Aaaaah sleep…. If you are a parent or parent-to-be it is one of the most thought about and talked about topics. Everyone has an opinion and more often than not, these can be conflicting. Wrap that up with your own personal ideals and expectations and it can be a pretty confusing and overwhelming time.
Kylie Pintos-Oliver, founder and sleep consultant at Lunar Haven, has seen many mummas and babies struggling with sleep for too long unnecessarily. She is here to help you feel more at ease with your routine, debunk some of the stigmas around sleep training and tell us how and when to find help.
Kylie: I am here to hopefully ease some of the burden and help you understand why sleep is so important and why we should never feel guilty about asking for support with it.
Now let’s not sugar coat it, there are going to be times where sleep feels like this sacred, mysterious land, we know we have been there before but cannot seem to find our way back. By arming ourselves with the appropriate information and support it is possible to find our way back to this luxurious land of slumber, making these sleepless moments more like little blips as opposed to long enduring years.
Where to start
Diving into the world of sleep can seem complex, but when you break it down, there are a few key areas to focus on that help make a big difference – Creating a bedroom environment that promotes sleep, along with healthy sleep habits and age-appropriate awake windows or nap times, all work together to create an ideal sleep situation. Here are a few tips that I swear by to get you started.
Sleep environment –
- White noise – loud, low and rumbly
- Darkness – think at least an 8 of 10 if 10 is pitch black
- Low stimulation over sleep space – save the lights and mobiles for the change table
- Room temp – aim for 18-23 degrees
Healthy Sleep Habits –
Aim to have your baby into the bedroom a good 20-30 minutes before you want them to be asleep and implement a calm, predictable wind down routine. Keep it simple and most importantly consistent. Some examples of things you might like to include are –
- A nice bath with Wotnot Baby Wash
- Lullaby or song
- Playing sleepy music
- A relaxing massage using Wotnot Baby Body Lotion
- Reading a short book (this can start at any age but keep it at an age-appropriate length)
- Walking around the room and saying good night to a few objects
*remember you don’t need to use all of these and you probably want to have a shorter version for naps and increase with an extra step or two for the evening bedtime.
If you are already following this advice and the pieces just don’t seem to be falling into place, please don’t feel like you need to keep struggling or wait until things get worse. The earlier we choose to work on sleep the better it is for everyone.
What is sleep coaching and what should it never be
“Sleep Training” or Coaching as I prefer to call it, is not the big, scary image some of us have of closing the door and listening to your baby cry for hours on end. It also does not need to be something that only parents who are at breaking point because their babies scream all night utilise. Sleep Coaching can be a great pre-emptive way to arm yourself with the tools you need to be set up for sleeping success before problems arise. (Think Birthing Class before you go into labour…)! I believe when it comes to sleep, like with most things, prevention is better than cure, so getting ahead of the sleep game right from the very start, or as soon as you see things begin to unravel, can make all the difference for both you and your baby. Again there can be differing ideas out there, so it is a matter of finding what aligns with your family values and then what actually works for your individual baby (because sometimes baby comes along and they have their own ideas of what they need).
Sleep is a skill
It is also important to remember that sleep is a learned skill, and just like talking, toileting, crawling and walking it is not something that comes easily to all babies. We don’t expect babies to know how to master these skills on their own do we? So why would sleep be any different?
Sure, some babies appear to stand up and start walking overnight and for some sleep can come quite naturally too. However, more often than not, for a lot of babies it can be quite challenging and require a lot of support or “training”, which can be met with resistance and frustration on both sides. Tired and frustrated babies (and mummas) cry. They sometimes cry when we put them to bed, they also sometimes cry when we need to change their nappy, or get them in or out of the bath, or feed them, but this does not mean we don’t change their soiled nappy, or never bath or feed them. We as the parent need to be able to recognise what they need and support them through the tears with love, understanding and gentle encouragement.
Choosing to work on sleep or ask for support with sleep should always be seen as a positive and proactive step and not something we put off until we are at breaking point. We as a society are becoming so good at outsourcing tasks to someone with the right experience, but when it comes to sleep and our children there is still this expectation to endure it in order to be a gentle parent, or pressure to just put up with it because “they will grow out of it"… but those days, months, years can be long, isolating, lonely and clouded with self-doubt… and where is that village everyone keeps talking about?
Get the professionals in
Understanding infant sleep is tough and while it is my strength and passion, it doesn’t need to be yours. We all need to play to our strengths and support each other where we can. Give me a tired, crying baby over a spreadsheet or anything IT related any day, but I don’t try to do these things myself (well, sometimes I do but it usually ends in tears, a tantrum or wine!) I outsource them to practitioners with more knowledge and experience in the relevant field.
I am hoping we can reshape how we see Infant Sleep by giving you the parents, the support you need and deserve… guilt and stigma free. I want us to offer more knowledge and support where we can to get on top of sleep issues before they become damaging to your own mental health, your relationships and your day to day life.
Blog contribution by Kylie Pintos-Oliver from @lunar.haven.sleep