She is a Gentle sleep coach & maternity night Nanny caring for tired parents & precious babies in the South West!
In honour of World Sleep Day (What a great thing to dedicate a day to!) I’ve been invited on to share some thoughts on a topic my entire career is built on!
Oh sleep… how I love thee! Ironically, I am of course severely lacking in the stuff thanks to my job, but I’m here to share some thoughts on how to you balance child’s needs and your needs when faced with disrupted nights.
Now, Sleep Trainers (I hate this term, Sleep coaching is far more accurate and kind on the ears) Are pretty much up there with the devil for some, and it’s certainly not that there aren’t some bad eggs out there, as there are in all industries, but the misconception that Sleep coaching is about stamping out a child’s communication skills, emotional needs and demonizing what is very normal behaviour for infants and young children leads us to a cross roads as parents and often too scared to reach out for professional help when things reach breaking point.
Are the only options to fully give in to every whim and demand, often to the detriment of parental mental health or the family units sleep needs? But ultimately prioritise the very real needs of your child…? Or do you close the door and put some ear plugs in? Late night Google searching leading you to despair or validation depending on which parenting forum you stumble across.
Gosh, this shit is hard huh? I know you’re already trying to find the right answer to a billion other parenting woes, and yet with no sleep it’s all that much harder… and now you’re sat here wondering if it really does come down to a Mexican standoff with your infant?
No this does not need ever be the case!
I’m shouting this as loud as I can and I hope that through your screens, you hear it from a place of kindness and understanding.
THERE IS A MIDDLE GROUND!!!
It does exist!
It does not need to be one or the other, the trick here is finding YOUR middle ground.
So, here’s a little guidance on how I might help a family reach that middle ground, and then move forward.
For the interest of this blog, I’m going to assume that your child is over one, sleeping either part or the whole night in the parent’s bed and requiring numerous feeds, breast or bottle- which is so common and normal.
Firstly, ask yourself this “ Is our current situation actually a problem for me?”
Or is society, my family or social circle, leading me to believe this is?
Because If it isn’t, all you need to know is that you can stop reading right here. You do you, what works, works!
Is there any such thing as a bad habit if everyone is happy? Habits don’t need to be categorised as anything other than just something you routinely do.
Then ask yourself what your ideal scenario is. Is this reasonable (Note, not achievable- everything is achievable given the time and patience it requires) – Is what you are expecting or hoping of your child reasonable. Are you repeatedly trying to change your current set up, but expecting too much too soon and ultimately faltering at the first hurdle from exhaustion and distress to all parties?
- Be honest with yourself here. Remember we aren’t aiming for ideal, we are aiming for a middle ground where everyone can have their emotional needs met, as well as good sleep.
- Then look at your child, really think about their personality and their nature, what is it you think they really love about your current set up and how you can somehow apply this to what you also need.
- Talk with them. Even if they are small, open the conversation in an age appropriate way. If they’re 16 months, a Gro clock might be next to useless for example – but creating an understanding of night and day in a visual way, helps build an understanding and later a boundary that you are trying to achieve. Tiny tweaks like this build big change in the long run. Include them in the change, don’t underestimate them.
- Decide what it is about your current set up that is just no longer working for you- Do you need to carve out more time alone, so you aren’t getting run down or touched out and then filled with pent up emotion that you bring into the night? Children are exceptionally intuitive, they won’t hide away from the person they love if they pick up a sense of resentment or avoidance, they’ll become a little unsure, seeking you out for more comfort and security and potentially exasperating your issue. Consider how you’re approaching bedtime. Use this reflection to consider practical ways to alleviate the stress by changing bits that you can do for yourself, to make the rest of the process easier.
- Decide what part of the issue you’d like to tackle first. This won’t be the same for everyone. Some don’t mind an early morning if the night was spent in their own bed, some don’t mind co-sleeping if it means a full night’s sleep, some don’t mind continuing to feed over night if it means less effort to address their need in another way, etc, etc, etc There will be SO many variables… everyone is going to have their own personal boundaries and deciding what these are will help you in accepting the bits that aren’t ideal because you appreciate the bits that are suiting you just fine…Once we let go of societal expectation of course. Remember we aren’t talking about eradicating all unwanted behaviours in a concentrated effort, we are finding your personal middle ground so that you can rest easier and cope with the right now.
- Be consistent. If you do decide- for example, the early morning waking’s are an absolute killer and the thing you can no longer cope with, but actually you can deal with the co-sleeping (or even enjoy it!) or the getting up 2-3 times to quickly soothe and therefore don’t want to address this bit yet, you might look to seek guidance on naps, bedtime routines, daily activity and stimulation’s, hormones, emotional considerations, vitamin deficiencies or sleep environments for example, and implement changes which aim for a more reasonable waking hour. One little task at a time, helping you to find your happier compromise.
- Your child will mirror your behaviours. If you are inconsistent with them, they’ll give it right back. When creating new boundaries, the kindest thing you can do in any aspect of parenting is be steady and consistent. You are their anchor.
- And so, remember that as-well as being confident in your choices, and shoving unwanted opinions or advice aside, EVERYTHING is temporary. If what you were doing before was working but isn’t now, it’s okay to say so and change. If you make small changes and a little while later decide it’s time to tackle another issue, do it. If you decide to start something and you are not happy, comfortable and believe it is in the best interest of all involved. Stop…. and if you are happy just as you are, carry on. They all sleep eventually (Hello teen years!) and if you’re happy to wait it out that’s your deal, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently.
- It’s always okay to reassess. Prioritise what is important to you. It IS possible for everyone to get good sleep and still protect a secure parental attachment, emotional fulfillment and to be happy! It is also okay to recognise that the effects of sleep deprivation are unsustainable and can be dangerous.
- I love the term ‘The days are long, but the years are short’ because it is so true no matter how you look at it. Childhood is a tiny part of our entire lives, and the difficulties that come with that- but they are also fleeting, and you want to enjoy them, and lack of sleep really sucks the joy from pretty much everything doesn’t it?
Its always OK to ask for help.
I work both as a Night Nanny, giving night-time relief and building parent confidence, supporting breastfeeding when needed and promoting healthy sleep habits from the get-go, as- well as a sleep coach, working with parents to resolve night time behaviours within your home or semi-remotely. Whether it is aiming for a middle ground or bigger changes, I work holistically, employing gentle techniques that are built around your child and their specific needs and your parenting values. We work together as a team to help your family reach your sleep goals in a safe and appropriate way, with your child’s well-being being at the forefront of everything we do.
For all Baby in the City readers we are delighted to provide a 10% offer on bespoke sleep packages with BABYINTHECITY10 quoted for services booked & held between 15th March 19 – 1st June 2019