Give Solutions To Infant ‘Sleep Problems’ – Don’t Create Them!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 to 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!


About the Author:

Lilian Paramor (known as Sister Lilian) holds a B.Nursing degree from the University of Stellenbosch (1978) and is a qualified and registered SANC nurse and midwife (1980). She is also a qualified reflexologist and natural health practitioner. Sister Lilian has close to 40 years of health professional experience, and is South Africa’s leading pregnancy and parenting advisor. She is well-known in both the maternity professional world as well as amongst the parenting community in South Africa and beyond. Her trademarks are her compassion, credibility and innovation ability, showcased by her longstanding approach of ‘first do no harm’ and her work slogans ‘with nature, knowledge and experience’ and ‘advice you can trust’. Sister Lilian has had six pregnancy and parenting books published in South Africa, edited and adapted a Canadian parenting book for the South African market and contributed to a renowned Juta handbook for midwives. She has also written and published numerous topic-specific booklets for midwives and parents, on subjects like breastfeeding, nutrition, birth, and sleep. Sister Lilian’s has also been a popular radio and TV presenter and often contributes to parenting magazines. She started in private practice in Pretoria in 1988; this morphed into the Sister Lilian Centre® in 1994, which also runs one of the most renowned midwifery conferences in the southern hemisphere, called Sensitive Midwifery Symposium, and publishes Sensitive Midwifery Magazine for professionals, as well as an online pregnancy, birth and parenting magazine called eBaby.

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