Hi friend, I am so excited to chat with you today about a topic that I’ve been looking forward to bringing to the podcast because it’s something that I encounter almost daily in my work with families. Whether it be DMs I’m getting, whether it be in one-on-one consultations with clients, this is something that comes up all the time – and that is the fear of creating bad habits for our children, specifically around sleep. In this episode, I want to share why we should reframe our thoughts around this idea, what we should focus on if our children are practicing sleep actions that feel out of alignment, and the opinions we should focus on as a parent. This topic is something I’m really passionate about, so I hope this episode helps you navigate your sleep journey with your own littles.
- How Brittni uses cycle tracking to tune into her body and honor it in order to create more rest (or energy!) in motherhood
- How the sleep training industry has put such a strong hold on the narratives floating through our heads as new parents
- The mindset shifts we should take when it comes to being a new parent amidst a sea of opinions about how we should raise our children
- The root issues that need to be addressed rather than bedsharing, nursing to sleep, or any other “bad habit”
- Feel like it might be time to make a transition in sleep? Download my free quiz to find out!
- Learn more about Resting in the First Year, a comprehensive sleep course that gives you all the tools, education & resources you need to get to know your baby’s unique sleep needs.
Read a raw, unedited transcript of this episode.
Hi friend, I am so excited to chat with you today. This is a topic that I’ve been really excited to chat about because it’s something that I encounter almost daily in my work with families. Whether it be DMs I’m getting, whether it be in a one-on-one consult with a client, this is something that comes up all the time. But before I jump right in, I do want to share with you how I’m finding rest in motherhood.
And how I’m finding rest in motherhood this week is by listening to my body. I don’t know if you cycle track, but it’s something that I’ve gotten really into after becoming a mom. And I really find that if I tune into my body, tune into where I’m at in my cycle, and I listen to that and I honor it, I’m able to have more energy, I’m able to better show up for myself. So whether that be the week of
leading up to my period or the week of my period, that might mean resting more, changing my workout routines. For example, today I did not feel like lifting weights. It did not sound fun to me. It’s something that should really energize me and uplift me, especially since it’s time to myself, but it didn’t sound fun today. It didn’t sound like something I was gonna enjoy. So I went on a run.
And then I did some light stretching and moving and flowing, and I really listened to my body, and it gave me the energy that I needed. So I’m listening to my body, I’m letting that guide me day to day instead of trying to push myself to do things, push myself business-wise, sometimes I just don’t have that creative energy, and instead of trying to force it, I just accept, okay, this is where my brain and body are at today.
and I will check back in a few days to see if I have a creative spark. And I know that can be really hard when we have children and we have deadlines, but the more that we can really listen to our bodies and stay in alignment with what they’re telling us. Like I said, we’re better able to show.
We’re better able to show up with more energy. We’re better able to show up with more patience because we’re tuning into ourselves and working with ourselves instead of against ourselves. I hope that every time I share this, it just invites you to think about how you’re currently finding rest in motherhood, or if you’re not, what you could focus on this week to find rest for yourself.
But now I really wanna dive into what I wanna talk about today, which is bad habits. What do you think about when you think about bad habits? As a parent in the modern world, you might automatically jump to supporting your baby to sleep or bed sharing. But if you were asked this question before becoming a parent, you would have probably thought things like smoking, drinking in excess, gambling, et cetera,
bad habits. And yet the sleep training industry has put such a strong hold on the narratives floating through our heads as parents that we are terrified, truly terrified of creating bad habits in our children. And I find this so interesting because the fear tactics used by the sleep training industry are so good, so good that they often take away our common sense as parents.
It’s a genius business model, but it’s not really ethical. And let’s think about it. Have you ever talked to someone who needed to be rocked to sleep until they were 18? Or have you ever talked to an adult who still bedshared with a parent? And yet we are so afraid of screwing up, so afraid that we get into these narrative.
And yet we are so afraid of screwing up that we get into these definitive narratives. I remember thinking that if I nursed my daughter to sleep, she would never sleep through the night. Now, looking back at that, it feels so silly, so outlandish. Would she truly never sleep through the night for her whole life? It’s ridiculous now because I’m able to see it through my common sense lens.
but when the fear had such a tight hold on me, it felt real and true. And it breaks my heart really, when I think about the fear instilled in new parents. Time after time, I will work with a mom whose original goal for working together is to transition away from breastfeeding to sleep or transition out of bed sharing. And once I actually start talking to her, I learned that nursing to sleep is working for her and that bed sharing is actually quite enjoyable for their family.
So then I’ll dive deeper and ask, if it’s working for you, why do you wanna transition away from it? And the answer is almost always, I’m afraid that if I nurse them to sleep, they will never be able to fall asleep any other way, or simply they might say, I don’t wanna create a bad habit. When I ask this question about bed sharing, I’m often met with answers along the lines of, isn’t it bad to still have them in my bed?
And all of these questions have a common root. They were seeds planted from external narratives. This could be family, the sleep training industry, a friend, a pediatrician, a mom in a Facebook mom’s group, you name it. The desire to make these changes often comes from a place of fear and usually not a place of something simply not working for the family. In the 21st century, we have so much to be thankful for.
But I do envy the mothers of the past for one big reason. They didn’t have social media or the internet clouding their decisions and creating insecurity. They simply had instincts to go off of. And those instincts were biologically in line with what was right. Because if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have survived as a species. I’m talking hundreds of thousands of years ago. They weren’t clouded by fear of judgment.
because they were simply focused on keeping their baby alive and healthy. And we obviously live in a different time with many modern advances that I’m so thankful for, but there’s something to be learned here. We are the experts on our children. We are the experts on our family life. Only we truly know our babies. The internet doesn’t know them. The pediatrician doesn’t know them fully.
We are with them day and night, and we know our parenting values better than anyone else. So it’s really important to dive deep into this narrative of bad habits. So often we’re convinced that something is a bad habit simply because our friend with a baby told us it was. And our fear of being a good parent grabs onto this and lets it run without us taking a second to analyze the validity of the statement.
And I’m not shaming here. It is our sheer drive to be a good parent that leads us to this place of fear. We don’t wanna screw up. We don’t wanna mess our kids up. We want the best for them. We wanna be good parents. But being a good parent is not about seeming like a good parent to the outside world, but rather leaning into who our children are and what they need.
So while it can feel scary to be judged or looked down upon, if we can shift our mindset from thinking, oh my gosh, people are judging me, or what are they gonna think? What are they gonna say? To the only person’s opinion I care about in my parenting is my child’s or my children, it gives a lot of peace and freedom. Ultimately, our child is the one that is 100% impacted by the parenting choices we are making.
not our family, not the doctor, not our friends. Once we understand this and let it go, our parenting
Once we understand this and let it guide our parenting, it put things.
Once we understand this and let it guide our parenting, it puts things in a whole new perspective. We stop worrying about what everyone thinks or says, and oftentimes the fears of bad habits seem to go away when we release ourselves from that pressure. I will stop here and say that I said the only person’s opinion I care about in my parenting is my child’s.
I do want to recognize that we obviously don’t want to let our children run everything that we’re doing, right? Like we’re not going to be offering cookies every day for breakfast because that’s what they’re asking for. We obviously need to have loving boundaries within our parenting. But if we can take a step back and we can think of it as, if I was my child, how would this feel to me?
would I look back on this and think, wow, I’m so thankful that my parents did X, Y, Z. For an example, my mom breastfed me for 18 months in the 90s, which was really unheard of back then. And I am so thankful for that. To this day, it’s what led me to breastfeed Lila for as long as I breastfed Lila. And so if we can think in terms of that, in terms of…
What is this doing long-term for my child and how is it going to positively? Or I mean, if there’s something that we’re doing that maybe we don’t think we should be doing, or is it going to negatively impact them and let that guide us? But I did just wanna throw that in there because I don’t wanna make the impression that we need to be our children’s best friend in every single moment, especially when we’re holding boundaries. We are their loving, guiding parent, their attachment figure.
that sometimes that means that we’re going to make decisions that they don’t love in the moment, but as they grow up and look back on, they will get it. Eventually. But I do wanna talk more about bad habits. We’re often told by the sleep training industry that if we support a child to sleep, they will never fall asleep independently or sleep through the night. But this completely ignores who we are as humans.
sleep represents a very vulnerable place for all humans. In addition to this, for children it represents a large period of separation. So when we look at sleep, sleep feels very scary to infants and infants are designed to survive in the world. And the only way to survive in this world is to attach to a caregiver and respond or…
is to attach to a caregiver and rely on them 100% to provide for their needs. So if we think back through human history again, if we look back to the caveman days when the family had to go out and hunt for their meals, mom or cunt and gather, mom couldn’t simply leave baby in the cave for a nap and go hunt or gather.
She needed to bring baby with her because baby was completely exposed to the elements, to animals if they were left alone. And that biology is still in us. If a baby senses that separation, they are designed to let us know, I’m alone and I’m not safe. Now we live in the modern world. We know that a baby alone in a crib is safe, for the most part. And I mean…
We know that leaving a baby alone in a crib while they’re sleeping, while we’re doing something, is safe. But the infant brain doesn’t know this. And so it’s designed to let us know, I’m scared, I’m alone, I’m not safe. So if we look at sleep as this very vulnerable place to be, we need to understand that our children are going to need support in falling asleep. This lets their brain know that it’s safe to fall asleep.
it helps regulate their nervous system. You can’t fall asleep if you are stressed out about your environment. So by helping them fall asleep, we’re helping their nervous system. We’re showing them that sleep is a safe and inviting space. And we’re creating this security around sleep. And the more security we build around sleep and nighttime, the more secure they’re going to feel, which will ultimately lead to
falling asleep independently in their own time. It will lead to sleeping through the night and not waking and needing that comfort from you, whether it be a feed or a snuggle or just the reassurance that you’re there. And so by supporting our little ones to sleep in whatever way that might be, we’re actually laying the foundation for independent sleep in their own time. And so we really need to get away from this narrative that supporting them to sleep is creating a bad habit.
Because if we’re leaving a child to cry themselves to sleep, what are they learning about sleep? They’re learning that it’s a scary place. They’re learning that their needs are not going to be attended to at night. They’re learning that their cries are not going to be answered at night, which would you prefer going to sleep knowing that you are safe, your needs will be met. If you need something from your caregiver, they will be there for you or going to sleep alone in a room.
crying without a caregiver there, wondering when you’re going to see them again. When we put it like that, we put on that common sense lens and we can really see it for what it is. So supporting your baby to sleep is not a bad habit.
To dive deeper down the bad rabbit, the, to dive deeper down the bad habit rabbit hole, I’ve talked to families who have friends or family members who still have their eight or nine year old in bed with them and can’t get them out. And the families that I work with are terrified that this will become them. So would we consider an eight or nine year old sleeping with their parent a bad habit? I wouldn’t.
I would simply see it as a pattern that needs to be shifted if and only if the family wanted to make that shift. In Japan, it’s the cultural norm to co-sleep into adolescence. It may seem strange to us, but in their culture, this is the norm. And this is the perfect example of doing what works best for us, for doing what feels right for our family. And so if something doesn’t feel right for us,
That’s probably because it’s not right for our family. But if it does feel sustainable and feels like it’s working, it is the best choice in that moment. But back to the subject of the eight or nine-year-old still bed sharing. If this family wanted their child out of the bed but wasn’t able to do it, I still wouldn’t see this as a bad habit. I would simply see it as a pattern that needs to be shifted. And for this particular family, if they’ve been trying for a while and they still can’t,
get their 10, eight or nine year old out of bed. I wouldn’t say they’ve created a bad habit. I would see that they need support and resources that they don’t currently have. Maybe they have a really hard time setting boundaries and so they need to do some internal work on holding boundaries and supporting the emotions that come with that. Maybe there’s something deeper going on with the child that needs to be addressed before making this transition.
There are so many things that could be at play here and the bed sharing is taking the brunt of it because that’s the transition that needs to be made. And this is important to consider because even if they never bear…
Even if they never bedshared, these core issues, for lack of a better term, would still appear in their life in other ways. So the bedsharing is not the root issue. And this is the case for all habits we are told are bad when it comes to sleep. Nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, bedsharing, they’re all biological norms and can be done for as long as we feel that they are sustainable and working for our family.
Once they no longer feel sustainable, we still don’t need to look at them as bad habits, but simply a pattern that served us, but we are now ready to shift. I often find that parents get to a place where they’ve been ignoring the signs that something is no longer sustainable, and they get to a place of anger and bitterness. This anger leads to thoughts of, I’ve created a bad habit, or if I never would have started rocking to them to sleep, I wouldn’t be here.
But again, the pattern was working, the signs that the shift needed to happen may have been ignored, and now we’re in a place where we do need to make a change. So this brings me back to really encouraging you to tune into the patterns in your Little One Sleep routine. Are they working for you? Do they currently feel sustainable? If the answer is yes, I would encourage you to keep doing what works. If or when the answer becomes no,
you’ll know that it is now time to shift the pattern. No bad habits were created. You established a pattern that served your family and now the pattern needs to be updated or shifted. So, release yourself from the fear of bad habits. Don’t let anyone tell you what a bad habit is in your home. Tune into your patterns, tune into how you feel about them and decide from there what works in your family.
and what doesn’t. Don’t let anyone from the outside determine what a bad habit is in your home. Only you know your family best. Have a wonderful day.