Are you, the midwife, nurse or doctor, giving parents sleepless nights? Dealing with sleep queries can be tricky because tired parents can feel quite emotional and the wrong advice can have long-term effects for moms and babies. Here are a few tips which should help:
Define sleep terms – there is seldom a medical problem so a medical definition isn’t what’s required. Everyone has different ideas about what sleeping through the night really means – for some moms it means not waking at all, while others see it as going back to sleep easily. By getting parents’ parameters, you can better understand their personal situation and give them tailor-made tips.
Don’t undermine parents – if parents are happy with how Baby is sleeping, even if their approach is unconventional, don’t try to force them to follow your idea of a routine. Also be careful not to judge or condemn parents for whatever methods they’ve found for coping.
Get rid of the sleep nonsense – new parents are often unsure and worry lots, meaning that they see problems where there aren’t any. It’s your job to reassure them that Baby’s sleep patterns are likely normal and healthy and to dispel any sleep myths or harmful approaches which they’ve become caught up in.
The fact that there isn’t a ‘medical problem’ doesn’t mean that you can’t offer parents solutions – these should be aimed at helping parents cope with sleepless nights instead of ‘curing’ Baby’s sleep patterns though. Parents can improve their sleep experience by:
- Opting for natural birth – Baby’s birth will affect him and Mom for the rest of their lives, especially when it comes to Baby’s early life and sleep. When birth is medicalised, moms are distanced from their emotional nurturing ability and their mothering instincts. You can help by creating a peaceful atmosphere in the labour room, using natural pain relief methods instead of medication, encouraging natural birth positions, and limiting medical procedures.
- Need feeding – the hormones produced during breastfeeding are very effective in soothing and inducing restful sleep. For this to happen optimally, Baby needs to be fed according to demand instead of schedule, and not given anything other than breast milk.
- Changing their own sleep patterns – advise moms to nap while Baby sleeps; after all, those early feeds can last an hour! Co-sleeping is also a wonderful solution to most sleep problems.
The most important thing you can do for tired parents is encourage them. Exhausted parents often get emotional, which negatively affects both their and Baby’s sleep. Reassure parents that they aren’t doing anything wrong and remind them that there isn’t a ‘norm’ because all babies are different.
Hopefully one day we’ll reach the point where parents no longer ask you for sleep solutions because infant sleep isn’t seen as a problem!