Healthy Sleep for the Whole Family: De-bunking Sleep Coaching Myths
By Cara Myre, Professional Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant
When I first joined this incredible club called mommyhood, I assumed the internet would be my best friend. And while it has certainly helped me out during plenty of moments of wonder, the internet has also driven me close to the brink of madness with its overwhelming wealth of information. Site after site is full of contradictory information, and social networks that lay judgement on my decisions and provide unsolicited opinions and misinformation about my options. Among all of these numerous controversial topics within the mommy networks, none seem bigger than sleep.
From day one, many parents are consumed with the ever-elusive idea of sleep. “Why isn’t my baby sleeping more?” “When will he take longer naps?” “When will she sleep through the night?” “What does ‘sleeping through the night’ even mean?!” In their quest for information, they are confronted with more answers than they could have ever bargained for. “He should definitely be sleeping through the night by now” “It’s normal for breastfed babies to wake often” “Co-sleeping is the best!” “Co-sleeping is a safety risk!” “Do whatever works for you” “You should sleep train your baby” “You should never let your baby cry.”
But, what has always struck me as interesting during this wash of opinions and these heated debates is that few people ever bother to ask the important questions – about mom, about baby, about the family situation and about parenting styles – before offering these pearls of wisdom. To me, knowing each of these crucial pieces of information is essential before offering holistic, informed advice about a child’s sleep.
It is for this reason that, in recent years, many parents have turned to pediatric sleep consultants for answers to help them gain proper sleep for their infants and toddlers.
Pediatric sleep consultants work closely with exhausted parents to help them help their infants and toddlers gain the healthy sleep required for proper development. When a parent has chosen to work with a consultant whom they trust, who uses proper, gentle, supportive techniques to help them teach their children healthy sleep habits, the outcomes are astounding, and result in happier, healthier, well rested families. During the evolution of this profession, however, a number of myths have developed, leaving moms who may be looking for sleep help with even more questions than ever. So, here are five sleep coaching myths, debunked:
Myth 1: Sleep coaching uses a one size fits all method
It is 2016. Parenting has evolved. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting strategy nor should there be solely one method used by any one sleep consultant to teach babies and children proper sleep habits.
Every child is different, as is every family. This is why a holistic approach is taken by sleep consultants, to gain necessary information about children, parents, family lifestyle, parenting style, living situations and all other elements of a child’s life that need to be taken into consideration when deciding on a strategy for teaching a child healthy, proper sleep habits.
It is very important to recognize that each sleep coaching organization carries different philosophies and implements different strategies for managing baby sleep challenges. When choosing a sleep consultant, it is important for parents to keep key issues in mind about what is most important to them, and to be extremely dedicated to their child’s sleep and to working closely with their consultant on a strategy that will work for their baby, and for their family unit.
Myth 2 – sleep coaches are anti breastfeeding
Good sleep consultants understand that proper breastfeeding habits and healthy sleep can be achieved at the same time in a very cohesive way.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years or beyond. If you are breastfeeding and choose to hire a sleep consultant to manage your baby’s sleep challenges, ensure they are knowledgeable on the WHO’s recommendations and will honor your child’s nutritional needs through breastfeeding. A child’s nutritional needs are of utmost importance. If a client has concerns about their breast milk supply or child’s nutritional intake, their sleep consultant will refer them to a lactation consultant or family physician to ensure these issues are prevented or resolved.
Myth 3 – sleep coaches don’t value mom’s opinion
A good sleep consultant will advocate a mother’s right to make informed choices about what is best for her own baby. For example, the consultant will not specifically recommend one choice over the other with regards to breast milk or formula because it is not his or her job to do so.
Your sleep consultant is, however, responsible for providing you with sleep education, information on proper, age-appropriate awake times and healthy sleep routines, as well as helping you navigate the process of teaching your little one healthy sleep habits so that he or she can gain restorative, proper sleep within your time working with your consultant.
Myth 4 – sleep coaches and other health practitioners don’t go hand in hand
Your consultant should have excellent relationships with midwifery groups, family physicians, pediatricians, doulas and lactation consultants to ensure their holistic understanding of the cohesive relationship between nutrition and sleep.
Great health practitioners understand the very symbiotic relationship between proper nutrition and healthy sleep. Often, patients are actually referred to sleep consultants by pediatricians and family physicians, when those patients are struggling with sleep issues that are causing difficulties (e.g. compromised immune systems, difficulty concentrating, irritability, etc.) for the whole family (mom, dad, AND baby!).
Myth 5 – sleep coaching means cry it out
It is very common for babies to cry while learning new skills (be it rolling, crawling, taking their first solids, sleeping independently or taking their first steps), but a good sleep consultant will not follow a traditional “cry it out” approach. Rather, he or she will understand and shape their program around the notion that babies learn best when they feel loved, supported and guided by their parents. As such, your consultant’s methods should be gentle and involve parents seeing, touching, speaking to and picking up their children to reassure and provide support while their child is learning healthy sleep skills.
The bottom line? While it may be 2016 and the internet may be overwhelming our lives, and there may be way more information at our fingertips than our own parents saw cast upon them in a lifetime of raising children, one thing remains unchanged: Every parent should have the right to take that information and make what they believe are the very best choices for their own baby.
As for sleep coaching, it may not be for everyone, but healthy sleep should be.
As a Professional Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant, Cara helps parents gain healthy, restful sleep for their little ones using positive and supportive methods. Cara works with parents closely to help their children sleep through the night (10-12 hours straight) and take consistent naps in under two weeks. You can find out more about Cara’s services by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting www.weesleep.ca.