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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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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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In an effort to redefine ‘Strength’ in parenting

In an effort to redefine ‘Strength’ in parenting

Be warned that this post may make you feel uncomfortable. Writing it was actually very hard for me as it’s taken a long time for me to come to realise and recognise my own experience this way. I do not share it to laden you with guilt or to cast judgement on you or your family. I have written it because I feel it is important that I share some of the deep and dark ways society can and does influence us as parents. It’s important to start thinking and reflecting and it’s important that we can recognise some of the uglier choices we may have made or had thought we may make to help guide us in the future. If you feel something as a result of this post, do something with that feeling other than put a big wall up and shutdown. It’s okay to be fallible. It’s okay to feel let down. It’s okay to be perfectly imperfect. I have to tell myself this every day. So, if you aren’t feeling up to it, maybe give this a miss today but I sincerely hope you get around to reading it at one stage or another.  

Strength, when it comes to parenting, is too often defined by society as existing only when a parent is ‘strong’ enough to withstand their urge to go to and comfort or help their baby or child. It’s as though there is a certain level of physical and mental ‘toughness’ in being able to conjure up the strength to ignore your inbuilt instincts and desire to nurture and this has become a character attribute that is not only highly desirable but also something we as parents must all strive for.

I struggled with this with my first baby. If you haven’t already read my backstory, then you can get read it here. It will help you understand more about how I came to where I am today and my questioning of modern, mainstream parenting in general.

While I tried to navigate my way through the early weeks and months of life as a first time mum of a baby who seemed to have been sleep resistant, I was told on many occasions that when I was strong enough, I would need to sleep train him. This came from all sorts of people- loving family members, well- meaning friends, strangers, Child Health Nurses, a Paediatrician, my GP (‘you know he’s not normal don’t you? You HAVE to teach him how to sleep, this is ridiculous. You’ll have to be strong but he needs to learn.’) and that’s not to mention the parenting books, the online forums, Facebook … you get the picture.

I was also assured that when it was time or whenever anyone got wind of me making an attempt at some form of sleep training, I would be surrounded by support.

And that I was.

‘Good on you! You really all need more sleep, stay strong.’
‘It’s so tough, but stay strong, it’ll be worth it.’
‘Some babies are harder or more stubborn than others, stay strong and don’t give in. The key is persistence and consistency.’
‘Who are you going to let win here? That baby needs to learn when it’s sleep time you mean it.’
‘Turn down the monitor and make yourself a cuppa. You can do this.’
‘He’s one tough nut to crack but you have to stay strong.’
‘If it get too much, go for a walk outside and try to resist the urge to run in, you’ll only prolong the process. Stay strong.’

    All this and more came before, during and after sleep school.

    I was surrounded by words of support. Words of encouragement. Messages of strength, hope and solidarity. I fed off their words, off their unwavering belief in the process and I kept at it. And at it. And at it.

    But I ‘failed’. My baby ‘failed’. My husband ‘failed’.

    Initially, this was crushing. I mistook my inability to make this work as a weakness on my part or a weakness on my baby’s. I wasn’t strong enough and I couldn’t measure up.

    The sleepy ideal.

    I actually wrote a post on my online mother’s forum saying that I felt like my baby deserved a better mother, one who was strong enough to help him the way he needed to be helped.
    That tears me up still.
    I was in the grip of PND. I had plummeted hard and fast as my sleep training efforts ramped up and grew more intense and I hit rock bottom after yet another 2 hour battle trying to get my baby to soothe out of my arms failed. I cried and rocked in a ball wondering what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t make this all work. What on earth was I doing so wrong and what on earth could I do now?

    Thankfully, I spoke up and sought help.
    I began my long road to recovery.
    I picked my broken self up and started to put me back together piece by piece.
    It’s been a long road and the realisations from what happened and the learning from that time still take me by surprise at times. It’s been more than two years since I came out of my fog and still, today was the day I fully realised that although the words ‘strong’, ‘strength’, ‘fight’ and ‘battle’ were all the rallying cries I frequently heard while sleep training, they didn’t reflect what was actually going on.

    I wasn’t strong at that time, I was in fact at my weakest and most vulnerable.

    It wasn’t a fight I needed to fight, I was a desperate first time mother desperately trying to get everything right for her baby.

    Me feeling sick to my stomach, head pounding, heart racing, desperately fighting against every nerve in my body screaming at me to pick up my baby and comfort him … that wasn’t me showing strength. I wasn’t conquering my emotions, I wasn’t cutting the apron strings, I wasn’t teaching my baby a lesson he would need for life. I was a lost and severely sleep deprived soul, clutching at what I thought HAD to be done.

    I was weak, vulnerable, desperate, scared and had placed my trust in those around me who so confidently said they knew better.

    I was not strong.

    Strength is exactly what I drew on and still draw upon today to mother my babies the way I do now- 
    To mother in a way that swims against the tide.
    To mother through instinct and to follow my baby’s lead.

    I have needed every ounce of strength I have to keep faith at times and as this is a long game not a short term fix, my strength is also my stamina.
    There is great strength in honouring a baby’s ever cry in a world that tells you not to.
    There is great strength in comforting a baby in arms or at my breast in a world that thinks these are bad habits.
    There is great strength in unquestioningly tending to a baby’s every night time need in a world that sets time limits and rules around when, why and for how long a baby should wake and need help in the night.
    There is great strength in simply trusting the natural progression of your baby’s sleep behaviour towards independence in a world who places arbitrary and unrealistic expectations on these behaviours and is quick to call them problematic.
    It has taken immense strength to make sure I am okay, too and to learn to ask for and accept the help I need to be able to keep mothering the way my babies need to be mothered.

    The overwhelming roar and battle cry issued by society as it rallies around new mothers to join the sleep training path is no less dangerous than the unchecked voices or actions of the cliquey, obnoxious groups in the school yard. The ridiculous expectations, the taunting, the encouraging to do something you are not comfortable with, the false promises, the rallying cries, the dire warnings of what to expect if you don’t do what you are told … all sound so familiar. 
    And then when you don’t meet their standards- it’s the pitying glances, the blame assigned, the ostracising and the judgement. I don’t know why, but this took me even more by surprise.

    There is not one single time I have been able to share my experience and point of view as a sleep training, sleep school failure without at least one pro sleep training advocate commenting on their own success or calling me judgemental, dangerous and asking me stop shaming mothers who needed to sleep train or other from the experience. Not once.

    When you think about it, we as a society are pretty screwed up if we can’t abide the thought that our completely dependent, voiceless and trusting babies may simply need more from us than we are taught to believe.

    How dare their needs at night ask more of us than we were prepared to give.

    A baby with intense needs by night deserves the respect and parenting they require.

    If that thought horrifies you or instantly makes you cry, ‘but what about me!?! What about my need for sleep?!?’ I ask you try and find the strength you need to take the time and effort required to work out what you need to do to get the quality rest and sleep you need while still meeting the night time needs of your baby.

    If you want to show real strength, meet your baby at their point of need while still meeting your own.

    That’s the definition of strength in parenting I wish for the future.


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    Sleep needs versus sleep wants

    Our society and our infants are at odds with each other when it comes to sleep.  Society has a very fixed and adult centred view on sleep ‘needs’ and this is commonly projected onto our infants and has created a mismatch between what we as parents view as sleep ‘needs’ versus sleep ‘wants’.

    We as adults are very quick to defend our sleep ‘needs’ and often put up an almighty battle to regain a sleep pattern that we would say we ‘need’ to be normal – long, uninterrupted sleep in a bed away from our baby.

    We ‘need’ this in order to function, to avoid or overcome PPD or PPA, to be able to be a good mother, to be able to return to our paid work, to have energy for our toddlers and other children, to be able to enjoy life.

    Not coincidentally, society has become all accepting of the belief and understanding that our preferred way of sleeping at night and our preferred way to be productive during the day are what is not only best for our infants and toddlers but also what we should expect.


    The rise of extinction methods such as Cry It Out and modified techniques that fit under the Controlled Crying banner was rampant during the era most mothers today were being mothered. Since then, there has been a push to achieve the same results but by being ‘more present’ and ‘softened’ approaches have grown more popular, even if in actual reality they are only softer by name or seem softer for the adults but are still arduous and traumatic for the child. Responsive settling or comfort settling are two such examples. Sleep training can and does vary greatly and the impact it has both in the immediate, short and long term on the child is heavily dependent on that individual child but the risks, well they are becoming more and more documented.

    Despite this, many mothers feel that sleep training is something she MUST do. This is even more true if she has a baby who is far from the sleepy ideal of a ‘good’ baby. She believes her baby needs to learn to sleep and in order to do that, they need to self settle and learn to sleep away from her in chunks that will see them develop and grow the way they should.

     

    It is a common misconception that a child needs a certain quota of sleep and in big, long chunks to grow and develop. Babies and toddlers DO need sleep and overall, they need quite a lot, BUT it has been shown many times over that there is no golden rule for how much sleep any one baby needs at any one time in their life. It is also normal for a human infant to sleep in short chunks, rouse and nurse before drifting back to sleep many times at night. During the day, a baby may sometimes have short naps versus sleeps and other times a nap may be extended with help through the cycle. This is NORMAL.

    As for self settling, this is perhaps the saddest misconception of all. It is physiological fact that babies and young toddlers are incapable of being taught to self soothe. If you’d like to read more on this, I highly recommend this article and if you are shouting, ‘but my baby CAN self soothe!’ then check this one out.

    It is also untrue that a baby needs to cry and that allowing them to cry is in any way ‘good’ for a baby either physically or mentally.

    A baby or toddler NEEDS a caregiver to help them to sleep through contact, nursing and soothing when they are tired (not when some random book dictates). Some babies take a hell of a lot of energy to soothe off to sleep and may fight and struggle, but they are not alone in this if you are fully supporting them in your arms. You should never be made to feel your baby would be better off crying out of your loving arms. Pick up your baby every time. They don’t just want you, they need you and your calm.

    A baby or toddler also NEEDS you within close proximity to sleep calmly and soundly. To begin with, only your chest may do (a carrier can help with this), then it may be right next to you in bed or in their side carred cot, or little mattress next to yours.

    Your baby and toddler NEEDS your help when they wake at night. It is normal for a human infant to wake and nurse frequently at night for the first 12 months AND BEYOND.


    Their body NEEDS to wake, refuel, feel comfort and connection, make sense of new learnings and feel any discomfort or worry is soothed.

    Some baby’s NEED for night time comfort is far more intense than others just as some baby’s are more intense by day. Their needs are just as legitimate as their less intense peers.

    There will be times where you will wonder what the hell has gone wrong, as a baby who had been sleeping relatively well will begin waking more and NEEDING more help at night.

    All of this is normal infant sleep behaviour.

    No, it looks nothing like the adult sleep we prefer.

    No, it’s not how most people describe infant sleep but in a society who sleep train most babies, there is little hope that mothers will be able to garner a genuine picture of what is normal and what to expect when most babies in her world have been trained to override their biological sleep pattern.

    Sadly, a baby seeking comfort to sleep is interpreted as something they want not a need.

    A baby past a certain age who is seeking to nurse, is said to want to nurse when really they need to nurse.

    A baby who sleeps best on or very near their caregiver is interpreted as wanting this contact but they truly need it.

    A baby asking for help in the night only wants assistance because they are accustomed to it, but nope, they legitimately need it.

    While these biologically normal behaviours are so quickly dismissed as wants, it is easy to see why sleep training seems like such a viable and necessary option to families.

    Loving mothers everywhere want to meet their baby’s needs but while society believes that what a baby needs is – solitary sleep, to learn to self settle, to stop nursing at night as quickly as possible and to become as independent at night as possible then we’ll continue on this skewed path.

    These beliefs go hand in hand with the belief that adults are only well rested if their sleep is long and uninterrupted.

    This is not true.

    This is a WANT not a need.

    Yes, we need sleep.

    No, we don’t need perfect, uninterrupted sleep to be okay.

    We can and should adjust our lives and habits to be able to meet the night time parenting needs of our babies and toddlers.

    Quality sleep is what parents should strive for. Forget the quantity.

    Instead of all the energy we pour into ‘fixing’ and overanalysing the sleep behaviour of our babies, let’s pour our effort in to working out what we can do maximise the quality of our broken sleep.

    What are we doing that could be exacerbating our weariness?

    What choices are we making that fight against this time in our lives?

    Maybe it’s staying up long after babies are in bed and losing sleep. Maybe it’s forcing yourself to keep getting up and staying awake to tend to your baby. Maybe it’s looking at screens in the night and waking right up. Maybe you have trouble winding back down. Maybe you are awake longer because you are trying hard to resettle when you could all be back to sleep if you simply nursed or cuddled. Maybe you are laying awake predicting the next wake up.

    There is so much to consider and no one answer.

    What is key here is recognising the true needs versus the wants in your unique situation.

    Babies are exhausting. Being sleep deprived is no joke but as a society we have it so skewed that we have this big wall up that serves to protect the societal view of what sleep should look like and overemphasises how important it is to attain this even while we are raising our very dependent, very trusting little humans who need us intensely both day and night.

    If you sit back and think, I sincerely hope we can shift this conversation and belief a little.

    How much sleep you want is vastly different to what you need to be okay.

    How you want to get that sleep will also be different to how you need to get it with a baby or toddler in the house.

    It’s of mutual benefit to the mother and child to think on this a little.

    The only way to change an entrenched view is to keep offering up the alternative.

    Please, take some time to review your own beliefs about your own sleep needs and that of your baby or toddlers.




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