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Surrendering to your baby’s sleep needs is not about becoming stagnant

It seems lately, I am hearing the ‘so we just have to suck it up?!?’ Or ‘so it’s just a matter of ‘wait it out’, there’s nothing I can do?’ queries more frequently and I think that maybe it’s because there is a misconception about the idea that ‘surrendering’ to your baby’s needs somehow means throwing your hands in the air and all is lost as you dig down deeper into the trenches of sleep deprivation and you just have to suck it up while you wait until your baby is 5, maybe 10 or at least before they head off to University. 

It seems to be attached to a feeling of helplessness.  

My own experience of surrender did involve a momentary stop and take stock element where I worked out what the hell my baby actually did need from me and it did at times feel like I was up to my nostrils in mud trying to keep my head down in the trenches as I pulled my weary body through yet another shitty patch of 20-40min sleep hell.

But as I’ve made it much further through my journey, I can now see that surrender is far from static.

Surrender is malleable and responsive, although it is a particularly slow moving beast who moves in an unpredictable pattern governed by your unique baby and your unique family.

Surrender is all about not fighting or swimming against the tide. It’s about finding comfort and a higher level of trust in the natural current and going with the flow, even when you hit some heavy rapids and you feel completely washed out.


If you have just found your surrender and have just accepted that this is where your baby is at right now and they need you every bit as intensely as they do right now. You are accepting the here and now. This is not forever.

As you follow your baby’s lead, you will find gradual changes will naturally occur or windows of opportunity will open up where you can gently encourage minor adjustments to keep things ticking along for you all.

  • The baby who only sleeps on your chest, will one day allow you to put them down or lay next to you instead of on you.
  • The baby who never sleeps more than 20 minutes in their cot but then has 2 hours on your chest after being picked up, will one day bust out a 1.5hour sleep in their cot or on your bed as you roll away like a stealth ninja.
  • The baby who has only ever slept while there is a boob in their mouth may be gently night weaned once they reach an age where they understand what is going on.
  • The baby who has needed to be rocked to sleep, may one day accept rocking in the rocking chair, then simply sitting and cuddling and then one day, they may be happy just to hold your hand as they drift off to sleep.
  • The baby who only sleeps during the day while snuggled up tight in a carrier, will one day transfer.

These are but a few examples of what I mean. There is nothing to fear in surrendering to the here and now. Nothing in surrender will be set in stone.

It is also a perfectly normal part of the mother-baby relationship that at times, you will feel at odds. Your baby will need more from you in a way you wish they didn’t. Sometimes, it is all we can do to accept this mismatch, but at other times, we CAN make changes to regain the balance in both the mother and baby’s favour.

I have two examples of this-

1. I chose to night wean my 15 month old as I was 5 months pregnant and had severe breastfeeding aversion and he was wanting to nurse hourly around the clock. The nursing was making me feel physically ill and my skin crawled. My toes would curl, my teeth clench and my hands bunched into fists. I had to fight against the urge to throw him off me, each and every time he nursed. It was KILLING my relationship with him. He needed my comfort. I respected that. I did not deny he needed me. I simply could not keep meeting those needs through nursing anymore. It was an undeniably hard time for him but he was cuddled, sung to, reassured and continued to sleep with us in our bed. He was not alone through this change. I still met his needs for comfort and reassurance as he continued to wake at least every couple of hours, but no longer through breastfeeding. Our relationship was restored and was as strong as ever.

2. By the time my guy was 2, he was horrible to have in our bed. He was restless and extremely rough in his sleep. Hitting, kicking, thumping. Things really came to a head when my husband copped a heel to the privates more than once in the night and he told me he couldn’t do it anymore and went to the spare room. When we talked it over, we both agreed that he wasn’t yet ready to spend a full night in his room (he starts the night there but always migrates sometime around midnight), but we needed him out of the bed. We decided to buy him a lovely comfy single mattress and add it to our King size floor mattress. I made a bit of a fuss with him about picking a new quilt set for it and he and I practiced laying on it so he knew exactly where I was and how he could still reach out and touch me and hold my hand but he could also roll and thump and kick around with hurting anyone. It worked a treat.

My major tip with these kinds of changes is to be wary of making them unnecessarily if your child does not seem ready. Your baby is the best gauge of whether what you imagined should be the plan is in fact a good match or not. If they are ready, changes should be pretty uneventful- more a natural step forward than some momentous jump.

Never be afraid to take a step back if your baby seems stressed or you feel stressed. Both are reactions that deserve recognition.

Not being ready now, does not mean they won’t be ready ever.

Keep things in perspective. Our babies are biologically designed to grow more independent with sleep over the first few years of life … This process is not one where you look for development and growth every other day or even weeks. Look over months and years and you will see a beautiful progression.

Surrender to now, knowing that it is just for now. There is no long term with babies. You have not entered the twilight zone.

Surrender is a great way to allow you to take sleep out of sharp focus. When you stop zoning in on all the unhelpful details of your baby’s sleep, you open and free your mind to take in everything else that is going on in your baby’s world and indeed your own life.

So yes, surrender but don’t stagnate. Embrace the flow and trust the ride. You will make it out the other end. You really will.

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The last resort- when sleep training feels like it’s not a matter of choice anymore

The last resort- when sleep training feels like it’s not a matter of choice anymore

‘If you have a flexible relaxed baby you don’t really have a problem do you? I have a 10 month old and she won’t sleep anywhere but in my arms, takes up to 1-2hours to get her to sleep. SHE needs sleep, I need sleep. So what other choice do I have but to try sleep training? So once again let’s not judge people. Not all sleep training is cry it out so get off your high horses and go back to being perfect mums while I do what I can to survive’

This is a comment I received on my latest article and it breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart for this mama.

I know this feeling all too well. The desperation, the feeling that I had no choice but to try sleep training.

The crossroads.

This is not a mother coming to sleep training willingly. She has for 10 months, helped her child to sleep in her arms because that was the way that worked. She has responded. She has given. She has no doubt tried gentler techniques and still her baby finds sleep difficult and still this mother is exhausted, desperate and doubting everything she has done.

I reached this point earlier. For me, it was the 4 month appointment with a CHN that left me feeling I had ‘no choice’ but to sleep train and it is how I came to be in sleep school with my baby 2 weeks later.

This is a horrific situation for a mother to find herself in. To find herself feeling as though she must do something to her baby that she has desperately been trying to avoid. If this mother or I had truly believed that our baby needed to be taught to sleep through whatever name the sleep trainers would like to call their Controlled Crying technique, then we wouldn’t have left it to our last resort. Our only last remaining ‘choice’.

I remember saying to the nurse manager at my check in meeting at sleep school that I never wanted to be the mother who let her baby cry.

I wanted to soothe my babies. I wanted to hold, nurse and see them comfortably off to sleep. But I also wanted SLEEP!!! I wanted sleep in chunks. I wanted to recover from birth. I wanted to stop having to think, talk, live and breathe nothing but sleep. I was convinced that I could reasonably expect this from my baby. I was convinced that what I was experiencing with my child was far from normal. I was convinced that it must have been what I was doing that had led to my baby’s wakeful behaviour and that the ONLY way to fix it was to undo all of these ‘sleep associations’ and train him to learn to sleep alone through the ‘Responsive Settling’ techniques prescribed at the sleep school I attended.

I looked on the surface to be a willing participant in the process. I agreed to it. I went along with it. I persisted with it. I ultimately ‘failed’ at it.

But under the surface, I was anything but willing and this is where I see the failure of the system, society and these ‘services’ of the Sleep Training Industry.

A mother’s instinct to mother her unique baby the way they need to be mothered is there for a reason. These intense, high needs babies often have underlying health issues that further exacerbate the wakefulness and to ‘train’ them to the point that they stop signalling to their caregiver that they need help is so incredibly unfair on that baby. Other intense, high needs babies, such as mine, don’t have underlying health issues but simply NEED the extra comfort, contact and support to be able to rest relatively peacefully. They aren’t broken but do not fit the mould. They ask more of their mother even when she has nothing more to give. They are relentless and with no light at the end of the sleep deprived tunnel, it is beyond the point of difficult for the mother of such a child to keep things in perspective. ‘This too shall pass’ has a hollow ring as night after night after night for months and even years the waking continues. The intensity continues. The neediness continues.

Of course, when this mother hits the point of, ‘I can’t do this anymore!’ She will be vulnerable and far more accepting of advice and techniques that go against her instinct. She is fucking done. She is SO unbelievably over it and tired that she actually dreams of running away and sleeping whole nights away.

When someone is at their most vulnerable, it is easy to manipulate and take advantage of them. They are DESPERATE for an answer. They will pretty well try anything to change the current circumstances. They are in no fit state to be making decisions that may or may not have long term implications for their baby because surely, a short term pain is worth it to regain the sanity and SLEEP that is ‘needed’.

It makes me absolutely WILD that our mothers are being left to get to this point. Society and the sleep training norm have allowed and even encouraged us to get here though.

If a mother presents herself to a GP, Paediatrician, CHN, Sleep School or Sleep Consultant with a tale of desperation and last resort then it is THEIR responsibility to that mother to bring her back from that brink. It is their responsibility to find out how that unique child of hers is asking to be mothered, why it has brought her to the point of exhaustion, what supports can be put in place (physical, emotional and environmental) to help her come back from the brink and continue mothering this baby of hers the way they need to be mothered. It is absolutely NOT the time to be encouraging her to sleep train her baby as though it is the answer to her prayers.

Her baby is wakeful for a REASON and that reason has fuck all to do with what she has been doing and fuck all with not being able to ‘self soothe’.

Firstly, rule out health concerns: allergies, intolerances, food sensitivities, tongue and lip ties, birth trauma to name but a few possible causes of wakefulness. 

If her baby nurses to sleep and refuses the ‘feed, play, sleep’ routine, it’s because that baby finds the perfectly normal biologically perfect method of nursing to sleep the best way to go to sleep.

If they take a long time to drift off or fight sleep tooth and nail even while being held tight and rocked, but eventually go- this is what they need!!

If they wake at night and only fall back to sleep while nursing, they are behaving like a normal breastfed human infant. If it is happening many times, then investigating why through health concerns is important but encouraging safe cosleeping or bedsharing arrangements may help anyway.

A baby wanting to be cuddled and not put down IS NORMAL.

If these support services, truly have these vulnerable mothers AND their baby’s best interest at heart, they will do whatever they can to best meet the needs of both mother and child.

She should NEVER be made to feel that she has no choice but to sleep train. There should always be a choice and the goal should be to work with her to establish her true choices and go with the one that feels right in her heart, right for her baby and right for the family.

The conversation around sleep training needs more branches. Yes, it ‘works’ for many. Yes, it is touted as having ‘saved’ many mothers but what if we could avoid it? What if we never had to get to it as ‘last resort’?

What if.


For some thoughts on alternatives to sleep training, check out this article 👍🏻💙

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If you don’t want to sleep train your baby but you are past the point of tired

If you don’t want to sleep train your baby but you are past the point of tired

I have kind of covered this a few times in a mixture of articles but I figure a dedicated article might help collect some ideas and give mothers who are trying to avoid sleep training the breathing space to truly consider their alternatives.

This is not an article telling you how to fix your baby’s sleep and its not an article telling you how to fix your sleep and it’s also not going to tell you what you can and cannot do. I do not have the answers to ‘fix’ these things because a. I don’t think either you nor baby is broken and need fixing and b. One size fits all doesn’t work and c. You have the power to take control of your own situation and you are the one who will work out what works for you, your baby and your family to make it through this weary season in your life. You don’t need yet another stranger telling you one more thing you are doing wrong. What you really need is room to breathe. Room to think and room to open your mind to the true options you have or could have in your unique situation.

I am not an expert. I repeat, I am not an expert.

I am a mama who has been where you are though and I know your desperation, your exhaustion and the feeling that no one else truly gets it.

I also fully understand and respect your instincts that sleep training is not for you.

So here’s my first suggestion.

Completely take Sleep Training off the table. Stop thinking of it like some dark cloud at the back of your mind that feels like it is ever looming larger as your last resort. The inevitable. It isn’t inevitable. Many families of extremely wakeful babies have made it through this season WITHOUT sleep training at all or having failed sleep training and been forced to come at their life with a new angle. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.

So now we’ve removed that ‘choice’ you have been thoroughly avoiding, where to now?

Well now, this is where you take over. I’ll float some ideas but they are not definitive. The idea is to get YOU thinking and problem solving. The idea is to open your mind to what could be an option that may have been something you either hadn’t considered or did not previously wish to consider.

Food for thought number 1:

• What is your goal? Is it realistic? Do you understand normal infant sleep patterns and that waking and nursing frequently throughout the first year and beyond is normal? If you wonder about your expectations and feel that they may be a too high for your baby or toddler, then reading up on the topic may help you review your expectations down a little. Having realistic expectations is so important. It alleviates many worries parents have about their little one’s sleep and the effect it may be having on them. Knowing your little one is okay, takes a big chunk of the desperation out of the process for many parents. It is very reassuring to know that while you may be exhausted, your baby is not abnormal and is in fact behaving like many other human infants.

Food for thought number 2:

• If you still feel your little one’s waking is of concern, then trust your gut and investigate possible things that may be exacerbating the wakefulness. Things like reflux, allergies, intolerances, tongue and lip ties and birth trauma a few to consider.

• If you investigate these things and it turns out there is nothing else at play, it’s okay to feel a little conflicted. I had a perfectly healthy sleep thief and while I’ll be forever grateful he was, you can’t help but feel a little deflated that it wasn’t ‘something’ that could be fixed and sleep may have returned.

Food for thought number 3:

• Don’t be afraid to experiment a little but keep it within the realms of what feels right and listen to your baby- they are by far and away the best gauge for when something is right and when it something isn’t for them. Pinky McKay offers an awesome framework to help you decide if a technique or idea is worth a try- Is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right? If the answer is yes, give it a crack. If it doesn’t work out, you didn’t fail and your baby isn’t being difficult.

• Pinky McKay and Sarah Ockwell Smith both have some great suggestions on the ‘sleep environment’ which also may be worth a gander. Trying a darker room, white noise, making the room a bit cooler etc … does make a difference to some babies. But, and it’s a big BUT… it doesn’t matter diddly squat to many others. Which leads me to my key thought for this section-

• Do you find yourself obsessing and stressing about nothing but sleep and how tired you are? If you do, it’s okay to let it go. It’s okay to stop focussing on the weariness. It took me by surprise how much less tired I felt when I stopped focussing on how tired I should be. Yes, you are living on stuff all sleep but if you’ve been doing it a while, I bet, like me, you are surprisingly still kicking goals most days. Your body does adjust to little and broken sleep. Some days it’ll still get you but most days, if you simply get on and up without the focus on you tiredness, you’ll instantly feel better.

• If you are obsessing about awake times and how long until your baby wakes … give it a break. The wheels won’t fall off and the earth won’t stop turning if you simply let all of it fade into the background. It’s time to shift focus for both you and your baby onto things that make you happy. Time outside, catch ups with friends, gardening, parks … anything. Get them off to sleep when they seem weary, resettle if you want to and stop if it doesn’t seem to be working and get on with it. At night, ditch the clock. Stop calculating how much sleep you’ve had, how long until the next wake up, how long you’ve been awake … it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t help.

• If you’ve tried all you wish to try and your baby is still super wakeful, then it’s okay to accept that this is just them. They simply need the extra comfort, help and closeness that they demand and it’s okay to just go with it. It’s okay to accept that it’s normal.


Food for thought number 4:

• If your baby’s sleep is ‘normal’ and doesn’t require fixing, then perhaps the problem truly lies with your sleep deprivation, not theirs. If we take the focus off babe and shift it to you, take some time to think on your lifestyle and where the lack of sleep actually stems.

• My example to get you thinking- For me, a lot of my severe sleep deprivation came down to me insisting on getting up and keeping my baby in his cot. Me insisting that he didn’t need a feed and persisting with resettling instead of just nursing him and getting him straight back to sleep with no fuss. The resettling also had a compound effect where my baby was losing more sleep than he needed to and I was so razzed up from the lengthy crying and fussing that even once I did finally ‘give in’ and nurse him (resettling had a zero % success rate in our house), I took FOREVER to wind back down to sleep myself and sometimes I’d take so long, that my anxiety would kick up a notch panicking that I wouldn’t even get back to sleep at all or if I’d just fall asleep and he’d wake up again (which was often the case). My quality of sleep was dismal. I lived in a warped state of falling asleep to wake back up… for a while there, I actually doubt I EVER hit a deep sleep. Not even momentarily. I was forever in the drifting off … BAM baby crying and awake. It was fucked. It was unhealthy. This was actually post sleep school using their techniques that were meant to ‘fix’ the waking.

• What does YOUR sleep look like right now? It may be similar to mine or poles apart. Doesn’t matter. Try not to focus on quantity. Quantity can be elusive and uncontrollable. Quality on the other hand … you can work on that.

• For me, to get better quality sleep, I needed to work out how I could stay relaxed and drowsy while tending to my baby. The waking right up and taking forever to wind back down was making me way more sleep deprived than the wake ups in themselves. I solved this for me by no longer trying to resettle and taking baby to bed with me once he woke after I went to bed. I could not believe how much more rested I felt simply by no longer physically having to get up and no longer needing to wind back down after hearing my baby cry. It was seriously the biggest game changer for me.

• I know not all families can safely bedshare but if you can, then please investigate it and consider it. It’s not always pretty and can be mighty uncomfortable but it still got me way better quality sleep than the alternative.

• If you can’t safely bedshare, could you side car the cot or at least put it next to the bed? Could you lay a mattress next to the cot so you don’t have to go far? Are there any other physical changes you could make to limit the amount of time you spend having to stay awake to tend to your baby?

• Could your partner take on some of the nighttime load or can they take the morning shift once babe wakes so you can get some more sleep in then? Even if it’s not every day? My husband helps with the morning shift when he can because both of our babies have been all about the boob lady through the night. He tried very hard with our first to do his ‘fair share’ but it backfired horribly and ended up with all 3 of us being even more sleep deprived. It’s okay to accept that your baby will only settle for the boobs at night, but your partner can help with the sleep deprivation during the day (obviously around work schedules).


Food for thought number 5

• Your own health may be contributing to your struggle and not just because you are sleep deprived.

• I blamed my PND so much on being sleep deprived and yet I made a full recovery while my baby still woke at least 1-2hourly around the clock. My point is, while being sleep deprived can impact on your health, it may be masking something else that is going on. It’s important to look further to find what is really at play.

• Having tests done to check your thyroid function, iron levels etc. are particularly important as they can really effect your energy levels.

• Pre existing mental and physical health conditions may be exacerbated during this highly stressful time in your life. Have you been attending to them as well as you could to make sure you are in the best health you can be, or have they slipped a little with baby in the focus? Your health, is so vitally important during this weary season. Work out how to meet your health needs so you can keep up with your baby.

• Pre existing or even undiagnosed sleep disorders of your own may mean you are losing more of your own sleep even while your baby sleeps. ‘Mumsomnia’ is not technically a condition but I found when I was almost totally GaGa with sleep deprivation, I suffered terrible insomnia. I also had it while pregnant. It definitely made the wakeful baby of mine harder to deal with but it was MY poor sleep that made it even more challenging. I started reading a familiar novel before bed or listening to meditation music and gradually got over the insomnia.

Food for thought number 6

• Exercise and self care are supremely important. What are you doing to keep your body and mind well?

• With these incredibly intense babies it can be so very difficult to find time for you but it is ever so I important that you do. It doesn’t have to be much. I am no gym junky but I found great joy in going for evening walks with my husband and baby after we’d had dinner and babe was bathed. The peace of night, the conversation with my husband, the calming effect of walking on my baby, the light exercise for my weary body all helped me feel better in myself.

• Other mamas find the crèche at gyms a great way to have a break (even if you skip the workout for a long luxurious shower and wash your hair and shave your legs) or there are many options out there for exercise with your baby such as mum and bub Pilates or KangaTraining classes.

• What would work for you? What makes you feel good? How are you keeping yourself moving?

Food for thought number 7

• How can you work more rest into your day?

• Note, I did not say ‘sleep’ but instead rest. Sleep is not always possible but if it is … go ahead and take it.

• If it’s not though, how can you give those weary bones of yours a break? One way I got more rest, was to purposely let babe hang out on the boob and sleep on my chest while I chilled on the recliner. It was the perfect excuse to just stop still and relax for a while. The ‘to do list’ in my head just had to shut up as I was already doing the most important work- getting my baby and I the rest we needed to make it through this season. I still do it now when I can, especially while my big boy is at daycare. I also write and have a cuppa, read a book … whatever. But I make sure I stop and relax when my baby’s sleep and do the chores etc when they wake. I have prioritised rest over chores for a long time now and sometimes (more often than I care to admit), the chores miss out. I do what is absolutely necessary and the rest can wait.

• If you work, is there a way to work a rest period into your day? Even if it is just 15 minutes chilling in your car listening to some music?

• Your rest may not come each and every day as our unpredictable babies keep us on our toes along with other children and life but try to make rest a priority whenever you can.

Food for thought number 8

• Your support network can make or break any new mum. It can take a while to work out who is actually ‘supportive’ and who is anything but. Put your feelers out for those special people in your life who build you up, support you and encourage you to mother the way you wish to mother. Not everyone will fit the bill and that’s okay.

• Support for a mother of a wakeful child comes both emotionally and practically.

• It can feel very isolating mothering a baby who doesn’t behave the way our society says they should behave and often mothers feel embarrassed or even ashamed as though they have done something to make their child this way. Thing is, you are absolutely not alone and mother’s all over the world have mothered, are currently mothering, or will mother in the future a baby that is every bit as perfect, sensationally adorable and downright challenging as your baby is now. You may be lucky enough to have people in your direct support network who have had the pleasure of mothering one of these beauties and can offer you all the reassurance and connection you need, but if not, fear not, there are many groups online these days to help you connect with other mothers of little sparklers and they do a wonderful job of filling your confidence right back up when the doubts creep in.

• Who are your support crew for your emotional well being? If you don’t have anyone, consider reaching out today. Mother’s groups, Australian Breastfeeding Association meet ups, La Leche League groups, playgroups and libraries can be great places to meet other  mothers. 

• Practical support comes in many shapes and forms, from hiring a cleaner to borrowing an au pair for a couple of hours a week … the options are boundless. Whatever budget you are on, there are ways for you to ask for and accept help when you need it. It may surprise you just how much people enjoy helping you. I was astonished to find how many people jumped to my aid when I put a call out when I was reaching the end of my tether. Meals were dropped to my door, friends stacked and unstacked my dishwasher while making me a cuppa, laundry was hung and taken off … a friend even hired a guy to mow my lawn so my husband could spend extra time with babe that weekend instead of tending to the forest outside…

• I have since returned the favour and paid that kindness forward and it has forever changed my view on reaching out and showing vulnerability. For all my pride and worry that people would think I wasn’t coping, I wasted so much time and energy unnecessarily suffering. People love helping. It feels good in your soul. Don’t think that by reaching out you have somehow failed … you haven’t. This job was never meant to done alone and what you are in fact doing is opening the door to those who are helping you to one day respond in kind and call on you in their time of need.

• Your practical support may be regular, such as a weekly clean or sporadic, such as an occasional baby sitter on a weekend morning so you can have coffee with your partner. It may be emergency, such as flying in family or moving in with grandma temporarily to offer more intense assistance or your partner taking a day or even a week’s leave to allow you to get back on board and able to keep on keeping on.

• What practical support do you think would help you in your situation with your budget, how can you make it happen? You may need to think creatively.


Food for thought number 9

• Your load and expectations of yourself may be making this season even more weighty than it needs to be.

• Are you saying, ‘yes’ to things that could otherwise be done by someone else or wait until you have made it through this season? You CAN have everything and CAN do everything in this life, just not necessarily all at one time. It’s okay to accept that now is not the time for some endeavours.

• What expectations do you hold of yourself that may be making it harder to accept your baby’s sleep or the way life is right now? It’s worth reviewing what we expect of ourselves by projecting onto a beloved friend in our life. Would you expect the same of them in the same circumstances? If the answer, is no, then it is okay to give yourself the grace to lower your expectations even if it is only for this season. Surrendering to the here and now is not forever.

So where do you find yourself now, mama? Hopefully this has planted some seeds of thought, hope and discussions to be had for you and your family. If there are other key factors at play that I haven’t mentioned, don’t ignore them. Consider them and work with them to unravel the pieces of YOUR puzzle.

If you are simply not in the headspace to think this through on your own, some experts who will not ask you to sleep train your baby, may be your next port of call as they can help you see your way through in your setting.

Here are some I know of who offer Skype consults-

The Possums Clinic

Pinky McKay

Meg Nagle (The Milk Meg)

Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Tracy Cassels Phd (Evolutionary Parenting)

This list isn’t definitive but a place to start. If you do access a provider and what they suggest to you doesn’t feel right, it is okay to walk away and seek an alternative. Never feel trapped into having do something. You are your baby’s biggest advocate and you know them best.

I know it can be utterly demoralising not being able to see a light at the end of this ridiculously sleep deprived tunnel. No matter what you do or how positive your mind set, some days you will feel defeated. You will wonder what you did in another life to deserve this. You will once again doubt yourself and your baby. This is normal. All of the mothers who have lived or are living this experience feel this from time to time. But, it’s at times like this that you need to know just how incredible you are and despite your struggle, your baby is every bit as wonderful as they are because of you. Your time, your patience, your unconditional love is not in vain. YOU are your baby’s whole world and they love every inch of you. They truly would sleep better if they could and when they can, they will. They need you ever so intensely right now, but it WILL end. One day, they will be too big for boob, they will be too big to sleep on your chest, they’ll be too big to pick up, they’ll be too big for your singing and humming, too big for your stories. Right now it feels like a distant pipe dream but the sad truth of life is that time slows for no one. The intensity and rawness of now will soften and fade into memories but the impact you have had on your growing baby’s brain will last a lifetime.


Hang in there tired mama. With the support you need and deserve, you CAN keep mothering that baby of yours just as they are needing to be mothered. Xxx

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Normal infant sleep: honouring the village mother within

Normal infant sleep: honouring the village mother within

Once upon a time, we lived a village life. I know, I know … we don’t anymore and quite honestly when it comes to raising our families, the lack of village frankly sucks. But it’s not just the support structures that a village life provided for families that has been lost. Something possibly even more crucial has all but disappeared… knowledge of what is normal and practical day to day, night to night experience with a range of infants and watching mothers mother.  

For generations, mothers were surrounded by mothers, surrounded by babies and children of varying ages and stages.

It would have been an easier and far more natural education for a new mother to transition into her role as she would have been coming with a whole life experience of living and learning about infants and how they behave as they develop in a biologically normal manner.

She would’ve witnessed the early days of nursing, experimenting with holds and attachment, cluster feeding, night nursing, establishing supply and maintaining supply.

She would’ve already known that some babies sleep easily while most need a lot of help. She would’ve seen babies progress through their first year and beyond. She would’ve noticed the cyclical nature of their sleep. Sometimes waking more frequently and nursing more often or requiring more help than they had previously.

She would’ve been taught to babywear and probably had already worn other babies in her village and so knew the benefits to both mother and child.

She would’ve not thought twice about bringing her child to her bed to maximise both of their sleep.

She would’ve seen that day sleep was as varied in length from infant to infant as night sleep and she would know it was okay for a baby to ‘catnap’ and that sometimes a breastfeed or cuddle may extend a nap but other times, resettling simply wasn’t what was needed by that baby right then.

She would know to look for signs her baby was getting weary and she would’ve calmed that baby off to sleep at the breast, in her arms or in a carrier without stressing about getting them ‘down’.

She would’ve been witness to the heartbreakingly short but extremely intense weary season that is the first couple of years of an infant’s life.

She would not have had to worry about ‘bad habits’, she would not have worried her baby would still be needing to be nursed or rocked to sleep out of infanthood. She would not have worried if that baby would ever leave her bed.

She would not have worried because she would have witnessed the beautiful unfolding of independence that occurs so naturally as the children of her village grew.

She would have been confident that her baby’s dependence on her in the early days and years is but a fleeting and ever so normal and needed stage in that child’s life.

By unquestioningly responding to her baby’s normal dependent behaviour, she would have known she was allowing deep, healthy, reliable roots to establish in her baby’s world upon which independence and a sense of self would branch and blossom.

Sleep training would not be something she knew of and if it had been described to her, she would’ve recoiled and protectively enveloped her child, wanting to shield them from a practice that is so foreign and at odds with a baby’s biologically normal sleep behaviour.

This village mother still lives. I know. I found her deep in my heart. Deep in my motherly instincts. Deep in my soul.

Sadly for me, I didn’t honour her as she deserved until after I fell prey to the sleep training industry.

In the absence of village life with mothers coming to mothering with a solid grounding in what is normal, we have become a world that is disconnected from ourselves and our baby’s legitimate needs. We have succumbed to fear … fear of birth, fear of mothering, fear of breastfeeding and fear for our sleep being unnecessarily interrupted by our baby.

So here’s our challenge… if you can recognise the village mother in yourself, honour her by mothering with knowledge of the norm and do it loudly and proudly. Talk, educate and support mothers and mothers of the future in your world. The physical village may be a thing of the past but mothers helping pass on the art of mothering is here … she is within us. Let’s play our part 💙😊

My top tips for getting your head around and accepting normal infant sleep for new and expecting mamas

1. Expect that your baby will wake ALOT and want to nurse back to sleep most times throughout the first year and beyond. 

2. Even if your baby starts sleeping longer … Expect it not to last. 

3. Expect there to be times when your baby will be super hard to settle and may be impossible to put down. 

4. Expect that your baby will catnap during the day (20-40minutes) and you may spend more time getting them to sleep than they actually stay asleep. 

5. Expect that at times, you will need to call in back up support to help you get the rest you need while meeting the night time needs of your baby. 

6. Expect that you may need to consider some sleeping arrangements that you may not see as your ideal situation (eg. Bedsharing when you really wanted a cot sleeper). 

7. Expect that your baby will want to sleep on the boob and not let go at times. This is normal and not a sleep or supply problem. 

8. Expect that in a few short years, it is a long forgotten ‘ stress’ and all you miss is all the cuddles , nursing and closeness.

Expect these things and then, if it turns out your baby finds sleep more easily than this, winner, winner, chicken dinner!
Realistic expectations (even if you consider them low expectations) make it so much easier mentally to prepare, surrender and make peace with your baby’s sleep behaviour. 
Your baby is so much more than their ability to sleep. Expect little in the way of sleep and enjoy them for the whole person they are 💙😴👍🏻

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    Do you think there is a place for sleep training if it suits a child?’

    Do you think there is a place for sleep training if it suits a child?’

    I was sent a question asking,

    Grubby Mummy, I’m curious to hear your thoughts after a discussion I had with a friend today. We read your sleep school article and the ones about the sleep whisperers and get that you are very anti sleep training but we wondered if this was just because you think it doesn’t suit some babies such as your own. He sounded very intense and high needs and like sleep school was very traumatic for you both but we know people who’ve been to sleep school and seen sleep consultants who swear by them and think the benefits outweighed any negatives.

    Do you think there is a place for sleep training if it suits a child?’

    Short answer, no.

    Long answer, no but for a couple key reasons.

    Firstly, it is normal infant sleep behaviour for a baby to wake and nurse frequently for the first 12 months and beyond, not a sleep problem. If a child is waking infrequently and nursing infrequently, they also do not have a sleep problem. Neither the frequent nor infrequent waker nor any baby in between, is behaving in a way that is biologically unexpected. I do not believe that a baby who is behaving just as they should be ‘needs’ to be trained to sleep in a manner that society has decided is more desirable to fit in with what is seen as the holy grail of parenting- a self settling baby who sleeps through the night.

    Secondly, my second baby actually fits the bill for what you’ve described and I think sleep training would ‘work’ on him very quickly.

    This thought actually makes me feel sick.

    I am so grateful this baby came after his big brother. If he had been my first, I most likely would have ‘succeeded’ at sleep training him and my parenting path would be vastly different to the journey I have been on as a result of our ‘failure’.

    For me, even though I do think I could train this baby of mine to sleep all night, self settle, sleep in his own cot, stop night nursing and not call out for me at night, I could not think of anything I would rather do less. Why?

    Despite him being ‘suited’ personality wise to training, his natural sleep pattern still involves waking, sometimes frequently, mostly infrequently and nursing back to sleep each time. It is what he asks for as I follow his lead.

    I will not sleep train this flexible, relaxed baby of mine because regardless of what I stand to gain, it is nowhere near enough for me to consider risking what may possibly be lost in the process.

    My distaste for all things sleep training runs deep and although it was spawned through traumatic personal experience, it has grown ever since as I have learned more and more about normal infant sleep and also the benefits of gentler approaches to infant care. Some may argue that there is no proof that sleep training harms babies. For my babies, this isn’t enough.

    My instincts, my heart and my baby all tell me that responding to my little one both during the day and throughout the night is the path that feels right.

    Many will disagree with me. I am okay with that. Sleep training is the norm these days. It is mainstream and pumped down mother’s throats daily (particularly if they have a wakeful baby). Voices of dissent from the norm are important. So I will keep sharing my view on this topic. Not to upset those who choose or have chosen the sleep training path, but for those who are looking for an alternative view of this weary season in life. One that doesn’t involve changing their baby.

    Sleep deprivation’s a bitch but I will manage this weary season in my life without sleep training my baby regardless of whether he is ‘suited’ to the process or not.

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    Status

    Mothers talking to mothers

    Different people, different mothers, different babies, different paths

    We all seem happy enough to accept that we are all unique. We all seem to be willing to accept that this uniqueness means that what is right for one family may not be right for another. We all seem happy to accept that we all mother the best way we know how with the resources, knowledge and support available to us.

    Despite this, mothers often feel as though they are being pitted against other mothers in some warped game of ‘I’m the best mother because…’ Or even more insidious, ‘you are a bad mother because …’

    Social media can be a cesspool of hate, arguing, defensiveness and misinformation.

    But, I don’t believe it has to be this way.

    For starters, we need to check ourselves. Check both what comes out of heads and into our comments and also check our reactions to what we have read.

    I’m the first to admit, I love discussing topics passionately and I don’t back away from my views even when they don’t fit nicely for every person I am sharing them with. But, this means I need to check myself when people share an opposing view.

    Just as I know me putting my views out there is done with good intentions and no malice, I need to assume the same from the other side.

    Not everyone plays fair.

    Some people really do take pleasure in causing others’ pain.

    Their shit however, isn’t worth anyone’s time, energy or emotions.

    In general, we should be able to be open and honest. We should feel we can be true to ourselves, our heart and our families.

    I have the pleasure of spending time with many mothers in my world.

     We all do this incredibly challenging job differently.

    Just this morning, two of my lovely friends and I were discussing breastfeeding and the constraints it places on how and when you can be away from your baby.

    It honestly doesn’t bother me that much and I believe it is too important to my babies for that to be something that would lead to weaning whereas both my girlfriends felt by 8-9 months, the restrictions were too much.

    We shared our thoughts freely. I still came away happy to continue being restricted and they were relieved not to be and we kept talking without a hint of defensiveness, disdain, pressure or heaven forbid JUDGEMENT! We were just three mothers talking about mothering, sharing what works for us, our babies and our families.

    In this, lies the secret to mothers being genuinely there for other mothers- honesty, openness, empathy, maturity and respect.

    As long as the walls are up or lines are drawn between us, there will be division, defensiveness, viciousness and closed minds and hearts.

    If you are a mother currently feeling disconnected, maybe take a moment to consider a more open approach to talking with other mothers. Open up a real conversation instead of just a safe one. Talk with feeling and honesty and then listen with an open heart and mind.

    It’s perfectly okay to disagree. It’s perfectly okay to do it differently.

    You don’t need to change a thing about what you are doing if it feels right for you.

    Let’s make ourselves vulnerable and reachable. Let’s allow ourselves to be real.

    Mothers talking with mothers.

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