So this series of blog posts is dedicated to calling out some of the crappy advice given in sleep training books and sites. My particular beefs generally all stem from my biggest beef of all- sleep training books make mums and dads who are actually parenting and responding to their own unique child beautifully, suddenly feel like big fat failures, like they’ve been doing it all wrong and THAT’S why their baby sleeps the way they do. These books prey on vulnerable, sleep deprived, desperate families and instead of building them up with knowledge based on actual research on normal infant sleep they offer a prescription to ‘fix’ their perfectly normal child’s sleep. It blows my mind that all the things that happen so naturally, so instinctually to settle and soothe our baby to sleep are exactly the things these faux ‘sleep whisperers’ belittle and warn against. Sleep deprivation really freaking sucks but dreaming up a one size fits all, follow this and do that prescription to train our tiny new humans to do something they are physiologically not meant to do is just bullshit in my opinion. So here I go, in all my non expert but real life, non textbook baby related experience, this is something I call UTTER CRAP on.
In the very first instalment of what no doubt will be quite a lengthy series, I’d like to discuss one particular bit of bullshit I’m sure you would be familiar with if you’ve even skim read a mainstream sleep training book … In order for your baby to link sleep cycles successfully, they need to be in the same place they fell asleep while being settled in the same way- if you feed your baby to sleep then you can expect them to wake between sleep cycles and only settle back if you feed them again OR if you teach your baby to ‘self settle’ in their cot then they will happily resettle through their sleep cycles because nothing has changed from the way they went to sleep in the first place.
Now, you may be thinking what I thought when I initially bought into sleep training- this makes sense. Of course it would be a rude shock to find yourself in a completely different place than where you were when you fell asleep (eg. Fell asleep in someone’s arms only to wake after a cycle alone in a cot). It does kind of sound like these sleep geniuses may be on to something. Especially if you have nothing to compare it to other than your frequently waking, catnapping, non resettling, non sleep cycle linking little sleep thief like I did. It CAN look very much like this is the answer. The holy grail as to why your little dear cannot stay asleep between cycles. But … As I found and many before me and I’m sure many after, this isn’t actually why our babies wake.
I am no sleep expert, although I have certainly had a little on the job experience, so I don’t claim to know it all but based on my observations of my own babies and babies around me, this myth just does not stack up.
Here are my anecdotal observations …
1. My non sleep cycle linking, catnapping, frequent waking shocker STILL woke and catnapped even after our few ‘successful’ settles we ‘achieved’ at and briefly after sleep school. Riddle me that. He fell asleep, in his cot, alone. No boob, no cuddles, without outside comfort aaaaaannnnnnnddddd he still couldn’t link a sleep cycle most of the time. Why?!? Because he freaking well couldn’t link a sleep cycle. It had stuff all to do with how he went to sleep and everything to do with him waking and NEEDING comfort back to sleep. Whether we withdrew the comfort and trained him not to call out for help despite still needing it or provided the comfort and helped him he woke regardless. I am thankful to this day I finally came to my senses and could see this. My poor baby needed me. The end.
2. This non sleep cycle linking, catnapping, frequent waking incredibly high needs guy once I finally surrendered, was and continues to be 2 years on, comforted in whatever way he needs to sleep every day and night of his life and guess what? He has miraculously linked sleep cycles (I know, what the hell?!?). He sometimes has 2-3 hour day sleeps and sleeps for long hours if not through the night … Even if he fell asleep in my arms and I put him in his bed. Shock horror!
3. My second guy, well he really mixes it up as far as his ability or inability to link sleep cycles goes … He’s never been trained, he’s always nursed or cuddled to sleep, he starts the night on his own mattress and then moves into bed with me sometime during the night. During the day, he sometimes sleeps in bed and other times in the carrier. With all this variation and ‘inconsistency’ you’d expect he’d be the Catnap King and wake frequently at night because he’d surely wake confused that he wasn’t still on boob or in my arms and yes, sometimes he does catnap and yes, he does go through patches of waking incredibly frequently but in general he links his sleep cycles just fine. Some nights he sleeps 8 hours straight without my help to link cycles without ever having been ‘taught’ even remotely to ‘self settle’. Some days he sleeps for 1.5-2 hours without a resettle despite having fallen asleep in my arms.
To make sense of this is really quite simple- When he can link sleep cycles he does, when he can’t, he asks for help or during the day he just has an extra kip later if resettling isn’t on the cards
The answer to why your baby can’t link cycles may be complex. There are many, many reasons they wake but I can confidently say the only sure thing to explain your baby’s waking is that they wake because they wake and if they ask for help to get back to sleep it’s because they need help back to sleep. By accepting this is where they are at and they need you as much or as little as they do today, you can save yourself and your baby so much stress and heartache.
If your baby is waking extremely frequently and you have ruled out medical reasons (eg. Reflux, food allergies or intolerances and other conditions) it is okay to simply roll with their crazy flow. They will learn to link sleep cycles in their own time. In the meantime, keep on settling that baby off to sleep in the way that works best for both of you. You aren’t doing anything wrong and it will all work out fine in the end.
The utter crap spun by Baby Sleep Whisperers: episode 2– knowing your baby’s cry
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