Let’s talk about sleep. More specifically, sleep training parents: a shift from focusing on whether a baby is ‘fussy’ or ‘good’ when it comes to sleep, to focusing instead on the parent’s relationship to sleep.
I know what you may be thinking: how can this help a parent who is desperate for sleep? After all, it’s not them but this crying, red in the face, up all night baby who doesn’t know how to sleep. It is up to us adults to teach them… right?
Not quite - the conversations I have most of the time as a perinatal worker and nanny are about the parent’s sleep and their own attitudes and routines surrounding it. This always comes back to parents and balancing expectations vs. reality when it comes to their baby’s sleep. After all, we can only ask so much of a baby.
I suggest that babies do not need to be taught to sleep…or self-soothe, or regulate their emotions! They innately know how to do these things and developmentally cannot regulate their emotions until older. The challenges of sleep (and lack there of) rests on the shoulders of new parents to evaluate their own sleep anxieties, habits, rituals, and then...
LET THEM GO. At least temporarily, Let. Them. Go…and at the very least be flexible enough with their schedules to create a new environment more fitting to the needs of the baby. What I encounter most is families attempting to add a new infant into their ‘regular’ life as quickly as possible so things can get back to ‘normal’. Problems arise, anxieties develop, and eventually frustration and exhaustion show up to the party. That is why it is very important to confront expectations vs. reality head on and early in the process.
My hope for this blog series is to offer a blue-print for unpacking a parent’s relationship to sleep
and create a safe space to add an infant who has their own unique sleep needs. The first steps into parenthood can be beautiful but trying and my goal is to instil confidence in future sleep decisions through research based evidence and frank pep talks.
So let’s get started: BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. It is a great place to start.
If you are an expecting parent and have anxieties about sleep (your own, or your baby's) my first advice is simple: ASK FOR HELP.
Birth Doulas are an immeasurable support for all things informational, emotional, and physical
leading up to, and during, birth. They are the foundational support for a stable, empowered beginning for your journey into parenthood and this includes prerequisite conversations about sleep expectations.
Postpartum Doulas are hands-on help through the fourth trimester. This help can include configuring or re-arranging sleep schedules to ensure as many of the primary needs in the family unit are being met. All in effort to help nurture an infant’s important brain development during this time.
One last thing - Infant Sleep Educators (ISE’s) are available to help guide parents through sleep
stages from 0 -24 months of age. We go more in depth with education surrounding sleep and offer customised solutions for your infant or toddler. ISE’s services range from phone consults, email exchanges to in-home appointments and customised sleep strategy packages for your unique family.
Every new parent has concerns for their new baby and everyone’s rest is vital to health and
development. An Infant Sleep Educator, Birth Doula or Postpartum Doula will validate those concerns and instil the notion that being gentle with yourself is a great way to approach sleep training… the parent.
Jenna Inglis is a Toronto based Nanny, Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, and Infant Sleep Educator. She is passionate about empowering new families on their journey into parenthood; providing compassionate care before, during, and after birth. With a background in Community Healing and Peacebuilding, she believes that building healthy happy communities begins with empowered parents making informed decisions that are best for themselves and their infants.