If you follow me on IG (@resting_in_motherhood) you know that I post a lot about why I don’t recommend cry it out/sleep training and I also share the effects/truth about sleep training. It can be hard and really heavy information to read and I never want to make a family feel like I am shaming them for choosing to sleep train. But I feel a need to share the information because well-meaning (and very tired) parents are lead to believe that sleep training is their only option. The sleep training industry has done such a good job of making families believe that sleep is a skill to learn and it must be something that we teach our children to do. Which is a complete lie. Sleep is a biological function- NOT a skill. We are all born knowing how to sleep- no training necessary. So, in my opinion, it’s unethical to prey on new parents and make them feel like the only way to get more sleep is to sleep train. Not only are parents being lied to about how their baby should be sleeping, they are lied to about what cry it out actually is and the impact it has on the infant brain. And this is why I will continue to shout my message loud and clear. I want parents everywhere to know that they have options. I want them to be able to make an educated choice about how they want to parent at nighttime. Their options aren’t just cry it out or wait it out. There is an in between. *Which is where I come in*
As a holistic infant sleep specialist, I help families get more sleep without any form of sleep training. So what does this even mean? Not to worry- it’s a question I’m asked frequently. To start, we need to truly understand what biologically normal infant sleep looks like. This means looking at what humans are AND what our sleep has looked like throughout time. Humans are carrying mammals, which means that our babies are designed to be on us or near us at all times. Carrying mammal infants eat frequently due to the composition of their milk (low percentage of fat and protein and high percentage of water). So, with this we need to understand that human infants are designed to eat about every 2-3 hours (day and night). When we know this we know that it’s biologically normal for babies to wake about every 2-3 hours throughout the night. In addition to this, we need to think about that fact that our babies are designed to be on us or near us at ALL times. If we look back throughout human history, babies have been sleeping WITH their mothers for thousands of years. This is our starting point because when we look at sleep holistically we need to understand what the biological norm is and then we can work from there. The base of my work is infant sleep science (how babies sleep and what that looks like) AND connection (a baby’s greatest need). Once we have that foundation established we can then move onto looking at how I can support a family with their baby’s sleep.
When I work with a family I want to make sure they have realistic expectations about what their baby’s sleep should look like. If a family comes to me and tells me that they want their 4 month old baby to be sleeping through the night, I’m going to spend a lot of time going through why this ins’t a realistic goal (although *some* unicorn babies will do this on their own) and then educating them on what is biologically normal. From there we can look at their sleep routine to see what we can tweak or change to make everything feel more sustainable. Now, if a family comes to me and their baby is waking hourly or nap time is a fight every day or bedtime is taking over 45 minutes each night (just a few examples) this is where I’m going to step in to really help them with their baby’s sleep.
I like to look at infant sleep as an intricate puzzle and each infant has their own unique puzzle. The big players when it comes to the puzzle pieces are: underlying medical conditions, individual sleep needs, sensory needs, temperament & personality, birth history, home life, and parental mental health. There are other pieces at play but these are the big ones. So, when I work with a family I’m going to take an in-depth look at who their baby is, what their sleep is looking like and then from there I’m going to start looking at all of these pieces. Remember, I said that each puzzle is unique? So, what I recommend to each family is going to be different based on their unique child. For some children underlying medical conditions are going to be the key piece to their puzzle. For other children their sensory needs and temperament are going to be the key piece. This is something I absolutely love about my job- every family and baby I work with are different, meaning it never feels monotonous.
Holistic infant sleep support means looking at the unique child in front of me and figuring out what their puzzle looks like and which pieces are missing or need some adjusting.
And this is where my work as a holistic infant sleep specialist differs so much from a sleep trainer. A sleep trainer is going to give you a one size fits all recommendation without doing a deep dive into who your baby is and what their unique needs are. They aren’t going to make sure that there aren’t any underlying issues disrupting sleep. Which is another thing that is really scary. If a child is having trouble breathing at night or they are in extreme pain, leaving them to cry is not going to solve the underlying issue. It’s going to ignore it. There is so much missed with sleep training. When a family works with me it is my job to look at every single piece of the puzzle AND get to know who their baby is and what their sleep needs are. From there we can work at making sleep feel more sustainable for the whole family.
Yes, this process takes more time but it keeps baby and parents in harmony with one another, instead of putting their needs at odds. Which is another huge difference between my work and sleep training. Sleep training benefits one side (the parents) while the baby’s needs aren’t really taken into consideration. Parents are told that they need to withhold comfort from their child in order to get more sleep which may help the parents but we are forgetting that there is another human involved in this process. When we instead look at sleep holistically it is my goal to ensure that the needs of the parents AND the baby are being respected and met.