The lovely Hayley from @thegentlemama joined us live on instagram recently, to answer your sleep questions, chat about what is normal biological baby sleep, and give some really useful tips to help with nap tranfers, naps gaps, and surviving being nap trapped.
Here is Part 1 of the transcription of the chat that Hayley & I (Lianne, founder of Sienna Apparel, Hi!) had - I hope you find it useful mama!
Hi Hayley! Thank you so much for joining us! Lets start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you help parents through your business, 'The Gentle Mama'
Hi! I'm Hayley, owner and founder of The Gentle Mama - certified Infant Sleep Educator, so I am trained to help parents with their baby's sleep, to support them with biologically normal infant sleep, and to identify wen there are issues with babies sleep that need to be resolved and to improve it where I can. But always with a focus on baby's needs, on responsiveness, and buildling a secure attachement and a healthy secure bond. And never doing any form of sleep training, never any leaving baby to cry or trying to modify your babies behaviour from normal behaviour. Because there are lots of normal behaviours that now a day we see as problems, and thats not true. So its more about educating parents, and managing expectations and supporthing them with healthy sleep.
Society really puts pressuure on parents now a days, whether its from friends, family, helpful neighbours, media, social media, movies, the books we read. Everything - the mum blogs, its all putting pressure in the wrong places. And people mean well, they are trying to help, its just misguided. Massively misguided.
The whole drowsy but awake thing, I actually refer to this as unicorn babies - because its not realistic! Babies don't lie down in their cots, and you walk out of the room, and say 'night night'! Turn the light off and walk out. It doesnt happen! There are very, very few babies who do that, and if they do, that is a personality trait, it is part of their sleep temprament. It is not something that has been trained into them in a healthy way, because you can't train a baby to sleep, its a biological function.
Lianne - Lets get to the questoins!
Q1 - My 9 month old used to sleep ok but now isn't - she fights naps during the day, even if I work really hard to make sure the gap is right. She protests and pushes me away, and then at night wakes up easily, goes back to sleep via breastfeeding. I am obviously told not to do this, but I need to sleep! And its the easiest thing to do to get them both some sleep. I feel like its all gone wrong, and I'm not sure why.
A - So this sounds like a typical 8-9 month progression, a lot of people refer to it as a regression - but I really hate that term, because they are not going backwards, theyre not, they are going forwards, and it is completely normal for them to have these sort of phases that yhey go through - its a developmental thing. They are going through something in their life, whether it be milestones that they are reaching, new teeth coming in, something that is affecting their sleep. And when that happens, they will struggle to settle, they might fight sleep, if they are going through a nap transition the same sort of thing happens. It makes sleep feel really stressful. And then parents hear that it is a regression, and they think, "Oh I've got to fix it and put it back to where its supposed to be". They don't need to put it backwards, it doesnt go backwards, it doesnt regress. So you shouldn't be trying to put it back to how it was, instead you should be going fowards, and looking at their cues to try and find a way to make things work the way they are g going to work in the future. Because going through a progression will change them from one type of sleep to another. Maybe its one less nap, maybe its longer wake windows, maybe just for a short period of time they are going to struggle with getting to sleep in the first place, and then waking up more regularly. It is normal, completely normal. Its exhausting too, but its more about understanding that the baby is not broken, they are not going backwards, they are definitely going forwards. And its about shifting the mindset of the parents to adapt to the new way of the baby's sleeping, rather than trying to go backwards. Also the mum asking the question also mentioned that she is nursing back to sleep - this is not a bad habit! Definitely not a bad habit. Nursing when they wake up in the middle of the night - perfectly normal. One of the grand daddies of healthy baby sleep, Dr Sears, always talks about the smooth continuum of from warm bath, to warm breast, to warm bed, is the most natural thing there is. And that is how sleep is supposed to ensue, and we don't need to feel guilty for it. Anyone who is telling you otherwise, you can push back, and tell them it is entirely natural, it is healthy, and breastfeeding is for comfort, not just for nutrition.
In terms of fighting naps, it might be a signal that its time to drop a nap, and often when babies are ready to drop a nap, they will start to fight (especially) the last nap of the day. So it will end up getting later in the day, because they don't actually need it. And if they do have the nap, they might then struggle with falling to sleep at night. So it might be that she needs to reduce the number of naps gradually to see if that has an impact.
Lianne - & so she shouldn't worry about nursing to sleep, or about people telling her that she shouldn't do that. That will be a big weight of for her.
Hayley - No, do it!
Lianne - It is horrible when people say things to you like that because you start to doubt yourself don't you, even though it feels like you're doing the right thing.
Hayley - Yeah, I have a 26 month old, so 2 years and 2 months, and I still nurse her to sleep, because it is the easiest, loveliest thing for her, it helps her to settle, and, shes not going to be doing it when she's 4! She's gong to grow out of it eventually. My eldest grew out of it entirely by herself. She was just over 2 when she stopped nursing to sleep. And I wouldnt even recommend night weaning until 18 months, because they're not developmentally ready, and their tummies aren't ready for it either. So yeah, its normal, its natural, its healthy.
Lianne - Someone has commented here saying, "they experienced this with both their girls, and they were like a walking zombie", and I feel for you because I was the same with Sienna!
Hayley - Yes, its all about getting the right balance isn't it. So finding ways for self care, finding a rhythm that helps with the day, become a little bit slower, a little bit easier, making sure that there is somebody to support you. A support network is so important.
Lianne - Definitely yeah, and that's what helped me. And I started doing the night feeds laying down, and that really helped me, because before that I would sit up and feed and I would be swaying I was so tired. Once I'd discovered laying down feeding it was a game changer!
Q2 - Everyone, literally everyone is saying to us that we need to do sleep training, or that they shouldn't feed to sleep, or that they shouldn't feed in the night - they should put baby down awake. Instincts are telling me that she is just a bad sleeper, I don't want to let them cry it out. What do I say to those people who are saying that, and is there a nice approach that works, in order to get them to sleep a little better?
Hayley - Yeah, in terms of defending your approach, and defending the way that you are dealing with your little one's sleep, this is such a huge thing, because some people find it a real struggle to speak out. Everyone's approach is different - for me, I actually really benefitted from doing my research and being informed. So that when people spoke out, and said, "oh, you're creating a bad habit there, or you're creating a rod for your own back...they need to be sleep trained", I could speak up and say actually, if you look at the research, 'this, this and this'. Then as soon as they see that they are informed, they kind of go, ok, I'm going to stop saying that then because I was just saying what my mum said to me. You can also highlight the fact that your intution is the most powerful tool that you have as a parent, and if her intuition is telling her that what she is doing is right, then that's what's right. It's also great to defend yourself by explaining that every family is different and what works for one family and one child doesn't work for another. So it's important to do what feels right for you. A lot of people feel like they have to go down the route that their friends took, because otherwise they are being judged for it. But also, even if she says, you know, thats just who my baby is - I've looked into it, I've spoken to a sleep specialist and it sounds like this is just how they sleep. You can kind of shut it down. But the important thing is to feel confident in it because you are listening to your intuition, and thats the really important thing. If you're listening to your baby's intuition, and you're listening to your baby's signals - thats it! (thumbs up)... That's all you need!
I really hope you have found this useful so far - I know (from having a baby that hated sleep for the first 2 years of her life!) that sleep deprivation can feel torturous! Hang in there mama! Part 2 of this chat is coming shortly & in the meantime, check out Hayley's free guide to help you spot your baby's cues, and take the guess work out of nap times & bed times!
Just click the link below and sign up to Hayley's mailing list to download your free PDF - "Sleepy Signals Decoder"
You can also watch the rest of this chat on our IGTV at www.instagram.co.uk/siennaapparelltd.
Happy boobing mama!