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Looking at the ‘choices’ in the decision to sleep train- Part one: why I felt I had no choice

I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but there is always a choice not to sleep train. 

As an extremely sleep deprived, vulnerable, desperate first time mother with an extraordinarily wakeful baby, I sleep trained and I can say, hand on heart, I did not feel like I had any other choice.

I did not feel like there was any other choice.
I wasn’t told there was any other choice.
I wasn’t supported to consider any other choice.
I had no idea, there was any other choice.




For those who have never contemplated sleep training and never felt so backed into this corner, it can sound like a cop out and surrendering of responsibility to say, ‘I had no choice to sleep train.’ In a way it is. BUT, I wasn’t in the headspace then to realise this and I went into sleep training at my lowest ebb. I was in deep mental, emotional turmoil and I did not trust myself on any level anymore. I was convinced I was doing this mothering thing wrong and that the way I had been doing it was damaging my baby’s growth, development and wellbeing.

My world was a fog of confusion, anxiety, bad information, worry, stress and strain.

Today, I decided to write out just some of the strain I felt that lead into my decision to sleep train.

It’s fascinating for me now to see how if I just unpacked each one of these stressors and strains one at a time, there WERE indeed choices I could make that did not involve sleep training. But while they were all piled on top of me, while I was so very unwell and while ALL of the advice I was receiving from those around me was that I NEEDED to sleep train for both of our sakes, I could see only one path. One way to go. One solution.

My stressors fell into four categories-

1. My baby– oh my goodness! That baby! Oh how I adored him. The love of my life and an incredible piece of perfection. But holy wow, was he intense. I had never encountered a baby like him before. He seemed petrified by life outside the womb and allergic to the feeling of falling asleep. He was wide awake, his lungs were loud and strong and he demanded more care, nurturing, comfort and assistance to feel secure than any baby I had known. Being his mum was SO hard. Being his dad was SO hard. Nothing we did ever seemed to be enough. No amount of anything seemed to help him find calm for any length of time and all the things we had thought we had up our sleeve often yielded little in the way of ‘success’ and any success was often short lived and quite often that would be the one and only time it worked. We tried SO hard. We started off pretty relaxed thinking he just needed to settle into life outside the womb but when he grew more and more unsettled and we grew more and more tired and frustrated, we let the doubts any new parent would naturally feel, creep in.

  • What were we doing wrong?
  • Was there something we were missing?
  • We had quite a few people with babies of the same age and none of them seemed to be facing the problems we were, what did they have going on that we’d missed?

Once the questioning started, we commenced a slide. The slide away from trusting ourselves and trusting our baby. We began to look outside of our little family unit for ‘answers’.

We desperately wanted to get this right.

Right for us, as his mum and dad but more so, right for him. We didn’t want him unduly suffering at the hands of his ‘amateur’ parents. Nope, we wanted him to be a happy baby, who loved sleep so that he could grow and develop and love life.

The other thing that commenced was the advice and the explanations for what we should do to correct where we had gone wrong.

The information we received was damning.

We WERE doing it all wrong.

  • We didn’t follow a Feed-Play-Sleep routine and so we had allowed nursing to sleep to become a negative sleep association.
  • We didn’t place him down drowsy but awake, so naturally he was confused when he woke up somewhere else.
  • He couldn’t self- settle, no wonder he couldn’t link sleep cycles.
  • He often catnapped which of course meant he was perpetually overtired and didn’t we know that sleep promoted sleep.
  • It was official- our baby was a crap sleeper because we set him up to fail and let him ‘rule the roost’.

On top of this, we faced criticism that we were also making our baby anxious as he fed off our anxieties. Apparently, he would have been a calm, relaxed baby if only we were calmer and more relaxed. Can I just point out how much easier it is to be a relaxed, non anxious parent when you are parenting a baby who is not anxious?!? Also, how much easier it is to be less anxious when you don’t live with the anxiety that your anxiety is causing your baby’s anxiety? (Feeling confused or anxious just reading that sentence? Welcome to my head back in the day).

Then the appointment that sealed our fate … at my baby’s four month appointment at Child Health, we were told that he was chronically sleep deprived and it would be affecting his brain development.

Do you know how much hearing this broke me? There was nothing left in me to question this analysis / diagnosis.

This was my reality and I believed it as gospel truth. I had no reason to think this was a falsehood and so, as any caring mother would do, I laid all my feelings aside and agreed with the only ‘answer’ I had been offered: sleep training at Mother/ Baby unit as a matter of importance and urgency.

We received both a Medicare rebate and private health pay out… this was serious and legitimate. It was my baby’s health and wellbeing at stake.

I did not see it as a choice to consider, it was THE choice we HAD to make.

And so we did it.

I can easily tease each part of this tale apart and call BULLSHIT to each thing that lead up to it all now, but back then… well, I made the best decision I could with the knowledge and resources available to me at that time. I knew what I knew which is not what I know now. AND THAT IS OKAY! As the beautiful Emalitza from Raising Ziggy pointed out in her most recent blog piece, none of us come to this parenting gig knowing all there is to know and there is nothing wrong with that. It is for this exact reason we should approach all things parenting with an open heart and mind but also stay well aware that NOBODY has THE answer and that anyone selling a ‘fix’ may as well sell you snake oil.

2. The second part of the pressure and stress in my brain came from me and the new uncharted territory that is mothering and honour, privilege and humbling experience of being someone’s mum.

HOLY SHIT! It was a baptism of fire. I actually thought I’d be quite a natural at mothering. I’d always loved and wanted babies and children. I worked with primary aged children and loved nurturing the little people who entered my world. I loved pregnancy and was ever so excited to have my little person but then, I am also a perfectionist and a people pleaser. I have always strived to do things not only ‘right’ but also better than just good or okay. At university, a pass would not suffice, anything less than a distinction would see me angry with myself for not doing this, that or the other. In my personal relationships, I strive so hard to keep everyone happy and onside. I love being loved and can’t stand conflict or feeling that I have disappointed or let someone down.

I am hard work on myself.

My expectations for myself as a mother were ridiculously high. To this day, I swear that is why I was blessed with the little firecracker I received. He needed to come into my world to break this cycle. I needed to find new and better ways to feel good about myself and discover what is truly important in life and the endless push for perfection was never going to get me there.

But, the point all of this is I had an enormous weight of stress within me leading into the decision to sleep train. I was not in anyway comfortable in my new identity as mother and the lack of self belief and confidence was crushing. This doesn’t even consider how much worse all of this was when I was chronically sleep deprived myself.

I was a shell.

I was not capable of making well thought out decisions and I most certainly was not in the head space to consider that professionals who spend their whole working lives advising mothers and their babies, may be giving outdated or inappropriate advice and that if there were other options out there, why they wouldn’t also mention them.

I needed help and support.

I trusted their judgement ahead of my own.

As a new mum, I wholeheartedly believed I HAD to sleep train. I did not think I had a choice.

So the perfect storm was brewing- my baby’s wellbeing was at stake and I was failing at being the mother he needed.

3. The next piece of the puzzle was my relationship. My husband and I are a fabulous match and to this day, I would not want to do this life with another human but NOTHING tests your relationship as much as an unsettled baby, chronic sleep deprivation, feeling like you f#%^ing suck at parenting your kid and brewing mental health issues. Add in the fact that the baby in question won’t settle AT ALL for his dad, won’t take a bottle and screamed nonstop when daddy took him to give the Boob Lady a break. Just for fun, throw in hours of one of us being stuck in a darkened room trying different settling techniques to try and eek out the elusive sleep you’ve been told your kid needs. Oh and then when you get them down for the night after yet another marathon shitfight, clean the kitchen and plonk on the couch for 2 minutes only to hear said child wake with a howl and GROUNDHOG DAY/NIGHT, let’s jump on that merry-go-round again.

So much of the time my husband could not do a damn thing to relieve me of this relentless pressure and need. He felt like a useless, stressed out, third wheel as he watched me struggle with my feelings of resentment and jealousy of his freedom while we also mourned the relationship we had before THIS baby and the relationship we’d imagined he’d have with our baby, too.

He tried so damn hard.

He’d have given his bloody kidney to me if he’d thought it would have helped relieve the strain and so, upon hearing we were in fact screwing up our child, he also heartily supported the decision to sleep train. He was with me every step of the way.

He, too, felt we had no other choice. We could not keep living the hell we were in.

4. The final piece of the pie, comes from our lifestyle and the lifestyle expectations we had for ourselves and our family. We had no clue what was or wasn’t normal for a human baby when it came to sleep and all mainstream advice seemed to indicate we were perfectly reasonable to expect our baby would fall asleep on his own, in his own sleep space and that night feeds (the only ‘real’ reason your baby wakes at night) would decrease in a straight line over time to a point where we could categorically rule out his ‘need’ to wake and nurse.

We believed this was reasonable and so it became our expectation.

  • We expected to be sleep deprived and that we might struggle with other things in the immediate newborn period but we expected that it would end relatively soon after that.
  • We expected to be able to settle our baby to sleep if he was tired without too much fuss.
  • We expected we should be able to put him down for sleep.
  • We expected he’d sleep long enough for us to get other things done.
  • We expected that after some time in a basket by our bed that he’d transition to sleeping in a cot in his own room.
  • We expected to still find time in the evening for ‘us’ and that after a while, we’d be fine to arrange a sitter so we could go out in the evening as a couple once again.

We did not consider any of this to be unreasonable. We truly thought this was fair. And it was, for MOST of our friends and acquaintances, so why not for us?

Our child health Nurses, our GP, mainstream infant sleep books and sites all confirmed these expectations.

And under this net of expectations, we filtered OUR reality.

Our baby, his sleep, well they just didn’t measure up. There must have been something wrong. A problem to be fixed. A solution to be found.

The way he behaved was just so far removed from the ‘normal’ we’d been lead to expect, it was logical to us that this ‘Sleep Problem’ our child had would be impacting on him. How could he possibly be okay if he slept so much less and ‘worse’ than his peers who seemed to get a solid 12 hours each night and consolidated that with long, hearty naps each day?

We had no idea there were any other ways of managing this wakeful baby of ours but in light of these expectations we held, it is unsurprising that we could not for the life of us see WHY we should even consider accepting and adapting our life to match his ‘unhealthy’ and ‘problematic’ sleep patterns.

We didn’t give it more thought because we honestly didn’t think we should have to.

And so, the chronically sleep deprived baby who was suffering as a result of his inability to sleep alone, joined by the chronically sleep deprived, vulnerable first time, perfectionist mum, with the desperate to help, out of his depth dad, all wrapped up in mainstream society’s unrealistic view of infant sleep and the ways in which it is viewed and managed … we HAD to sleep train.


The weight, the pressure, the stress, the strain, the knowledge, the beliefs, the trust, the intentions all lead us there.

We own our experience.

We can see at every single turn how we came to our decision and as much as we can see now how utterly wrong we were, we made the best decision we could at that time.

My goal and possibly my life work will be to see a very real shift away from this feeling that mothers so often get, that they have no choice but to sleep train.

There is always a choice not to sleep train but how that choice looks, will be unique to each family.

Babies do not need sleep training. They know how to sleep. Society just does not like how it looks. It’s not tidy, it’s not straightforward, it’s cyclical and at times elusive. It’s not predictable and it doesn’t always allow the freedom and ease society likes it to have to allow the parents to get on with ‘more important’ work that isn’t the time spent helping their baby get the sleep they need in a manner that is normal for that baby.

We can and should do better. Our very tired mothers and their babies deserve to know their true choices.

Part two of this series will see me go into greater detail illustrating where my choices lay in my particular situation. Coming soon …

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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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Dehumanising babies while treating their mother’s Mental Illness

Dehumanising babies while treating their mother’s Mental Illness

It is of major concern to me that peak bodies entrusted with the treatment, education and support of mothers with mental illnesses are following what they call a ‘simple and effective’ intervention to rid ‘problematic’ waking by their baby to facilitate the mother’s recovery. The intervention is Controlled Crying or Controlled Comforting.  

The basis for this is that an ‘infant sleep problem’ is a strong indicator for maternal depression and ‘Infant sleep problems and postnatal depression are both associated with increased marital stress, family breakdown, child abuse, child behaviour problems and maternal anxiety. Postnatal depression can adversely affect a child’s cognitive development.’ (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2014 )

These are seriously heavy consequences and certainly not something that can nor should be ignored, BUT the fact remains that by and large, very few babies genuinely suffer from true sleep problems and therefore it must be asked, if the baby itself is not behaving in a biologically unhealthy manner, should it be their normal, functioning behaviour that professionals look to intervene on, or should the interventions be focused directly on the person who is exhibiting the unhealthy, non functioning behaviour?

It is understandably a blurred line as the mother- baby dyad is unique and shouldn’t be treated in isolation but the current recommendations by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Raising Children Network as an arm of the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services to employ the Controlled Crying technique, in no way honour this dyad.

Yes, a mother’s mental health is essential to her ability to successfully and healthily mother her children but let’s not dive straight for the measure that provides a ‘simple and effective’ fix to her problem that has been in fact oversimplified and effectively silences a baby’s cry and therefore their ability to communicate their night time needs.

This problem is complex and delicate. What will be effective for both mother and child in one setting may not be for any other but I do believe there are processes that could be put in place in order to take a deeper more holistic approach to this very serious and critical issue.

The place to start should be the research into human infant’s biological sleep patterns and behaviours. No, not research into sleep problems and sleep training or interventions but a solid grounding in what is truly normal from a biological, physiological, psychological and anthropological stand point.

Starting with this baseline, scientific understanding will naturally lead those seeking information to learn more about the intricate link between infant sleep, breastfeeding, maternal sleep and sleep environments and situations.

From here, it is no stretch to see why the disconnect and misalignment of modern societal views and expectations of infant sleep has created incredibly difficult barriers and challenges for mothers to face while trying to mother her infant who understands and knows nothing of modern society and its expectations and being able to fit in to what is seen to be a ‘successful’ mother, wife, partner, friend, daughter, sister, employee, volunteer and community member.

The RACGP state, ‘ Infants with sleep problems are more likely to sleep in the parental bed, be nursed to sleep, take longer to fall asleep, and wake for often and for longer periods.’ I’d like this to be viewed in light of what normal infant sleep actually looks like in the 6-12 month age group of infancy. These are NOT sleep problems for the infant but DO pose sleep problems for their parents and in particular their mother particularly for parents who are unable, unwilling or unaware of what changes they need to make to their own sleep habits, lifestyle, environment and support network to enable them to meet these biologically normal sleep behaviours of their baby or toddler that are seen in every culture and society in the world but are only identified as problematic and linked so closely with the incidence of maternal depression in our Western societies.

The other side of this statement from RACGP is it is another nail in the coffin to very tired mothers everywhere to see once again, their child’s sleep behaviour being blamed on natural nurturing parenting behaviours.
It is normal and natural for an infant to sleep in a family bed. This is how the majority of culture’s in the world manage normal night waking of breastfed infant and toddlers. It is not and has never been the cause of a ‘sleep problem’ for a baby or child. It can and is done safely by most (not all) families.
It is normal for a human infant or toddler to be nursed to sleep. It is not a sleep problem. Our night time breastmilk is packed full of sleep inducing components that act to assist both mother and child to sleep more easily and remain more relaxed. Mother Nature is no idiot and this is by perfect design not error.
It is biologically normal for a human infant to wake and nurse frequently at night for the first year and beyond. It is not a sleep problem.

IF a baby is waking in an extreme fashion or staying awake for long periods on many occasions, then I urge all General Practitioners and other professionals on the front line who work with these vulnerable mothers to not ignore this key factor. Absolutely DO NOT take steps to extinguish this child’s cries and calls for help. There is highly likely an underlying issue exacerbating this child’s normal wakeful behaviour and they deserve to have this fully investigated. Reflux, allergies, food intolerances, tongue and lip ties, birth trauma and the residual discomfort from it are all possible issues that need to be looked into and ruled in or ruled out.
After all of the investigations have taken place, if nothing else is at play, please consider this child as a whole person. It is highly likely that a child waking in this extreme fashion is highly sensitive, extremely intense and requires a huge amount of parental nurturing to be able to regulate their body and mind throughout the day and also by night. It has been shown that some children are far more sensitive to parenting choices and techniques than others and I would argue that a baby exhibiting such high level needs could be safely considered a strong candidate to be one of the children who will be heavily effected by the way they are parented and as such, their parents and those acting to care for those parents, need to be mindful of what interventions are suitable not only for the mother but also her unique child.

This brings me to my next point, with so little focus on the well being of the baby in this advice, I would like to bring into question the Hippocratic Oath, ‘first, do no harm’. I have read the studies cited by RACGP and the Raising Children Network and there is a heavy bias toward Proof of Harm and in particular Proof of Harm in the short and medium term but I question whether this is enough. Proof of Harm is vastly different to Proof of No Harm and there is most certainly not any Proof of no harm. It also seems that RACGP has focused only on studies that support the method they wish to employ with no recognition of studies that indicate otherwise.

As the babies in these situations are not in fact the patients but are intricately linked to the problem and the solution, it is not enough to find that the improvement in maternal depression warrants the widespread use of these techniques that cannot be proven to be doing no harm to their babies. A solution that only considers the mother’s needs and sacrifices her baby’s need for night time parenting is frankly no solution at all.

I am no stranger to this situation. I have lived and survived an extremely wakeful baby, I have been referred to a Mother-Baby unit for sleep training by my GP, I have been diagnosed and recovered from Post Natal Depression, I have tried and failed to implement a modified Controlled Crying technique and my extraordinarily intense baby resisted all attempts to extinguish his cries. I have had to recover from Post Natal Depression while STILL mothering my extremely wakeful baby and therefore while still sleep deprived.

I take this topic extremely seriously. I do not doubt or question that many mothers who are given this advice and have implemented it to varying degrees of ‘success’ will largely attest that they NEEDED this intervention. I don’t question that they needed help but I do question that THIS intervention is what was needed.

I sincerely hope to see a shift in practice in the management of severe sleep deprivation, Post Natal Depression and the handling of infant sleep by the professionals mothers turn to for support and assistance at his extremely vulnerable time in her life.

I ask that RACGP, review their current guidelines and practice by seeking access to research and techniques that will give a fuller more human view of this issue for all people involved.

I am not an expert, so my thoughts may be largely dismissed but the true experts in this field are resources that RACGP should acknowledge. Here are a few to get the ball rolling:

  • The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health has a position paper regarding Controlled Crying which can be accessed here.
  • Dr Pamela Douglas who runs the Possums Clinic for mothers and babies in Brisbane, Australia is a wealth of knowledge on normal infant sleep and working with mothers during this weary season in their lives. The Possums Clinic also offers Professional Development opportunities for those working with vulnerable mothers.
  • Tracy Cassells PHD of Evolutionary Parenting is a wealth of knowledge and can assist with identifying research from across this topic around the world.
  • Professor James McKenna of Notre Dame University can offer an Anthropological understanding of infant and mother sleep particularly for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Professor Helen Ball runs the UK Infant Sleep Information Source and is a wealth of information and will be in Australia in 2017 for professional development opportunities.
  • Pinky McKay and Meg Nagle are both International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who offer alternative views on managing infant sleep with a particular focus on breastfeeding mothers.

If we as a society truly wish to see a change in the occurrence of Post Natal Depression and Anxiety in mothers, let’s work to create the environment and support they need to be able to mother their babies the way they need to be mothered while also being able to be mentally well and the best way to do this is to ensure all parties work together to find a solution that fits with all of the humans involved. Controlled Crying is hopefully soon to live in the deep, dark recesses of history. Our mothers and babies deserve better.

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The hard nights

The hard nights

Last night was a particularly bullshit night. Today I feel that old bone weary tiredness I used to live with daily. It seriously f#%^ing hurts. 

Last night, I said, ‘I can’t do this!’. ‘What’s wrong with your kid?’ I asked my husband. ‘I’m so over this. Just go the f#%^ to sleep.’ I told my poor baby. 

I felt so very sorry for myself and had all the, ‘you’ve done this to yourself, Carly.’ thoughts that featured so heavily with my first. 

Last night, my 11 month old seriously struggled with sleep. He was restless and unhappy. From 12-3, he could not settle. He wasn’t playing but he wasn’t asleep. He was sitting up, crawling around, moaning, on the boob, off the boob, on my chest, off my chest, on his side, on his back, sitting back up … rinse and repeat. 

Nothing was working. Nothing seemed to help. Panadol, cuddles, boob, cuddles, boob, cuddles, boob, different position. Rinse and repeat. 

I was SOOOOOOO ridiculously over it. I was tired. I was out of ideas. He still couldn’t settle. 

My husband took over for a little while so I could be untouched briefly. 

He still couldn’t settle. 

I took back over and after more of the same, he eventually flopped onto my chest one last time and slept. He slept and I slept. 

A couple of more wakings before dawn, but some boob and he was back to sleep. 

He woke cranky. Still tired. 

I woke cranky with sore nipples from his restless, rough nursing through the night. Still tired. 

My husband took him while he got ready for work and I got 20 minutes to myself. 

It was heavenly. 

It was all I needed to reset a little. 

I came out to the day, still bone achingly tired but with a clearer head. I had time to feel sorry for myself but also time to reflect on just how hard my poor baby struggled last night.  He was a mess. He needed me SOOOOO much. I couldn’t seem to fix whatever it was that was making him unsettled but I was there for him. I had his back. I may have grumbled and grouched but I was there for my little human who was having so much trouble in the night. 

I was there for him when he woke. I was there through his struggle and I was there when he finally found relief and sleep. 

I was there for him. 

He won’t always need me as intensely as he did last night. I may never know exactly why he struggled so much on this occasion but I will forever know that my very presence meant that he got through it with support, with trust and with love. 


I spent the night just wishing for morning. I hated the night one more time. He’s not even Wonder Weeking, this is meant to be our ‘sunny’ time. Nights like this bring out all of my insecurities and doubts. 

But, I will never get that time with my little man again. It is one less time he will find comfort in my arms or at my breast. It is one less time he will NEED me so. 

The bullshit nights are hard but I truly believe they also lay the foundation for our relationship with our babies for the rest of their lives. 

Hang in there tired mamas x

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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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    Mummy’s Little Booby Monster

    Mummy’s Little Booby Monster

    Mummy calls my baby brother 

    By a very funny name

    She says that he’s her Booby Monster

    And that nursing’s his favourite game.

    💙

    Our baby can do other things

    He loves to watch me play

    He shrieks with laughter watching me

    And crawls right in my way.

    💙

    But if our baby is feeling tired

    Or something makes him sad

    Mummy scoops him up and pops him on

    And soon he’s back to glad.

    💙

    Our baby now eats some food like me

    But while he was tiny he never

    That’s why mummy has her boobs with her

    So he wasn’t hungry ever.

    💙

    Mummy fed him while we were at playgroup

    In the carrier at the shops

    He had boob while she chased me

    Even playing wouldn’t make him stop.

    💙

    Our baby likes to play booby monster

    Lots and lots during the night

    So he sleeps with us right next to mum

    So he can boob along and sleep tight.

    💙

    Mummy says I was once her booby monster

    When I was a baby too

    She says she loved to cuddle me close

    And nurse away my blues.

    💙

    Mummy and our baby Booby Monster

    Have lots of cuddles now

    But Mummy always has cuddles for me

    And she loves to show me how.

    💙
    Grubby Mummy and the Grubby Bubbies

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    Baby Sleep- let’s try something different …

    Baby Sleep- let’s try something different …

    Please stay with me. Here’s your challenge.  
    What if we stopped for even a day believing all the stuff we are told about Baby Sleep.

    What if we accepted that our baby is normal and sleeping exactly as they should by going through cycles of waking frequently, nursing frequently, falling asleep on the boob, catnapping, only sleeping in close contact with a caregiver.

    What if we accepted that not all babies need X amount of sleep in long chunks to be rested and healthy.

    What if we accepted that the majority of babies need help to relax off to sleep and are incapable of ‘self soothing’.

    What if we accepted that what our baby could do last week simply isn’t something they can this week.

    What if we accepted that just because our friend’s baby happily drops off to sleep once placed in their cot it is not something our own baby can or should be doing.

    What if we accepted that our high needs babies really do need us to help them back to sleep every 20-40 minutes at night.

    What if we accepted that a teething baby, a sick baby, a baby going through a developmental leap, a baby learning to crawl or walk, a baby who has been away from their carer for a chunk of the day is likely going to want to sleep on the breast all night long.

    What if we accepted that some babies don’t and won’t resettle from a day nap and catnapping is normal.

    What if we simply accepted normal infant sleep behaviour and stopped questioning ourselves and our babies at every bump in the sleep road.

    I challenge you to try this. Because I do believe there is method in my madness.

    Once you have decided to accept (even experimentally) that this is normal infant sleep behaviour and your baby doesn’t have a ‘sleep problem’ as many in our society would have you believe you are now at the next very important point.


    Where to now?

    You are probably tired. Maybe even severely sleep deprived. You may have other children. You may have a partner or maybe you are doing this alone. You may be far from family. You may have barely heard from you friends since the baby arrived. You may be back at work or heading back soon. You may have your own health issues. You may have many other factors in your life that need to be considered right down to your own experience as a child.

    There’s no one size fits all solution here. There is however a bit of a check you could run by to assess what changes, both physically and mentally, you ‘could’ make to help you through this season.

    Firstly, set yourself a realistic goal. For me, this is to get the best quality rest and sleep I can and to feel well enough in myself to function, enjoy and appreciate my family. You’ll notice I said ‘best quality sleep’ not the elusive ‘quantity’ and I say ‘best’ meaning best in the current circumstances not best as in the amazing sleep I had before babies.

    After that, give yourself some time to think and reflect on how you can achieve this goal in your unique setting.

    If your baby sleeps best on you or feeds or wakes constantly, have you considered bedsharing, or sidecarring the cot or camping out in the nursery?

    If your baby sleeps their longest stint first up, could you change things for this season so you too can go to sleep around this time?

    Could a husband or partner take on a settle or dream feed first up to give you one longer stint (NOTE: this has never worked for me but does for others)

    If you can’t sleep during the day, can you at least get a 15-30 minute ‘rest period’ even if it means sitting in the car at work in peace or putting the TV on for your toddler while you put your feet up with cuppa?

    Is there any way you can farm out any other ‘jobs’ to create more rest time in your day? I hired a cleaner when I was diagnosed with PND and I can’t explain how much of a positive impact it had on me. This may not be within your budget but what else could you do?

    Who can you call on when it’s all too much and you need more of a break? Could your husband take a half day or even full day of leave? Could grandma come and have bub while you have a rest or bath or a good long cuppa?

    What exercise are you getting to keep you mentally and physically moving? I’m no gym junkie but an evening walk with our sleepy babes is a great way for my husband and I to stay connected. There are also many mums and bubs classes, crèches at gyms and other options if you need to bring babe along.

    What are you doing socially to stay feeling connected and supported through this season? Finding your mummy tribe can be a very vital key to not only surviving this season but also enjoying it. Mothers groups, ABA or La Leche League meets, online forums and groups … Put out your feelers for likeminded supportive mamas who become your safe place for support, encouragement and genuine friendship.

    Are you saying ‘yes’ or loading yourself up too much at this time? Could anything wait until this season ends?

    How could your own health (physical or mental) be impacting on how you can manage this season and what could you do to alleviate any of this?

    Do you think there are any other factors making it hard for you to accept your baby’s sleep pattern and if so, what could you do to deal with this?

    Lastly, what expectations do you hold of yourself that may be making this weary season any harder than it needs to be?

    The next step, try it out. Make the adjustments and changes (both physically and mentally) that you’ve identified and take it for a spin.

    For me, stopping nighttime resettling and taking up bedsharing with my first was a complete game changer. I simply could not believe how much more rested I was when I stopped physically getting up and stopped having to wind back down to sleep. I wasn’t always comfy. He still slept like shite but hell I got more rest.

    Give it a chance and tweak it where necessary.

    You may have gone through this process and found you are unwilling to make the changes required to achieve your goal. Or maybe you feel there aren’t viable choices to be made. You may decide that for you and your family, sleep training is the right path. If this is you, I urge you to please, investigate gentler options that do not involve your baby crying. It may take longer but just as you’ve found it too difficult too make changes to your comfort zone, respect that your baby will also find these changes hard.

    If however, you are still with me, I look forward to hearing how you go with your goal. I look forward to hearing how you work through your own adjustments to manage this season. Sometimes, simply knowing your baby IS normal is all that you need to make it through. It was a huge part of finding my surrender.

    So here’s to accepting normal infant sleep behaviour and here’s to trying something different 💙😴

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