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Accepting the Reality of Infant and Toddler Sleep

Imagine if we, as a society accepted normal infant and toddler sleep. 

I mean really accepted it, in all its glory. 

Every part of society, from every generation, every family, every profession, every community, every culture, every religion.

What if we knew and accepted it as expected and respected elements of a child’s development? 
What if everybody knew well before having their own children that their child would need night time parenting for the first few years of life? 
If everybody knew that waking frequently to nurse was the biologically normal way for an infant/ toddler human to sleep? 
If everybody knew that we are in fact ‘carry mammals’ and that our young require near constant contact with a caregiver for the first few months to continue their growth and development outside of the womb? 
If everybody knew that a baby’s and toddler’s sleep can fluctuate a lot  over the first couple of years as they grow and develop at a phenomenal rate? 
If everybody recognised that a baby’s and toddler’s need for comfort, closeness and nurturing at night is just as valid and important as their need for these things during the day? 
What if nobody doubted the value of night time parenting and wouldn’t even for a moment consider that they could trade it off so they could be a ‘better’ parent by day? 

We, as a society, would come at infant and toddler sleep from a whole other place than we do right now.

There’d be no sleep training and therefore no sleep training industry.

There would be less focus on the baby and their behaviour and more focus on the dyad as a dynamic pair and nurturing the nurturer.

There would be focus on all levels from family right through to the political sphere on the kinds of support families need to navigate this time in their lives.

Antenatal classes and Mums and Bubs groups would be all about helping mothers to build their support network and discovering options that will allow them to meet their baby’s needs while also meeting their own.

For mothers who are struggling with intense high needs babies, the support would recognise the extra level of challenge these mother face as they run the Ultra Marathon of her life and help put the supports in place that mother needs and deserves.

Mothers with mental health concerns would be nurtured and treated in ways that respect her child’s legitimate needs day and night.

Families making decisions about paid employment would do so with the full knowledge that their baby will still require night time parenting.

Wouldn’t the world look so different to the way it does right now.?


The stress, strain, struggle and sacrifices made all because so few people know and recognise what has always been and always will be the way our tiniest most vulnerable humans find sleep normally.

I was told that new and expecting mothers don’t want to know that babies continue waking for a couple of years. I was told I was scaring them unnecessarily and that it was the equivalent of telling horror birth stories to a pregnant mama as she prepared to birth.

I strongly disagree.

Knowing and accepting what IS likely to happen as your baby grows and develops is not a horror story. No one knows how your baby will find sleep in this world but one thing is for sure, they will need you and that is not something you need to fear. Instead of fear, it gives room to mentally, physically and practically prepare. It takes away the element of surprise. It removes the angst of ‘shouldn’t they be sleeping better yet?’, ‘why does my baby still wake?’

A birthing mother doesn’t need to hear every horrific tale of every horrific thing that may or may not happen to her. That does nothing to help her towards her own journey. But it equally does not help to tell her that it will be easy, straight forward and you practically just sneeze and the baby falls out without pain/ discomfort.

A pregnant or new mother does not need to hear every detail of every form of sleep torture she may or may not face in the years ahead with her child. But she equally doesn’t need to sprint to some arbitrary finish line that someone has told her and think that her child’s night-time needs will magically cease and her sleep will return to that of pre-baby.

Let’s be real. Let’s be honest and let’s give new parents the very best chance to set themselves up with realistic expectations for the early time in their child’s life where they will be needed just as much at night as they are by day.

I know this may seem like a pipe dream right now, but all it takes is for voices to rise. Mothers and babies of the future deserve better than what is offered up in mainstream society today.

When we know better, we can do better and so, for all of those in the know, it’s our turn to share our voice, speak our knowledge and share with all we can the truths of normal infant and toddler sleep.

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The powerful bonds forged through the sleepy snuggle

The powerful bonds forged through the sleepy snuggle

Australia is a massive country, most people would agree, but not many have a grasp of the true magnitude. I live in the outback in the heart of it all. We are a 1.5 hour drive from the Northern Territory border, a 10 hour drive to the East Coast, a 20 hour drive to Brisbane as our nearest capital city. My family is a 2.5 hour flight away and my husband’s is 2 x 2.5 hour flights away and the cost … well it is extortionate. Our time with our family is precious beyond measure and though it is limited by time and space, the bonds that have been forged with my babies and with my nieces are strong and heartfelt. These bonds have been strengthened through the sharing of a most precious and memorable experience… the sleepy snuggle.  

We are currently staying with my folks following the birth of my newest niece and I had an appointment this morning that ran over my baby’s first nap time. If the boob lady is around, only the boob will do for a snooze but when I’m not, well, Nana and Pa have got it covered. Pa has the magic touch with a little walk around the trees for calming or a short stroll down the beach front and then he swings him to calm him further. Today, the swing actually conked him out but as he couldn’t be left there, Nana scooped him up and held him while they waited for me. I came home to a peaceful sleeping baby, wrapped in his Nana’s loving arms, rocking in the rocking chair. She kissed him as she passed him to me, later saying, ‘I could have tried to put him down but I was just enjoying my snuggle.’

Just enjoying her snuggle.

I look back through all my photos of our family over each year as I make the new calendar and I can tell you now, hands down, my favourites are those of my babies sleeping on someone they love – me, their Dad, my Mum, my husband’s Mum, one of the Pa’s an Aunty, an Uncle… sometimes it’s snuggling on the couch, sometimes in a carrier (don’t you know babywearing is for dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, too?!?), sometimes it was bedsharing. In each and every photo, I see people at peace. I see relaxed faces, smiles on lips, kisses on heads, warmth and love. I see trust. I see time. I see incredible memories and bonds being forged.

While my sister was in hospital following the birth of her newest babe, I had the privilege to be able to lay with and cuddle my niece as she went to sleep for her nap each day. I loved every minute of it. I have never felt more special in her world than I did those days.

In the days since they have come home, I have had a number of sleepy snuggles with my new niece who is rarely out of the loving arms of someone unless she’s happy to be down.

As a family, we have embraced the power of the embrace.

It wasn’t always so. Back before I found my gentle path, these same loving arms belonged to people who also once believed a baby needed to sleep alone. We have all come such a very long way and I credit these beautiful little humans in our lives for showing us a better way. They have shown us the power of the sleepy snuggle for not only the baby but for the person they are finding their comfort in.

We may live so very far apart but our love is closer than ever.

Never underestimate the value of passing a baby from your loving arms to more loving arms. It takes a village to raise a child and sometimes that child is the catalyst for changing views in the village into which they were born.

(Quote and image credit: Mothers, Milk & Mental Health

If you recognise the power of the sleepy snuggle, try to extend that love in your family and help create the shift we need to see in society away from solitary sleep.

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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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