Should we expect sympathy and support from everyone?

I have been told on more than one occasion that for someone who talks a lot about empathising and sympathising, I lack empathy and sympathy for mothers who are experiencing challenges.  I have been told I create an ‘us and them’ and a competitive edge to parenting challenges that shouldn’t exist.

I’m a massive over thinker and muller of all things, particularly criticism, so I’ve thought about this a lot and I’ve observed similar accusations being levelled at others which helped me see that this is a greater issue.

In my situation, this relates to my voicing my experience of having to weather hearing people complain of their exhaustion and frustration with their child’s sleep when what they claim is nearly killing them is the kind of night’s sleep I used to only be able to dream of.

Apparently, I shouldn’t feel that way because sleep deprivation isn’t a competition or a pissing contest and maybe that mother who has been getting hours of solid sleep every night while I was lucky to get 30 minutes in a row really WAS as exhausted as I was because we all experience these things differently.

Where was my empathy for this mother while demanding she recognise me?!?

Honestly, merely thinking on this at the height of my extreme sleep deprivation would have seen me in tears of despair.

No one seemed to be able to see me and my struggle in real light without minimising it with faux empathy. They couldn’t give true empathy because unless you’ve lived it, you can’t actually empathise with what was going on a deeper, more meaningful way.

What was needed was sympathy but even that was in short supply.

But where was my sympathy?

Well you know what? As the person at the very fringe of sanity, deep in the hell hole of deepest darkest, relentless sleep deprivation, I honestly had to leave the sympathy for those not so up to their neck in it, to others who could empathise or sympathise without it causing physical anxiety and despair.

There is always someone worse off than us in this world.

That is most certainly true.

It’s true in every facet of life.

It is such an important perspective to keep and I never, in all my time felt like I had nothing to be grateful for.

But, I think this perspective can also help us to recognise in any given context, when someone simply should not have the onus on them to be providing sympathy and support to another.

I say onus as expectation, because I am sure some outstanding humans are able to remove their own struggles well enough to offer the required sympathy and support but I simply do not believe it should be a given.

For me and millions of mothers like me, when I was at my lowest ebb, it near broke me to hear a mother complain of her exhaustion because her baby woke twice the night before. I could not and should not have had to be her support while so heavily in need of support myself.

This applies to other areas, a mother who has been unable to meet her breastfeeding goals and is still processing her experience, should not be called upon to be the source of sympathy and support for a mother who has successfully breastfed but is facing a challenge in her journey.

The mother with a baby in NICU, who is yet to be able to hold her baby freely and has had to witness her baby having painful medical procedures, should not be called on for sympathy and support for the mother of the baby fighting off a cold.

The mother with a chronic illness or pain should not be called on for sympathy and support for the mother temporarily debilitated with an illness while still caring for her children.

In each and every scenario, these mothers DO deserve empathy, sympathy and support but the point is, it does matter where we expect it to come from.

We as mothers often bear incredible burdens.

This mothering game can be hideously lonely and isolating.

We should not be being asked to bear even more burden by our sisters in motherhood by expecting those in extremely vulnerable circumstances to minimise their own significant, genuine struggles in the name of sympathy and support for those who while also struggling, when put in perspective, their struggles are less profound.

I am past the severe sleep deprivation stage now, and I usually average 8 hours of broken sleep a night with good chunks mixed in. I am in a totally different headspace now to back in sleep deprived hell and my ability to offer sympathy and support to those facing all kinds of situations they find challenging has significantly increased.

I CAN be the source of sympathy and support and even throw a little empathy in for good measure.

The space within me that was completely taken up with self preservation has opened up again and I try to fill it with compassion and understanding.

One thing that will forever remain though is my heartfelt love, admiration and fierce defence for mothers mothering their extremely wakeful little firecrackers. They are and always will be my people.

Our shared experience is one of unimaginable relentless challenge. The stamina, the faith, the vulnerability and strength of those who live and survive this will never be lost on me.

It’s okay if you can’t relate. Just try to keep things in perspective. Seek sympathy and support from those who are capable of giving it and forgive those who, in all their humanly glory, simply cannot muster it today.

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My thanks to Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting can get a pretty bad rap.  

This is hardly surprising in a society that places little to no value on the natural, biological development of our infants and toddlers in favour of behaviourist interventions that force babies to conform to an ideal that allows adults to get back on with the more ‘important’ business of life with as little disruption to their productivity as possible.

Interestingly though, it also gets a negative review from many a mother who while initially drawn to the basic attachment parenting tenants, then found/ decided they were unable to follow them in their setting.

Plenty of mothers explain that while all of it sounded great in theory, they simply could not or would not be able to make it work for them or they felt they ‘outgrew’ this style of parenting or felt stifled and restricted by it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading another account of how a mother felt ‘let down’ by Attachment Parenting as her children grew older and when a subsequent child didn’t respond well to the techniques recommended.

This got me thinking about my own experience with Attachment Parenting and how it has shaped me as the mother I am and the mother I continue to strive to be.

I can say that I am eternally grateful to the Attachment Parenting movement for all of the ideas, guidance, confidence boosts and belief it has provided me with in the early phase of this mothering gig. I am grateful for all of this being done without ever feeling like I had been told what I HAD to do to mother my unique children.

I am grateful because they spoke of a norm I would otherwise not have known existed.

They offered me an explanation and coping strategies and mothering techniques that no one else told me were okay let alone what might be exactly what my baby and I needed.

They helped me see why my baby only slept calmly in my arms or on my chest and offered up babywearing and co-napping as normal and natural ways for me to meet my baby at his point of need.

They encouraged me to feel confident that my baby who breastfed SO frequently did so because this was not only his source of nutrition but also his preferred method for comfort, soothing and reconnection. They also didn’t place arbitrary limits on when my baby should stop needing me so and instead encouraged me to trust that I could follow his lead with no notion of it being ‘bad’ or that I may be stifling his development.

The work done by Attachment Parenting advocates to normalise and educate about safe bedsharing is perhaps their greatest gift to me and my family. It is, to date the single best thing I have done as a parent. It saved me, my husband and my baby. It is no exaggeration to say, my life did a complete 360 turn when I finally felt like I could make this arrangement work. I finally had a way to survive my High Need baby’s non stop extreme frequent waking. I had tried EVERYTHING to ‘fix’ him. Nothing worked. But, Attachment Parenting didn’t disown me the way mainstream advocates did. They threw me a lifeline. I could still be a ‘good’ mother even if my baby woke 59 billion times a night and on top of this, my husband and I could get the best quality sleep we could get while still meeting our baby’s needs at night.

Our night time parenting schedule remained gruelling. There was no miracle that occurred or peaceful, perfect family bed image to paint here but we could live again. We could survive and most important of all, we finally felt we could accept our baby for who he was and that included being extremely wakeful.

For me, I didn’t ever feel like I HAD to do XYZ to ‘be’ an Attachment Parent. But then again, I wasn’t striving to ‘be’ anything in particular other than the best mum I could be to my babies.

I didn’t feel constrained or judged if I needed to do things in another way as I followed my baby’s lead and my own heart.

With my second baby, my parenting repertoire was a source of great comfort to me. I had no idea who this little person would be, but I felt comfortable knowing the norms of human infant behaviour and I felt confident knowing that I had the range of skills and techniques to help me meet him at his point of need wherever that may be.

I didn’t feel bound to bedshare but I knew I would keep him close to make night time parenting manageable for me. If he needed my closeness, then into our bed he’d come. If he relished his space, I happily prepared a safe sleep space next to me in case.

I experimented continually as he grew to work out how he felt most comfortable finding and maintaining sleep by and day and night and I rolled with it. Sometimes we babywore, sometimes he slept in the pram. Other times we co-napped with a boob in his mouth or he snoozed alone on our floor bed.

I didn’t HAVE to do anything other than respond to my baby in the way that worked best for us.

As my babies grow, I thank Attachment Parenting for ensuring I continue to actively question commonly accepted mainstream practices. I have found gentle parenting, respectful parenting and peaceful parenting as well and I continue to read, grow and learn with my babies.

The single best thing Attachment Parenting has gifted me is to ensure that while I pick and choose and grow and evolve, at the heart of my parenting decisions is my heart. Decisions are made with ALL of the humans in our family considered as valuable people worthy of respect. My children’s childish nature is not held against them, just as their babyish behaviour wasn’t while they were infants.

As a family, we work as a team, to meet each other right where we are at and see value in each other for who we are.

I will be forever grateful for the healthy questioning that Attachment Parenting stirred in me. To feel confident in questioning accepted parenting practices, to look more deeply at why they are popular, what outcomes they may have and what their impact may be, intentionally or unintentionally, is so important to me.

So thank you Attachment Parenting for opening my eyes to possibilities.  
Thank you for having my back when I couldn’t fit with the mainstream.  
Thanks for having my baby’s back when my faith in him was at its lowest.  
Your work in this world is so needed.  

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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 well rested baby

The well rested baby

Anyone who has had a baby and been within sniffing distance of a mainstream baby sleep book or received advice from a mainstream care provider would have no doubt been told that quality sleep is paramount to their baby’s growth and development and that in order to be well rested, their baby needs a certain amount of sleep for their age and to sleep in nice big chunks of time.  
This sounds like sensible advice and also a highly desirable scenario for a parent who would also reap the benefits of those heavenly chunks of time while their baby peacefully slumbers, grows and develops.

Unfortunately, this advice is contrary to the way the majority of human babies behave and leads their parents to question their baby’s ability to sleep and their ability to respond to their child.

If however, you do even a cursory review of studies into infant sleep behaviour and a look into the experience of mothers whose own babies did not fit this sleepy ideal, You will quickly discover a very reassuring trend- human babies can be well rested, develop and grow beautifully without ever achieving the elusive X amount of sleep for their age and rarely in big, long chunks, flat on their back, on their own, in their cot.

Breathe a sigh of relief.

A well rested baby is a baby who’s mother responds to their individual sleep needs and provides the comfort, security and support they need to achieve their sleep in a way that works for that baby.

To achieve this, generally, a baby who is in close proximity or contact with their caregiver, responded to quickly and soothed back to sleep as often as they require in the quickest way possible, will have no trouble being well rested.

A baby’s sleep requirements at day and through the night rapidly change and evolve throughout their first year of life and beyond. There is no hard and fast rules here and from my own experience, what my 3 month old baby required of me to keep him well rested is vastly different to what my 11 month old baby requires now. In some areas, his needs were more easily satisfied at 3 months than they are now and vice versa. The key is keeping yourself flexible, available and in sync with your unique baby.

There has been times when my baby has not been well rested and I have had to sit back and review what we have been doing and what might help him going forward. For example, while he was very little, he slept beautifully in the carrier and I could easily get him a big, long snooze all snuggled up in the morning while I took my toddler to our activity for the day- playgroup, library, groceries etc. Because I knew he’d sleep well then, it wasn’t a big deal if he only had quick kips for the rest of the day, he was well rested and calm. But as he grew, he started to become harder to settle in the carrier and often his sleep was only short and he’d be cranky. For a while, I accepted that he’d just have his short kip in the carrier and then while my toddler was having his lunch time nap, I’d lay with and nurse my baby to help him get a nice long snooze in at lunchtime. This worked for another few months. Then, he started waking earlier and was struggling to hold out for his first nap until we were out, so now he goes down after a nice long boobin session, onto his little floor bed and has a snooze before activities. Sometimes he sleeps for a long while and has a shorter lunch nap, other times it is short and we still have a nice long lunchtime boobin nap.

This is his general pattern. There are still days and even weeks when he simply can’t sleep longer than 20-40 mins for any one sleep and he may be a bit more tired and cranky than usual but through those times, I simply put him in the carrier or offer him more breastfeeds to help keep him calmer and restful even if he’s a bit low on sleep.

At night, if my baby wakes every 40 minutes to an hour all night, he never truly ‘wakes’. He stirs, calls to me, a boob appears and he is straight back to sleep.

From my time of attempted sleep training and before I started bedsharing, my first baby definitely was not well rested a lot of the time. He was severely sleep deprived and so was I during this period where I set arbitrary rules on how and when I’d settle him.

The sleep school told me that 4 hour minimum for feeds overnight was an acceptable window to expect at his age (4.5 months) and to persist with other settling methods if he woke before this to teach him that he wouldn’t be able to rely on boob every time he woke.

In my house, this looked like- my baby waking at maximum 2 hours after previous settle. My husband and I ‘allowing’ him some time to resettle without our help (Read- cry with a 100% fail rate), we’d then go to his door and reassure him we were there by ‘shhhh’ing him. When that didn’t work, we’d go to the cot and pat his mattress and ‘ssssh’ him. When he got too upset (usually within minutes) his dad would pick him up, offer him his dummy or a drink of water and rock and sway with him. He’d howl and howl and howl. We’d both be trying to remain calm and low key while our insides tore up. My husband would then try taking him for a walk to get the crying away from me. It always failed.

We were so f#%^ing desperate that we persisted with this god awful failed process for weeks post sleep school.

My poor baby was beyond exhaustion but all it did in my sleep training indoctrinated brain was reiterate just how important it was that I get this right. HE NEEDED MORE SLEEP! His growth and brain development depended on it.

What I was missing was that, yes, my baby needed a hell of lot more sleep to be rested, but that he’d get SOOOO much more sleep if I simply responded to his NEEDS in exactly the way my body and his body were built for.

It is no mistake that a baby falls quickly back to sleep when put onto the breast at night. Our night time breastmilk is full of lovely sleep inducing hormones that not only help our baby back to sleep but also the mother. Our very clever bodies, know the importance of both mother and child being well rested and also recognises that it will be required to help our little human manage their normal wakeful behaviour.

A baby wakes for so many reasons at night. Nutrition is only one reason. Breastfeeding/ nursing your baby at night satisfies practically every need your baby may have- pain relief, comfort, reassurance, calming, hunger, company and many more.

Some babies are extraordinarily hard to settle and extraordinarily hard to keep well rested. This is a extremely heartbreaking and exhausting situation for a mother to find herself in. For many of these babies who seem to resist all attempts to soothe and fights sleep to the death, it can appear that sleep training is the only answer. If they are distraught and crying while their mother soothes them in arms, surely it won’t make things any worse having them cry while they ‘learn’ to ‘soothe’ themselves?!? Nothing could be further from the truth. These baby’s bodies are not releasing the stress hormones that are released in response to sleep training because although they are still crying and fighting, they KNOW that they are not alone, they know their loving person has them, they know that they are fully supported as they struggle with whatever they are struggling with that makes sleep so incredibly hard for them to come by.

Put yourself in their shoes. When you are inconsolable and unable to simply switch off your crying, how would you wish your loving person respond to you? Would you like them to stay with you and support you while your overwhelming feelings have control of you or would you rather say,’ well I gave you a cuddle and told you are okay but you still keep crying, best sort yourself out. I’ll be here but I can’t help you directly anymore.’

I know what I’d prefer and I’m a grown woman with a far more developed ability to control and process my emotions than my underdeveloped baby ever could hope to.

These hard to settle babies, who cry a lot and wake very frequently, often have underlying health issues and to train them to stop signalling for help from their caregiver does nothing but mask the real issues at play and plants the very first seeds in that child’s heart and mind that their very real needs and feelings, are only selectively attended to and at times, no one will listen. Heartbreaking but true.

Attending to any underlying issues and continuing to meet your baby at their point of need will see your baby the very best rested version of themselves.

A well rested baby does not have to fit a perfect sleepy mould.

You know your baby. You know what works and what doesn’t work right now. It’s okay to admit your baby isn’t well rested all of the time, just as it is okay to admit that maybe it’s time to try something different to help keep your baby getting the rest they need.

It may not be perfect. It may not be easy. It may not be convenient.

Waking is normal. Sleep is messy.

To be well rested, a baby does not need to be trained. They simply need your understanding, awareness, flexibility and response.

Hang in there tired mamas x

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They said I shouldn’t rock you

They said I shouldn’t rock you

They said I shouldn’t rock you 
Shouldn’t nurse to sleep
They said I shouldn’t hold you
Nor sing you off to sleep

They said I’d create a rod
That was so very hard to break
They said it might be alright now
But later the problems it would make

They said you needed to be left
To learn to sleep alone
They said I shouldn’t bring you to my bed
Instead just listen to you moan

They said it might be okay
To do this with just one babe
But what would I do when number two
Needed me more in some way

They said I shouldn’t wear you
They said you were too clingy
They said you needed space from me
To stop you being whingey

They said that you’d sleep better
If I stopped responding so
They said you were manipulating
And who was boss I had to show

They said I’d not be able to leave you
That my social life was dead
No semblance of a sex life
Is what they confidently said

They said you’re getting too old
And when was I going to teach
My small sweet man to fall asleep
Asleep out of my reach

But here we are today
And happily I can say
Your independence is growing
With every single day

You can fall asleep at day care
You can fall asleep with Nan
You can fall asleep in the car
Or dad, your favourite man

You love your baby brother
You’ve adjusted oh so well
Some days you need me more
But your gentle love still tells

The only habit that remains
Is one that I hold so dear
If your mama’s arms are free
Then you’ll snuggle in right here

So I am thankful to this day
For learning to follow you
You showed me just how to mother
And what I should and shouldn’t do

Grubby Mummy and the Grubby Bubbies

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What I wish I’d known about normal infant sleep before I had my first baby

What I wish I’d known about normal infant sleep before I had my first baby

Before I had my first baby, I didn’t read much about anything to do with baby care aside from reading up on breastfeeding. I will be eternally grateful that I did learn about breastfeeding pre natally as it really set me up for success because I knew the basics. I knew what was normal. I knew when to get worried and who to call if I was.

I’m not sure why I felt like breastfeeding was the only thing I needed to learn about. I’m pretty sure in my ignorance about infant sleep, I was oddly confident that things would just fall into place and we’d just work it out once we met our baby.

It is true that all babies are individuals and what works for one won’t for all but just like breastfeeding, it does help to understand the variations of normal and have some tools and support up your sleeve to set out with.

I have hyperlinked links throughout this post to help you gain more information if you want to get started. 

I recently asked the question on my blog Facebook page, ‘If you could rewind the clock to while you were pregnant with your first baby, what do you wish you’d been told about infant sleep?’

Here are a few responses from some beautiful mamas.

I wish I’d been told that not all babies are relaxed by nature and might need a lot of help to sleep and stay asleep. I wish I’d been told the was no such thing as a ‘bad habit’ or spoiling a baby. If something works and it’s safe, do it! I wish I’d been told that safe bedsharing can be done and is a great way to get more sleep if you learn to feed lying down. – Carly

I wish I’d been told that all babies are different and can be really tricky to work out sleep-wise and so the books etc don’t always apply/can just add to your stress and ridiculous expectations. Also, not to rule anything out, as something you think you will never do or that is a supposed “bad habit” might be the one thing your baby needs/likes. Go with whatever works (safely) for you and your baby to be healthy, happy and get sleep!! Oh and that newborns are REALLY noisy sleepers lol- Kelly

 I wish I’d had an elaboration on what “help” is in a gentle way. I was told of so much that made me scared, afraid, guilty, doubt and question much of what I wanted to do. This in turn didn’t help when my little one came and required and still requires help to sleep. – Sarah

Expect nothing, you have never been truly tired before, listen to your baby, trust your instincts, listen to the experience & advice of others but do what works for you & your family, ask for help, take nothing for granted & just because your baby sleeps through at 6 weeks…don’t expect it to last!- Danielle

That 40 minute naps are normal for a long time. That babies will link sleep cycles when they’re ready developmentally. That cosleeping would give me so much more sleep at night. That a baby who sleeps through the night is not the goal of parenting. – Katie

That all babies are so very different from one another and a ‘one size’ fits all approach is not the answer. That there is such a thing as a ‘high needs baby‘ and Dr Sears will become your lifeline. That having a ‘very alert, demanding and loud’ newborn who prefers to view the world around him rather than sleep, is not a bad thing but rather a blessing, as these spirited, independent and determined babies grow into beautiful, sensitive little beings. That as challenging as these times will be, they only stay little for such a little while and ‘this too shall pass mama’. – Jessica

That they form their own patterns in their own time, and stressing about why they aren’t sleeping as expected is just a waste of energy. The moment I relaxed and started telling myself he is doing exactly what babies do I became a much happier mummy!- Jamee-lee

I wish I knew how much I would love this little soul and how horrible it is to hear them cry. I wasted so much time reading some books! – Jacqui

Let your baby guide you as to how much sleep they need and when. And don’t compare your baby to others as they may have very different temperaments and what works for one might not work for others. I have a highly active baby and it takes a while to help calm her down and get her to sleep! – Liliane

As you can see from these responses, these mums all really wish they’d understood that infant sleep is unpredictable by nature. It is not linear. Progress is cyclical and going through times of waking more frequently than ever is normal right up to 12 months and even beyond.

If you are keen to learn more about normal infant sleep then I can highly recommend a few books to get you started – Sleeping like a baby by Pinky McKay, The Gentle Sleep Book by Sarah Ockwell Smith and The Discontented Little Baby Book by Dr Pamela Douglas.

If you read nothing else, do yourself a favour and read this awesome article by Pinky McKay, Sweet Dreams – Pinky’s tips to help your newborn to sleep

It may not be something that’s high on your radar right now while you prepare for labour and birth but I can guarantee it will hit sky high priority within weeks of bringing that baby home. So much stress and worry about what is or isn’t normal sleep behaviour for human babies can be avoided with a little reading.

And a word of caution, books that give you a prescriptive method to get your baby to sleep are not evidence based. There is no winning recipe for perfect baby sleep and these books while sounding ‘good’ in theory, often leave parents feeling like failures and stressed out when their baby is in fact behaving normally.

See The Milk Meg‘s fabulous article about why she’d love to burn sleep training books, here

Finally, follow your heart, follow your baby and follow your instincts. Babies will all learn to sleep more independently in time. Good luck soon – to – be mama x

And then there was peace.

And then there was peace.

I have had one hell of a 24 hours with my babies. No great tragedies or events that need to be detailed. Just more the kind of time where every little thing that can go wrong does. Every turn you take there’s a hurdle. Every time you stop to breathe, someone cries.  

My 6 month old is particularly intense right now. I could hazard a guess at a few developmental reasons why if I could have been bothered but in truth, I was too tired today to work it out.

I hit survival mode at about 7am this morning.

Once I’m on survival, it’s really never going to be my best day. Not because I’m being careless but more because quite often, I only feel like I can offer my physical self to my children. The mental and emotional part turns inward. I go into pity party mode with lots of, ‘I swear they hate me sometimes.’ And ‘of course you had to wake up, can’t let mummy have two seconds to herself.’ I lose my empathy switch. I race through the day, just waiting to get that precious time for me. Just me. I am not present. I am not in tune. I am out of sync.

I can recognise this happening but quite often, I can’t turn it off. Not until I get the chance to reboot. Had the stars magically aligned and my babe’s sleeps had overlapped, I may have reset. They didn’t.

It was a long, relentless let’s just freaking do this kind of day.

My toddler was unusually quiet and my baby whinged, whined and moped all day. They wanted and needed their mum. Physical mum just wasn’t enough.

But then came bedtime for baby. Nope, fake out. But then came second attempt at bedtime for baby. Nope, fake out.

He is never hard to put to bed. Ever.

But then I put him down for one last play to wear him out and for the first time today I really watched him. There he was in all his grizzly glory on all fours desperately trying to crawl to me. The frustration was raw on his face. He knows exactly what he wants to do but his little body is still figuring out how to do it. Eventually he crumpled to the floor and burst into tears.

My empathy switch lit back up. My poor tired, frustrated, hard working, learning baby boy was shattered.

I carried him back to his room and we danced our slow dance in the dark until I could feel his calm. I then put him to my breast and remained present as he started to nurse.

His beautiful face. Those lashes. The little hand clutching my finger. The other hand stroking my back. The sound of his breathing. The sound of his suckling. The sound of the quiet little sighs as he slowly surrenders to sleep. I feel his weight deaden. He has found his peaceful rest.

After a day of mayhem. A day of tears. A day of frustration. A day of confusion. He returned to his safe haven and his safe haven returned to he.

I was lost at times today and so was my sweet babe. But this is home. This is where we need to be. In sweet synchrony. Him and me.

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In defence of the dreaded ‘sleep associations’

In defence of the dreaded ‘sleep associations’

Are you currently feeding your baby to sleep? Rocking, singing or cuddling your baby to sleep? Wearing your baby as they sleep in a carrier or letting them sleep on your chest on the couch? Has your baby grown accustomed to dropping off as they ride in the car or pushed in the pram? Does your baby need the touch of their mum’s skin, hum of her voice or feeling of her hand on their chest to feel relaxed enough to sleep? Maybe you are holding a very tired baby tightly as they cry and struggle to relax but with your calm reassurance, they will eventually drift off?
Will your baby only sleep in your bed?

If this sounds familiar, I am here to say you make my heart swell beautiful mama.

Your baby associates sleep with feelings of being supported, responded to and comforted. You are not doing you or your baby a disservice to have them come to expect that they can trust and rely on you to get them the rest they need in the way that works best for them. Not all babies rest easily. Many need a lot of support to go off to sleep peacefully. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with your baby if they can only settle with help from you. Some babies can and do go to sleep peacefully on their own without help from their caregiver. These babies are the exception, not the norm.

You are also not creating a rod for your own back by responding to your baby this way. Time with our babes is in fact fleeting and they grow, change and evolve constantly and what they need today will not necessarily be what they need tomorrow.

I learnt all of this the hard way as I battled away trying to ‘undo’ sleep associations with my first. Simply accepting that for this season he needed me intensely saved both of us so much heartache.

You may be thinking that it is all too much and you may be very unhappy with your situation.

If this is you, first thing I’d do is a little soul searching. Get to the root of the unhappiness before changing anything.

Are you unhappy because you are hearing or reading you and your baby should not be on this path? Are you genuinely over it or are you having a crappy day or week? Is Bub, particularly intense right now as they go through a big growth spurt, leap, sickness or separation anxiety? Are you stressing that you will NEVER be able to leave your Bub and know you need to get back to work or have a wedding to attend or simply want a day, evening or night off?

It’s important to get to the crux of it all because so many of our fears and frustrations can be momentary or way too far down the track to warrant our genuine concern now. Often times, we are so into our own heads about what we and our baby ‘should’ be doing that we forget that we can also listen to our baby and our heart.

If, after all this thinking and listening, you still feel you need to do something to change the way your baby goes to sleep, I’d highly recommend looking into gentle resources such as books like Sleeping like a Baby by Pinky McKay, The Discontented Little Baby Book by Dr Pamela Douglas or The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. These books will help you make changes gently and with love.

One very important thing to keep in mind though is, like me, you may try it all and your baby may simply not respond. They still aren’t broken. They are simply telling you that they aren’t ready for this yet.

Trust that your baby knows what they need. Trust that they know when they are ready to become a little more independent with their sleep. It will happen gradually. Even the baby with the tightest grip on their mama right now can blossom to a beautifully independent sleeper in time. No fear, no tears, no training required.

So rock, cuddle, sing, hum, carry and nurse on gentle mamas. You ARE doing it right. You are doing what works for you and your baby. Your time and effort is not in vain. Your work right now is the most important investment to our world. You are resting a tired, rapidly wiring, growing brain. Allowing it to flourish feeling secure, comforted and loved. You will never regret this time with your babe. Take a deep breath, relax and know just how valuable you are.
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Is it fair to expect equal share? Parenting roles and ratios

Is it fair to expect equal share? Parenting roles and ratios

This one is doing my head in a bit. My previous blog on Extreme Night Waking really struck a chord with many mothers who have lived or are living through severe sleep deprivation but a person called me out on it saying that basically my article asked only of the mother and not of the father. I’ve read and reread the article and run my experience through my head so many times now to see if at any turn my husband and I could have better ‘shared’ these sleepless nights and I have come to the conclusion that yes, we could have but I honestly don’t believe that by sharing the sleep deprivation we would have achieved better or happier outcomes for me, my husband and also crucially, my baby.  

Prior to having my first baby, I decided that I would breastfeed and did all the research I felt I needed to make it a success and luckily for me, my baby and I, after a short learning period, took to it like ducks to water. I joined ABA, I fed on demand, I didn’t introduce a bottle in the early weeks (he ended up refusing it completely when I did try), I kept my baby close at night so I could respond quickly to his nighttime needs.

Breastfeeding worked for us.

 It was just as well I knew enough about feeding and knew the right people to contact when my confidence in my knowledge wavered to be able to stick with my extremely demanding high needs baby who fed frequently around the clock from day one. If I knew any less or trusted my body any less, I would have no doubt worried about my supply and ability to ‘fill’ my baby as his constant waking signalled to some who knew less around me that he needed ‘top ups’ with formula. He didn’t. 

You see, for him and the vast majority of breastfed babies, nursing not just feeding was as crucial to his wellbeing and survival as air. He NEEDED the extra human contact, the cuddles, the pressure, the skin to skin, the suckling, the sound of my heart, the sound of my breath, the feeling of my chest rising and falling to keep him centred, relaxed and at peace in a world he found absolutely terrifying from the day he was born. As a newborn, noises, sudden movement, the feeling of air on his body as he was changed or bathed, the feeling of falling asleep, the feeling of being put down alone frightened him out of his skin. You could feel the ‘wire’ within his tensed, scared little body and his alert eyes did not miss a beat. The boob and my chest were his safe place. They were home. As he grew, he slowly (much more slowly than a less high needs baby) adjusted to the world and his confidence and joy at experiencing all the wonders of life began to blossom. And still he had his safe place.

Even now, as a weaned toddler, he finds great comfort in my arms. He loves to stroke my chest as I hum and sing him to sleep. And, although now others can put him to sleep and be with him at night, if I am around, he still wants and needs me.

This high needs, breastfed baby is also fathered by a loving and committed dad who also works a high stress, high responsibility job with long hours. This dad, like all new dads, has had to make huge adjustments and sacrifices to his life as well as his mum. Does his life solely revolve around his children? No. Does mine? As a stay at home mum, yes, it pretty much does. Does that mean I should be doing more of the child related work than my husband? Yes and no. When he’s at work, I absolutely do. When he’s at home, no, he parents our children alongside me. 

At nighttime though, just as in the day, if the baby needs or wants boob, then that’s all on me. And for a substantially large amount of the time, boob is the answer to nighttime wake ups. If the boob is failing and other methods need to be employed, then my husband always helps with one or the other baby/ toddler. He’s been on many a late night pram or carrier walks around the neighbourhood. He’s rocked in the rocking chair, paced the hall, he always gets the Panadol or tissues, drinks or any other random nighttime call out. He cleans up vomit, changes poonamis, bathed a poo covered baby at 2am. If the baby or toddler wake for the day at the Sparrow’s then he’s onto it. Anything and everything, just not the boob.

So, while I wouldn’t describe our load sharing as 50/50 and yes, this man who is responsible for many other people’s lives in his role at work, does get more sleep than I do, I would call our mutual parenting ‘fair’. His contributions are different to mine but our family needs his ‘work’ as father every bit as much as they need my ‘work’ as a mother. We are a family, we are a team and this is not a competition or a drive to make sure that the painful parts of parenting such as sleep deprivation are evenly shared/ suffered for the sake of ensuring we appear to not be loading me down in favour of the man of the house.

Let’s face it, mothering through breastfeeding is very work intensive for the mother. Only I can do it. Wanting to mother this way does not mean I am a glutton for punishment nor does it mean I cannot vent when my mothering style leaves me exhausted. I am following my heart as well as my babies.
If my husband had tried to maintain a 50/50 share of the nighttime waking with my first, 50% of the night would have involved an extremely distressed, exhausted baby wanting nothing but to be at his mother’s breast. My poor husband would have had to endure our baby’s distress every night, knowing that the one and only way to calm him was at home stressing not sleeping because she knew exactly what her baby needed. What a disgusting situation for all of us.

So while it may seem all very modern and up to date to expect that a father bear his ‘fair share’ of the sleep deprivation, it must be asked if it is the right choice for the family involved. If the babe settles easily for dad, then maybe it is a viable option but for families such as mine it simply does not meet the criteria of, is it safe? Is it respectful and does it feel right?

Working out what works for your family and your situation and meeting and respecting the needs of everyone involved is by far the safest and best route to follow.

I would love to hear how your family shares the load and in particular nighttime parenting.
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Places I go for ideas, support and inspiration…

Places I go for ideas, support and inspiration…

In case you hadn’t gathered, I like to mother with heart. I like to follow my baby’s lead, I like to follow my instincts. I love the 3 Bs – Boobin, Bedsharing and Babywearing. I strive to parent gently.

On my motherhood journey I have found resources that have helped boost me up, keep me on track and helped me feel like I can be the mother I want to be. 

In today’s post I thought I’d share the places, people and books I have found beneficial on my journey.

Here they are-

For preparing for birth-

On Facebook- Birth Without Fear

Book- Juju Sundin and Sarah Murdoch’s Birth Skills


For parenting support and information on Facebook and online –

 Pinky McKay-

  •  and on Facebook

 The Milk Meg –

  • and on Facebook

 LR Knost-

  • and on Facebook

 Nurshable-

  • and on Facebook

 Breastfeeding Mama Talk-

  • and on Facebook

 Australian Breastfeeding Association-

  • and on Facebook

 La Leche League International-

La Leche League USA- Facebook 

 Belly Belly-

  • and on Facebook

 Sarah Ockwell Smith-

  • and on Facebook

 Evolutionary Parenting-

  • and on Facebook

 and the spin off group Evolutionary Parenting Australia on Facebook

 The Peaceful Papa-

  • and on Facebook

 Documenting Delight who is now Gregarious Peach-

  • and on Facebook

Parenting books actually worth the paper they are printed on …

 Pinky McKay

• Sleeping like a baby

• Parenting by heart

• Toddler tactics

 Meg Nagle (The Milk Meg)

• Boobin all day, Boobin all night

 Australian Breastfeeding Association

• Breastfeeding Naturally

 La Leche League International

• Sweet Sleep

 Naomi Stadlen

• What Mothers Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing

 Sarah Ockwell Smith

• Baby Calm

Gil Rapley

  • Baby Led Weaning

I am also surrounded by beautiful mum’s of every ilk who work hard to mother and love their babies everyday. It’s so important to follow your heart on this journey because feeling good about your parenting decisions makes this journey so much happier for all involved.

I know this probably looks like an excessive amount of information but over two or so years, I have discovered these beautiful resources. If I was looking at where to start my top picks would be:

  1. Birth Skills by Juju Sundin and Sarah Murdoch
  2. Parenting by Heart by Pinky McKay
  3. Breastfeeding Naturally by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (you get it free when you join)

Who or what have you found inspiring on your journey so far?