"Baby must go down drowsy but awake!" "Don't bedshare!" "Cosleeping gets Mom the most rest!" "Nursing to sleep helps comfort and soothe." "They'll never learn to 'self soothe' if they don't cry." This is enough to leave your head spinning@ . Pregnant and new families have enough to worry about - sleep should not be one of those things!
Yet, the most common question a new mom is asked is not how she's feeling, not how baby is doing, surely not how the inquiring person can help. The most common question is "how is Baby sleeping?" Followed by a myriad of usually unsolicited advice on how to "make" them sleep because they "have to". [insert eye roll]
I strive to provide a completely different approach to what I consider to be FAMILY sleep not just INFANT sleep because everyone's needs are considered. There are many approaches to baby sleep. Most are parent-centered leaving Baby isolated, distressed, and forced into early dependence. Then, you have the other end of the spectrum which is solely baby-centered and leaves the Parent feeling burned out and at the end of their rope, even sometimes severely sleep deprived.
I like to fall in the middle with an approach that is FAMILY-centered. I approach family sleep as a three-legged stool - each piece not able to function without the others.
The three legs on the proverbial stool: Realistic Expectations, Safe Sleep Environment, and Optimal Nutrition for the Primary Caregiver.
This is the hardest part of the three. Our society is so polluted with this "ideal" of baby sleeping in its crib down the hall from 7p to 7a while Mom blissfully sleeps all night. If that doesn't happen (because most likely it will not), enter sleep training.
My #1 goal with families is to break this cycle starting with setting up realistic expectations to begin with. How do I do that? Mostly through education. I offer a workshop titled "The Art & Science of Infant Sleep" that teaches what is biologically normal for infants through preschoolers. As one of my favorite doctors, Dr. Sears, says "show me the science!" and that's what I do. Those who don't take the workshop but schedule the consult get all of the education as well, just not in the form of a class.
Just by learning what is biologically "normal" usually helps parents to realize that what their baby is doing or will do is OK and that they do not need to give in to popular sleep training culture.
Safe Sleep Environment
We also need to make sure that where the family sleeps is safe. Studies show that 60% of parents admit to sleeping with their baby even if they never intended to.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests placing baby on their back, alone in a crib, in the same room as the parents for the first 12 months.
All governing bodies tout how harmful sharing sleep with a baby is but what they don't look at is that most non-Western cultures (in fact, 80% of the world), and all cultures until about 100 years ago, all cosleep. It's time to start teaching HOW so that it's safely done.
La Leche League International has the Safe Sleep Seven.
Dr. James McKenna runs the Mother-Baby Sleep Lab at Notre Dame and outlines safe bedsharing.
Whatever the family decides to do, I help them do it safely and confidently.
Optimal Nutrition for the Primary Caregiver
We know that what we are what we eat and that nutrition affects not only our physical self but our mental health as well. I help families revamp their eating habits. It doesn't have to be difficult.
Prenatally, we can make some healthy meals and freeze them for when Baby arrives. If the family is already established, I can teach simple swaps. I can also set up a complimentary chat with my Wellness Coordinator or offer the power of plant powders to ensure they are eating the right amount of fruits and veggies. We do need between 9 and 13 fist size servings a day!
These three really go hand in hand. One can't happen without the others or balance won't ensue. And most of the time when families aren't sleeping and eating well, that's what's off. Balance.
So, I'd love to help you get your family back in balance and getting the most rest you ALL deserve.
Allesanda received her Bachelors in Behavioral Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in December 2013. She now lives in North Texas with her husband and three children. As a maternal support practitioner and educator of family sleep and eco-friendly living, she blogs about family sleep, wellness, nutrition, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, holistic health, and parenting.