When exhausted new moms approach you with sleep queries, what are you to do? After all, you don’t really have the answers, do you? Let’s admit it, midwives and nurses aren’t taught about infant sleep in their studies. That doesn’t stop some midwives and nurses from doing industry-supported courses and setting themselves up as experts though.
Mostly moms are given the latest trending sleep advice, or the ‘experts’ formulate their own advice. Unfortunately, this advice is usually not sensitive or sound and often promotes practices like self-soothing, which can cause huge problems for Baby, then and in later life. The most important thing to remember is that infant sleep isn’t a medical problem!
Babies are very need driven
Very few babies sleep less than they need to. They are simply designed to wake up often for security and to feed. Not only is this normal, it’s all about survival and thriving – it’s healthy! Waking to interact with Mom means better temperature regulation, stabilisation of breathing, emotional reassurance and accessing the all-important benefits of frequent ‘injections’ of breast milk. Plus, all babies are different and need different amounts of sleep. How can we give the same sleep advice for all babies? Often it’s parents who feel sleep deprived, so trying to ‘cure’ Baby doesn’t make sense and is potentially harmful.
Addressing infant sleep should therefore start with the parents. Try to find out what parents’ sleep expectations are; ask them what ‘sleeping through the night’ means to them – not waking at all or waking but going back to sleep easily – what they feel is a ‘good night’s sleep’, and by what age they think Baby should sleep through the night. This way you’ll be able to give specific advice for their situation – it’s all about individuality – and gently dispel any sleep myths which they’ve been caught up in.
Unfortunately, these sleep myths usually originate from medical professionals, even if the media perpetuates them. Moms may approach you because they’re worried (as most new moms are) and they think that Baby has a problem. They’ll ask you if there’s a problem – because they don’t know, but you do, don’t you? Instead of sending moms away with a ‘problem-free’ diagnosis, many medical practitioners say that there is a problem where none exists, and Moms are set to spend the next few years struggling with Baby’s ‘sleep problem’.
You have the power!
The ‘sleep problem’ can end with you. There quite simply is no longer a valid excuse. You have the knowledge, the opportunity, and the power to educate and empower moms. The next time you get confronted with a sleep problem, know that you don’t’ have to give a solution; it’s quite all right to tell parents that there isn’t a problem and rather offer them lots of support – see Sensitive Midwifery’s blog ‘Solutions to infant ‘sleep problems’ for some ideas on how best to do this or buy Sister Lilian’s online Baby and Toddler Sleep Guide for an excellent, detailed, 56 page guide on the topic which causes more mothers concern than any other!