through it truly didn’t make a big difference for how much sleep I got.
So there you have it. That is what I did or rather, what I didn’t do. I share this with you not so you can give me praise for my nighttime parenting but so you understand that parenting out of fear is not the answer. My son has been loved to sleep every night his entire life, he’s been nursed on demand, he’s been responded to every time he calls. He did not need to be ‘trained’ to sleep.
What Does This Mean For You?
First, I don’t want you to read this and think ‘Well my 17 month old doesn’t sleep through the night’. Due to my occupation, I know plenty of toddler parents who haven’t used sleep training. Some have had their kids sleep through the night by 1 year. Others have 2 year olds that have yet to do it. All of their kids are perfectly healthy and normal.
Most importantly, the takeaway is this: if your child is happy during the day, developing well, and getting the recommended amount of sleep within a 24 hour period, they are doing just fine! If, however, your child wakes up and stays up for long periods, wakes up hourly throughout the night, fights bedtimes, or seems in pain; there may be something preventing them from sleeping.
This is where I come in. I am here to help you understand sleep so it does not become a stress. I’m not here to give you a step-by-step guide to get your baby to sleep because I do not know your baby. Only you do. What I will do is provide you with knowledge, education, and encouragement. I will help you block out the noise and tap into your instincts.
Does this sound like what you’re looking for? Click here to see how we can work together. With every support package, I ask questions to get to know your family and I provide resources to help you meet YOUR goals. This is not a one size fits all approach. After all, your baby is not one size fits all.
We’re often told as parents to just ‘trust our instincts’. But this can be extremely hard for new parents because we live in a society where we have never been taught to trust our instincts. We’ve instead been taught from a young age to listen to authority, fit the mold, and never question. Add to that going through the immensely transformative process of becoming a parent to a brand new human being and it’s no wonder the first year is so hard!
So, first of all, do not feel guilty if you don’t yet feel those parental instincts. This is not your fault. You can, however, work towards becoming more in touch with it so that you can be the parent you want to be and block out the noise.
Two big things to keep in mind in this process are: reparenting yourself, and mindfulness.
I won’t get into repareting too much in this post because I could be here all day. But the important thing is becoming aware of your triggers and your own stories so that you don’t react to your child from your own wounds.
Mindfulness is the art of staying present in the moment. We tend to dwell on the past or stress about the future: both of which lead to anxiety and depression. So a mindfulness practice is just that: being in the now. One effective tool to get there is meditation. I highly recommend the free app Insight Timer which comes with many guided meditations. Yoga, exercise, dancing, and nature walks are also great ways to be in the now. Hopefully you are doing some of these in your day to day.
However, the key is integrating. When you find yourself in those moments where your child is pushing your buttons, what do you do to stay grounded? What do you do to keep your triggers from taking over? Finding a technique that works for you can be incredibly helpful.
What does this have to do with sleep?
We often talk about the effect of sleep deprivation on our mental health. But we rarely discuss the effect of our mental health on our children’s sleep. The reality is that our children are incredibly aware of our moods. When we feel anxious, they know it. And when we’re stressed to get them to sleep, they know it too! They naturally do not want to go to sleep when you are upset because their brain sees it as unsafe. After all, if mommy is worried it means something is wrong. Staying calm during bedtime will help our children stay calm too and therefore allow them to rest.
So I’ve rounded up some quick strategies you can use in the moment to get back to a balanced state. Please note that the important thing is to find what works for you! These are just suggestions.Use a grounding object during your mindfulness practice. For example, if you fidget with a hair elastic on your wrist when you get frustrated, try doing that while you meditate. This way you shift your brain’s association with fidgeting from an anxious state to fidgeting to stay calm. It’s amazing what we can trick our brains to do! Thank you for this suggestion Dr. Laura Froyen.
Try a breathing technique. Focusing on your breath can really bring you back to the moment. For example, take a deep breath in, hold it for 3 seconds, and let it out through your mouth as slowly as you can. You can also try making a ‘shhh’ sound or a hum to release some energy.
Try a mental distraction. Count one thing you can smell, see, touch, taste, hear. Or tell yourself your name, address, and age. Better yet, create a little mantra for yourself to say in these moments. A love and kindness meditation can go a long way to helping you find peace.
Try a physical grounding technique. Maybe it’s a yoga pose you enjoy that you can do in the moment. I find a cat/cow pose to help my anxiety or maybe you can go outside and put your hands and feet to the bare soil
Involve your child! Make it fun. Can you show your child how to breathe out fire like a dragon? (And in the process release some of your energy) or can you play a little chase game and release tension through giggles? Play is the best therapy!
Remember that it’s all about finding what works for you. It’s also not about being perfectly happy and peaceful all the time. You will get triggered. You will feel anxious. It’s simply about bringing ourselves down to a manageable state in those moments so we can be the parent we want to be.
Later, once you’re feeling better examine what happened. What triggered you? Why? What came up for you? How can you shift that for next time?
As always, remember that our children are HAVING a hard time, not GIVING us a hard time.
Struggling with bedtime battles? I can help! Click here to see my one-on-one packages.
If you’ve been following me on social media, you know that I love floor beds. I talk about how much easier our life is since moving my son into his floor bed and I love to recommend it to bed sharing families.
Important disclaimer: I encourage you to do your own research to decide what is a safe option for your child. While I would personally choose a floor bed from birth that is NOT the right choice for all families and it depends on a variety of factors. Please note this blog is to share knowledge and does not substitute individual advice.
I thought I’d start with my top reasons to get your baby a floor bed.
Why I love a floor bed
Fosters Autonomy and Trust
I often get the question ‘Won’t they get up in the middle of the night?. They absolutely can. And you have to be okay with that. The freedom of movement that comes with a floor bed means your child might get out of bed at night and play (mine has yet to do that because contrary to popular belief, kids WANT to sleep at night).
On the flip side, you get a child who feels trusted and has autonomy. This is why floor beds are often recommended in Montessori circles, where allowing children autonomy of their own bodies is crucial.
Allows for safe bedsharing
The misconception is that a floor bed automatically means independent sleep. But this couldn’t be further from the truth! The awesome thing about setting your kid up with a floor bed (preferably a double or bigger) is that you get to sleep there! As long as you’re following the safe sleep 7 you are good to go. This can be a great option if, like me, you have a partner that isn’t totally comfortable with bedsharing.
For our family, this means our son can sleep independently for naps and the majority of the night but then I can bedshare with him when he needs a feed and stay until morning. Win win situation.
Easier to soothe to sleep
Even though my husband doesn’t bedshare with our son, he still loves how easy it is to soothe him to sleep with the floor bed. It used to be so difficult trying to soothe him over the crib bars or trying to transfer him from our arms to his crib. Now when dad goes in to support him back to sleep, all it takes is a cuddle and then he can sneak away.
This is one of the biggest reasons I recommend floor beds to families. Often families really struggle to transfer their little one to the crib once asleep. And most babies do not enjoy being put in the crib ‘drowsy but awake’ (more on that another day). So the floor bed is a great way to cuddle to sleep and still be able to sneak out for some adult time.
More sleep for the parents
Every morning my son wakes up, nurses, and then goes off to play while I sleep for a bit longer. He looks out the window at the cars or plays with his toys. I drift off to sleep (which is great because I am not a morning person) knowing that he is safe in his room and enjoying his toys. If he was in a crib I would have to get up to get him out.
Even the fact that we can lay with him to settle him to sleep means we aren’t sitting up trying to stay awake in the middle of the night. This is so helpful in us getting more rest overall.
Floor Bed Options to Consider
Will baby stay in your room?
A floor bed can be in your room. In fact, it can be the bed that you all sleep on. Or it can be a bed in your child’s own room. It’s important to note that it is recommended for little ones to sleep in your room until at least 6 months of age, ideally until 12 months.
Another thing to consider is siblings. If there are toddlers running around the house you might need to be more careful about where you set the bed.
Size of the mattress
This is largely going to depend on the space that you have. For us, we started with a double mattress on the floor. This was great because there was plenty of room for me to sleep with my son. It also meant less risk of him rolling off (even though it was super low to the ground)
Frame or no frame
Many families choose to simply place a mattress directly on the ground. This is what we started with too. It’s inexpensive and you don’t have to commit if you’re not sure the arrangement will work. The main concern is that mold can form under the mattress as there is no airflow. Check it regularly and prop up the mattress against a wall to air it out every so often
Rail or no rail
Some floor beds have a rail so that the child cannot roll off, but there’s always a way for them to climb out if they choose to. This is an option if you feel nervous about them falling off the bed.
Purchase or build
There are many options to purchase online but there are also guides to build your own. This can save you money but also create a bed that is customized to your needs.
I’ve created a Pinterest board with some great floor bed options to consider. Check it out here.
Floor Bed Safety
Regardless of the bed you choose, the most important thing is to make sure the room is baby-proofed. Yes your baby will be able to wander around the room if they choose to, that’s the point! So you want it to be as safe as possible.
Anchor heavy furniture to the wall. For older babies and toddlers you also want to assess the risk of climbing and falling off something. Put yourself in your baby’s shoes and see if there’s a way for them to get up onto a dresser by propping on something else. And don’t underestimate your baby’s capabilities!
Check for choking hazards. General rule of thumb is that if an item can fit in a shot glass, it’s too small! Make sure your child’s space is free of small pieces they can choke on. Check toys for removable pieces also.
Outlet covers are crucial. For outlets that are being used, either have them behind furniture or you can purchase an outlet box to prevent your child playing with the plug.
A fan to help circulate the air is a great way to help prevent SIDS. A smoke detector nearby or in the room is important too.
Check that there’s no way for your child to open the window. Seems obvious but toddlers are so much smarter than we give them credit for! Install a safety guard if necessary.
If the rest of your house is completely safety proofed you might not need a gate. If not, install a baby gate at your child’s door so you can still hear them but they can’t run out. Of course if they are in the same room as you you could just shut the door.
Keep pets away from your child while sleeping. Also, particularly for younger babies, be mindful of older siblings running around.
Remember to keep blankets and pillows away until 12 months and follow the safe sleep 7 if you’re going to bedshare.
I recommend having the doors open to be within earshot or using a reliable baby monitor.
I hope you found this helpful! Are you considering a floor bed yourself? Let me know in the comments! If you’re thinking about transitioning from full-time bed sharing to a floor bed for independent sleep, check out my Bedsharing to Independent Sleep webinar where I give you all the tips and tricks to transition your little one.
Today I am sharing a story from a client of mine. This mama has dealt with a lot and I am hoping her story can help someone out there experiencing similar circumstances. When I met Courtney, her 14 month old son was waking hourly at night, taking 45 minutes to finish a bowl of purees (not able to handle solids) and not talking. He had every red flag for a tongue tie. But at 14 months this mama was still fighting to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Instead, she was being told to sleep train her baby and night wean. Luckily, she listened to her instincts and was able to get help. This mama is a true supermom!
‘Our son was born at 39 weeks via cesarean section because he was frank breech, the doctors were very concerned about his hips but all that turned out to be fine, everything seemed great. I thought they seemed so thorough, but there was one thing they missed that changed the course of our journey this past 16 months. My son has seen about 7 different pediatricians, and they all failed to diagnose his tongue and lip tie.
We had all the classic signs, when he was first born he latched on great or so it looked great but it certainly didn’t feel great to me. The lactation consultants I was seeing said it looked great and to give it time, and it will be uncomfortable at first but it will get better after about 2 weeks so I took that and went with it.
The first sign was that it wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was painful to breastfeed my son, my nipples were cracked and bleeding and blistered. It did heal but the blistered stuck around off and on until recently.
The second sign was at his 8 week doctors appointment the doctor was concerned about his weight gain, she said it didn’t seem like he was gaining weight the way they’d like him to. Of course that was the last appointment we had with her as we were moving 3000 miles away, so under her advice she said to check his weight when we got to where we were moving to, from Washington state to Florida. Once we arrived in Florida, we took him right away and all of a sudden the pediatricians here weren’t concerned at all. He “looked healthy and was just fine is what we were told.
A third sign was he was having horrible reflux, he was upset and projectile vomiting after every feed from 3 weeks old and on. I was told this is normal and not to be concerned over it because his epiglotis was not strong yet and it is normal for young babies to have reflux and they usually outgrow it. I was not satisfied by that so I did some additional research thinking it was something in my milk that was making his belly upset so I first cut dairy out of my diet and it seemed that his reflux was not as bad so for the first year of his life I was dairy free and I thought that was the solution to our problems. He still wasn’t gaining really well and sleep was never good either, I thought it was normal, but he was waking up every 1-3 hours all night.
A fourth sign was that he was super gassy and preferred to be on his stomach to sleep, being so scared of SIDS we kept him in the bassinet next to our bed and bought the owlet baby monitor to put on his foot to monitor his oxygen levels and pulse. He slept on his belly from about 5-6 months and still continues to sleep on his stomach at 16 months, he has always preferred it and that is because of the tongue tie, his tongue hasn’t been able to maintain the proper resting tongue posture due to the tongue tie, undiagnosed tongue ties cause issues with sleep, feedings and speech.
Another sign was that our son was a very quiet baby as far as babbling, we have frequently been asked on flights if we took his vocal cords out as a joke because he was so quiet the whole flight… turns out the tongue tie made it difficult for him so he was very quiet.
Once 6 months came along we were so excited to start solids to see his reactions and he showed 0 interest in solid foods. We tried baby led weaning and he hated it- he couldn’t chew the foods or move his tongue properly to maneuver the food around in his mouth. At that point, we tried purees and it would take him more than 2 hours to finish 4oz of puree, we thought ‘ohhh he really just doesn’t want it or like it’ so we tried few other purees and then dropped it thinking maybe he just wasn’t ready for solids. We were told the old saying that “food before 1 is just for fun”, we learned the hard way that it is not just for fun, it’s for the micronutrients as well! After 4-6 months the natural iron stores in their body are no longer enough for them and they need it through their diets, we didn’t know this and sadly our son became anemic and at 11 months was diagnosed so we had to start him on a liquid multivitamin. That is also when we started feeding therapy.
From about 7-11 months before his diagnosis, his sleep gradually got worse and worse, to the point where he was waking up every 20 minutes at night and it would take sometimes 40-60 minutes to settle him back down every time. Again, we thought this was normal and maybe he was teething but it was not normal. After a blood test confirmed his anemia, the multivitamin started and his iron levels normalized and were healthy again around 14 months, but he was still waking up 8-10 times a night. I thought ‘okay something else is wrong, maybe he is just so hungry because he wasn’t eating well for solids and was just stuck on the breast all the time’ so with feeding therapy and more structured meals we got his eating to a better place but still not great. It was the feeding therapist that noticed he doesn’t have a lot of tongue mobility, his oral motor skills were lacking.
After 15 months of his life, we were finally on the right track to getting some answers, we took him to the pediatrician and said the feeding therapist is concerned about a tongue tie and the pediatricians continued to dismiss our concerns. So I took him to a specialist that knows a lot about tongue ties where it was confirmed that he does have a tongue and lip tie, and that the tongue tie was affecting his sleep, eating, and speech development.
I took him to a different doctor to get his tongue tie released at 16 months, and immediately we saw a huge difference in the way nursing felt way more comfortable, and he actually napped in the car for the first time since he was a tiny baby, he napped when we got home really easily and sleep has gotten a lot better he went from 8-10 wakes a night to about 3-5 wakes depending on the night as he is also working on molars. Now we are watching as he heals to see if his mouth breathing gets better.
But all of this has stemmed back to a tongue tie, so I think it is imperative that every baby gets evaluated by someone that knows exactly what they are looking for, because 7 paediatricians and 2 lactation consultants all looked into my son’s mouth and all missed his tie and a lot of our struggles could have been avoided. I am hoping this reaches the right caretakers and that it can help if anyone else is having similar struggles. Thank you!
So what is Baby-Led Sleep and Wellbeing Specialist?
Before I talk about how this approach is different, let’s talk about the sleep industry for a minute. Unfortunately, the sleep coaching industry is not regulated, meaning anyone can call themselves a sleep coach or sleep consultant without any qualifications.
There are a number of certification programs available through various organizations but again, since there’s no actual governing body, there’s a wide range of education (or lack thereof) provided in these programs.
Now the majority of sleep consultants use traditional sleep training methods to help their client’s babies sleep. These include several different forms of cry it out, ferber, etc. Basically, there is usually a baby being left alone to cry in order to self-soothe.
But there is a growing number of families who don’t want to use these harsh methods to train their children. Especially with what we know about attachment and the importance of the parent child relationship. Moreover, we don’t believe that children need to be taught to sleep anymore than they need to be taught to poop or eat.
So Lauren Heffernan of Isla-Grace Sleep created the Baby Led Sleep method and subsequently the Baby-Led Sleep & Wellbeing Specialist Certification Program.
Try saying that 5 times really fast.
Basically, Baby Led sleep coaches support families with their sleep challenges WITHOUT using sleep training, instead looking at sleep in a holistic manner.
The biggest problem with sleep training culture is this belief that babies need to sleep through the night. Parents are bombarded with propaganda basically making them feel inadequate if their babies aren’t sleeping through.
Well, a huge part of my job is educating parents on what IS developmentally normal and appropriate.
So your one year old wakes 1-2 times every night? That’s normal
Your 4 month old only wants to sleep on you? Normal.
The moment you begin to understand how babies are meant to behave is the moment you can begin to accept that there is nothing wrong with your baby.
Ok, that sounds lovely. But how do you get more sleep?
Good question. Remember how I said we look at sleep holistically? What that means is that we view sleep as part of a bigger puzzle. We do not view sleep as a behaviour problem but rather as a manifestation of other things that may be happening with your baby.
So when I work one on one with clients, I have them fill out an extensive intake form. In this form, they answer questions about their sleeping habits, their nutrition, the parents mental health, babies mental health, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and more.
There are a million different reasons why children wake up at night. It’s their only form of communication. So it is our job to figure out what is happening.
When I see any red flags in a client’s answers, I refer them to the appropriate specialist to get support.
If we’ve ruled out any underlying conditions, I support families to gently shift their routines and approach to support their child to sleep.
Does that means there’s no tears?
Not exactly. I am not anti-tears. I believe that children should be free to express their emotions and frustrations. However, I do not believe they should be left alone to figure out their overwhelming emotions on their own. Their brains are not fully developed and they need a caring adult to coregulate with.
So in our work together, your child might cry. I would be surprised if they didn’t when you are making changes to their day. However, I will always encourage you to empathize with them and not leave them to cry alone.
So what’s the plan?
There is no pre-set plan. It varies significantly from family to family. In fact, I would argue that anyone who sells you a pre-made sleep training plan is scamming you. They don’t know your baby. Only you know your baby.
A huge part of my approach is empowering you to trust your instincts and follow your baby’s lead. I believe we have gotten to a point in our society where we are so far removed from our natural instincts because we are bombarded with information and ‘rules’. I help you filter through all the noise to find your inner guidance and be able to tune in to your baby.
So you’re basically saying to wait it out until things get better?
No. I don’t believe that it is either sleep train or suffer with bad sleep forever. There is a middle ground and a gentle respectful way to make changes that gets you more sleep. In the process, I help families reconnect with their little ones and deepen their relationship.
I like what I hear, where do we start?!
I have a variety of ways to support you depending on your budget and need. For starters I have a free nap guide ready to land in your inbox when you sign up for my newsletter (scroll all the way down to the bottom of my site).
On the low price-end, I have great webinars every Thursday on various sleep topics. You get to ask questions live and get a link to the replay and accompanying handout for every webinar you attend.
Last but not least, I have a few different ways to support you one-on-one which you can check out here. Regardless of the option you choose, you will be asked to fill out the Intake Questionnaire which we will review together and you will have access to a plethora of resources.
I also do free 15m consultation calls to gauge your needs and help you decide what package is right for you (if any!). Simply fill out my contact form here.
Not currently in need of support? If you like what you see here, I would be very appreciative if you share with a parent or parent-to-be who could use this information. Help me spread the word that sleep training doesn’t have to be the answer.
Put your baby to sleep Alone, on their Backs, and in their Crib
You should room-share (but not bed-share) for at least a year. Have the crib close to your bed but not too close so you don’t risk pillows or blankets falling on your baby. Also, sleep train your baby at 6 months so they learn to self-soothe. Which you should probably do in a separate room so as not to confuse them.
You should exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. But also take time for yourself and involve your partner. So you should probably introduce a bottle (of breastmilk of course) but not before breastfeeding is established.
You should continue to breastfeed on demand until your baby is at least 2 years old. But you should night wean at 6 months. And don’t do it in public because no one wants to see your nipples. And definitely don’t nurse to sleep because that’s just creating bad habits.
Ideally give them a pacifier to reduce the risk of SIDS but not too early because they’ll have nipple confusion. And be sure to take it away before they get too attached.
Turns out, not so much. At least not for me.
Let me back-up a bit. There are many little kids who dream about growing up to be doctors, firefighters, president, etc. I was the little girl that dreamed of being a mom, the older cousin who spent every family party playing with her baby cousins. I was always the teacher during games of ‘school’ and loved playing with dolls.
Unsurprisingly, I became an Early Childhood Educator. And I yearned for years to become a mom. My husband and I both wanted children from the moment we started dating but due to school, work, and various reasons we waited almost 10 years before welcoming our son.
I tell you all this so you understand why I was determined to do it all perfectly. After all this was my destiny! I was not only going to be a mom, I was going to be a great mom. And of course that meant following every single guideline to a T.
They tell you parenthood is exhausting. But you don’t really get it until you’re in it.
I quickly realized in the first week or so of parenting that following all the sleep rules was not sustainable. I was lucky enough to have a mostly seamless breastfeeding journey and my son nursed around the clock. During the day I could pass him off to dad in between feeds to take a rest. Or have someone hold him while I napped. But at nighttime I was on my own.
I was somehow supposed to feed every 1-2 hours all night, WITHOUT falling asleep with him, putting him down in his bassinet (where he just woke up again) and trying to sleep in the short breaks in between. I fell asleep on the couch several times with him on my chest which I now understand to be extremely dangerous (yes more dangerous that bedsharing but more on that later).
Somehow we pushed through that phase and began putting our son to sleep in his crib a couple feet from my bed. I would wake up at night, sit up in bed to nurse him, and put him back. Oh by the way, he also had reflux so often I also had to clean him up and his sheets in the middle of the night.
One day, he must’ve been about 2 months old, my husband walked into our bedroom while I was sleeping. He said ‘where’s the baby?’ at which point I sleepily looked around and instinctively pulled the duvet down… he was sleeping completely covered by our duvet. I had no recollection of ever bringing him into our bed.
The second incident happened a couple of weeks later. I woke up in the early hours of the morning to a loud ‘thunk’. I had fallen asleep breastfeeding and my baby had fallen out of my arms and was now crying on the floor. He was fine by the way, but I still remember that sound.
I felt like the worst mom in the world. Yet these accidents are common, I know that now. And they are completely avoidable.
At this point I knew we needed a change. Clearly browsing through social media wasn’t enough to keep me awake during feeds, bedsharing was not an option, so the only solution that seemed sensible at the time was to move our son to his own room. Our logic was that I was more likely to stay awake if I had to get up to go to him. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I also told myself he slept better without our noise. That is possibly true but it is also possible I missed some of his cues from the monitor.
Regardless, it was virtually impossible to follow all the ‘ sleep rules’. I found myself drained by it. Not that I would admit it to anyone of course. I clung to the ‘Wonder Weeks’ app to try to make sense of why my son had fussy periods. My husband would roll his eyes everytime I talked about leaps and I would pompously tell him that it was helping me to understand the ‘science’. But it wasn’t. It just made me cling to more unrealistic expectations. And I obsessively tracked his sleep and feeds, telling myself that if I kept track I would be able to find a pattern and ‘figure it all out’. Not sure what I was supposed to figure out but I was determined to do it.
Then there was social media. I was active on a few Facebook mommy groups for babies of the same age. One of them became very hard core against bedsharing and went a little overboard on the ‘safe sleep’ guidelines. I once got called out for sharing a picture of my son sleeping on my sister’s bed while we visited her even though I stated I stayed with him the whole time. The argument was that babies should never sleep on an adult bed. This is when I started to realize that common sense wasn’t often used in these discussions.
One thing I knew from the beginning was that I did not want to sleep train. I just knew this wasn’t for us. And more and more it seemed that the safe sleep guidelines were only possible if you did sleep train your baby.
Luckily I found my people.
My first introduction was through Valerie at Talkin Sleep. I finally found someone who understood! I had known deep inside that there must be a middle ground but it was so exciting to finally meet someone who got it. There was no fear mongering, just facts and support.
When I read the curriculum for the Baby Led Sleep course I was hooked. I already knew I wanted to work with families and help new parents. I had found through my journey that new parents need a LOT more support than is already available. But when I found this approach that was gentle, sensible, researched-based, and holistic I knew it was perfect for me.
Now my 1 year old sleeps in a floor bed, where we safely bedshare part of the night. We have a great thing going where he nurses to sleep but sleeps independently for about 8-9 hours at night. Yes, it is possible.
What I wish I knew then? I wish I knew it was okay to bedshare when done safely. It would’ve saved me a lot of sleep and anxiety.
I wish I knew it was NORMAL for babies to wake during the night. That sleep is not linear. That none of it lasts forever.
I wish I held my baby more and worried less.
So I am on a mission to spread the message. Parenthood is hard enough, we do not need to add the pressure of having a baby that sleeps through the night, alone, without soothing. We do not need to leave our babies to cry alone in order to get rest. There is another way.
Trying to make sense of all the rules and how they fit in your lifestyle? Book a free 15 minute call with me to see how I can support you to meet your sleep goals. And be sure to follow me on Instagram for lots of great conversations with other like-minded parents.
Please visit La Leche League International’s website for details on safe bedsharing. And check out Professor James McKenna’s book ‘Safe Sleep’ for research on the benefits of bedsharing and breastsleeping.