You do you, Mama. Social media has many advantages, but for new mums, they can often drown in a sea of conflicting parenting ‘advice’. As a Child Sleep Coach, I am fully aware that this industry is no exception. This generation of parents are torn on how to approach sleep and how to make improvements when they find themselves struggling. There seems to be a huge sleep training/ anti sleep training divide and as the new generation of gentle parents emerge, we are becoming more aware of how we are approaching our parenting decisions when it comes to sleep. And rightly so
I try to write this without bias, but I feel compelled to tell my side. A side which encourages parents to look deep within themselves and find the answer, to find a path that they wish to take. So are there clear, distinguished routes? To sleep train or not? The answer is blurred. The answer is blurred because the definition of sleep training is murky.
Sleep training means such different things to so many people. To the older generation it may mean leaving your baby to cry as a way to teach them to self-settle to sleep; It may mean using more gentle and responsive ways to encourage more independent sleep; it may just mean making small adjustments to routines; or a mixture of all. To me, when you make any sort of change to sleep patterns/routine/ feeding, you are essentially sleep training- I just HATE the word ‘training.’ It has such negative connotations and almost suggests that we are trying to fit our children into a mould, conform to strict guidelines, no room for adaptation. This isn’t to say though that those who use the sleep training terminology are doing this, it just means that the sleep industry hasn’t fully evolved and the older terminology still exists.
As not to confuse you even more, I will say this… forget about the terminology. If you are struggling with sleep, you have these options:
1) Do absolutely nothing. It won’t last forever. Your child WILL ‘sleep through’ one day. You won’t be feeding to sleep forever; they won’t always want to be in your bed; they won’t always wake up at an ungodly hour. The tough times will pass. When? I hear you ask. I couldn’t answer that, but I promise you it will end.
2) Try to make some subtle changes yourself but be aware that the internet can be a very confusing place and every child is different and will respond to methods/changes in different ways.
3) Seek some support. You are navigating your way through parenting, and it is HARD! It is almost impossible to keep on top of and understand the complexity of different sleep needs (unless you’re qualified). Sleep needs change continuously and when you’re in the midst of sleep deprivation it is even harder to see the bigger picture of what could help your situation. If you choose this option, find a coach who aligns with your values. Ask them about the methods they use and find someone you trust and feel comfortable with.
So what is normal when it comes to children’s sleep? Night wakings are normal; there is no set age at when your child is going to sleep through; your baby always wanting to be close to you and struggling being apart from you is also totally normal and natural. This may bring you a lot of comfort to know that you are not alone, but on the other hand, when your months/ years down the line, living off minimal sleep, do you just have to accept poor sleep because it’s ‘normal’? It’s almost as if sleepless nights have become overly normalised to the point where parents are feeling like they just need to cope and get on with it because it’s all ‘part and parcel.’ This is not the case. There can be a balance, a balance that doesn’t impact your secure attachment. It’s not all or nothing. You can set boundaries and still be gentle and responsive; just as you can also be completely ‘attached’ to your child and lead an attachment parenting lifestyle if it works for you and your family.
So if you are reading this as a confused, sleep deprived parent. Remember, filter out the noise and trust your gut as a parent. We all have different parenting styles, and we must do what feels right to us, in our situation. There is already too much judgement on the decisions we make as mothers. Everyone needs to follow their own path and in turn, support what others choose to do for THEM.
You do you, Mama.
Peace of the Moon