It’s Time to Talk About Parent Sleep
Posted on April 10th, 2018
Social media platforms, especially the vortex better known as a Facebook support group, have given (new) parents an opportunity to share their experiences, challenges, and resources in a way that would have been unfathomable in past generations. When
baby insomnia a sleep regression strikes we are able to find support and #solidarity with just a few clicks, finding encouragement in those darker, unbearably lonely, late night hours of parenthood.
There is a downside to this new age support system though. We may find ourselves turning to these support groups only to be judged and hurt by the comments that are so easily flung back our way. Our parenting style suddenly seems like it is on trial, we begin to question ourselves, we become filled with doubt and anxiety. And, even if you’re
a social media lurker that easily falls into a shame spiral reading all of the comments to gain wisdom from other parents, we all know that “comparison is the thief of joy” (Thanks, Teddy R.!). When we are always looking outside ourselves for the answer, we forget that we have the answers already. The answers that are specific to the needs of our very unique families. We often undervalue that our intuition is our greatest tool.
It is ok to trust your intuition. You probably got it right!
We all see it happen. A parent jumps on Facebook, late at night, to find some support or advice, only to find they have opened up a ‘pandora’s box’ of comments and personal attacks. And nothing brings on a comment fury like a question about infant sleep. We spend so much time talking about, thinking about, commenting about, worrying about infant sleep. It engulfs the parent experience. We get by one nap, one bedtime to the next, wondering if we’ve got it right.
What I don’t see very often are questions about parent sleep. Yes, there are discussions about being tired (oh so tired) and jokes about coffee (oh so much coffee, I love a good coffee meme) but not really anything about finding ways to navigate our own sleep, respect our own sleep, while meeting the needs of a new baby.
What are your goals as a parent?
Ask yourself this question: If you were to step out of the sleep arena for a moment, what is important to you as a parent?
Often I get answers from parents concerned with their child reaching their developmental milestones, healthy bonding, and attachment, the ability to read their cues and feelings of confidence as a parent. We see how important it is to them to ‘get it right’ and because of this they are looking for general advice that doesn’t always work for them specifically, creating resentment, doubt, and worry.
It is because of this lack of individualized support that I co-created a sleep program that focuses on the family as a whole, what is important to them, and what their goals are as a family, as parent(s). A program that supports their intuition and looks within them to find solutions that care for each person in the family.
Parents can be so busy talking about their baby’s sleep they forget about themselves. That they are a whole person that also has needs that must be met. When their needs aren’t met, they can blame the baby for their poor ‘sleep habits’ or even blame themselves for creating those habits (spoiler alert, they didn’t). The truth is though, and I see this all the time, once the child is old enough to sleep through the night, we often see parents who are still not sleeping well. Their needs are still not being met because the underlying issues were never addressed. Disrupted sleep is in part due to waking babies, but there is also a ton of room to work with holistically and ensure healthier sleep habits for parents as well. I can’t tell you the number of parents who come to us who are still not sleeping even after the baby is sleeping more regularly.
That program that began so many years ago has now grown into a globally recognized Sleep Educator Certification. Incredible students have entered my life as a result, many of whom I have connected with personally as well as professionally. Knowing that these students (around the globe!) are gifting parents with all the information and support that I was lacking as a new mother, gives me purpose and fuels my passion.
In our Infant Sleep Educator training, we service customers with our SLEEP modality. What this means is we do not prescribe training plans nor do we use a template when we are working with families. This is not a sleep training certification, in fact, we are different than any sleep training you have ever seen. So different that trained Sleep Consultants actually seek out our training and have shifted their approach.
How can an Infant Sleep Educator help?
The first thing a Certified Infant Sleep Educator will do when they work with a client is gather all the information about them, their challenges and the goals they have. They also find out what the core values are as a family. It is so important we stay connected to these things. Our heart-centered goals. Not the shorter-sighted goal of a good night’s sleep at any cost, but our big picture parenting goals. Sleep Educators are equipped to find those goals and values first and foremost. And for parents, that can feel like a wonderful gift.
The SLEEP modality comes into play after the consultation. The consultation is where the clients’ goals, values, and context is obtained. After that the Infant Sleep Educator will:
Serve Foundational Education.
Parents want to know what is developmentally appropriate. Are all these wake-ups normal? How many wake-ups are normal anyway? How long do sleep regressions last, and when do they happen? Knowing that their experience is normal and that they have not “broken” their baby or gotten them into so-called “bad habits”, is empowering and a great weight off their shoulders. This alone – with the help of other wonderful tools and resources – often results in a better night’s sleep the very same night. Not a guarantee of course, but it is truly incredible the effect that a parent’s stress on their sleep has on their child’s sleep.
Listen, for it is powerful.
I want to talk about the power of listening for just a moment. This alone has the impact to reduce stress, anxiety or exhaustion. In fact, the power of an ear has a tremendous benefit – for any human at any age really. Often after working with a Sleep Educator, a parent reports back to them having had a good night’s sleep, prior to their Sleep Strategy Package even being received! This is due to being validated and subsequent stress reduction. Parents know they have someone on their team. They know why their baby is waking. Their intuition is reinforced. How would it feel to share your biggest worries and concerns and be truly heard, rather than being offered the typical ‘you should’ and you must’ unsolicited advice? Big exhale right?
Empathise with the parent’s experience.
Parents need to be heard. Without interruption, without assumption, without interjection. They then need to know that someone understands their perspective. We don’t need to agree with their perspective, and we don’t need to feel sorry for them. In fact, a key piece in why our Infant Sleep Educators are so good at what they do, is because they don’t pity their clients, but they truly see them. We all need to be witnessed, and we all want our experiences to be appreciated. Once that is felt by a client, we can move into solutions. More importantly, we have found that once a parent feels heard and validated they begin to shift their negative attitude towards sleep which positively impacts the entire family.
Evaluate without assumption.
When a client is being asked the right questions to get solutions flowing, some great ideas are brought forth.
The difference is the solutions will make sense to them, be tangible, be doable and actually empower the family. An Infant Sleep Educator (ISE) can objectively ask great questions to uncover solutions that optimize what tools, resources and workarounds a parent has available to them. An ISE can pull out some real awesomeness that was previously layered with “should’s”, doubts and societal expectations.
We train our students to use specific coaching forms like, “Making Changes” and “Weaning Tool” to make brainstorming active and collaborative. The ideas a client will come up with at this point are unique and brilliant; they have gained back control and are a collaborative part of their solutions.
Provide an easy to follow framework for parents.
Being sent a sleep training template is problematic as it may not resonate, or it may make assumptions about the parent’s goals and values. Sleep Training forgets about the very specific parent/child dyad that influences how the action is taken and how events are perceived.
During a client’s coaching session, the Infant Sleep Educator is taking notes and some wonderful strategies are created. Infant Sleep Educators put the pieces together, and then formulate a Sleep Strategy Plan. The Sleep Strategy Plan (SSP) optimizes all that is within the parent’s control.
What an SSP does not do, is control or change a baby’s very real needs. It creates solutions that work around these needs. The accountability once an SSP is received by a client, is greater than if they were told what to do. This is because the best gold nuggets within came from the client’s heart and mind. And, a lot of the solutions are applicable to the parents’ sleep hygiene too!
Our Infant Sleep Educators are trained to educate on normal baby sleep, complete comprehensive consultations, listen to their client, and be an empathetic sounding board. Though the training on SLEEP represents only part of one of our 12 modules, I think this concept is important in explaining how we differ in the Land of Baby Sleep.
We are not certifying people to sleep train. We are not certifying people to do gentle sleep training. We are giving support workers the ability to help parents find their true voice, which has been masked by the old-school views on child development and the loudest voices in a support group.
We are training passionate people to educate parents about why their babies sleep how they do, about developmental progressions, and why nighttime parenting is a real need. We are educating our students to be an empathetic ear to hear, a place of validation and a safe space voice their struggles and concerns.
If you would like to provide this level of support to your clients, now is the time! We need as many paradigm shifters as possible to let the biological norm of infant sleep become the new societal norm.
To learn more about our certification program just click here!
Brandie Hadfield is the co-creator and facilitator of our Infant Sleep Educator Certification program. Her work as a Parent Educator and Sleep Expert provides parents with an alternative method of sleep support that fosters healthy, long-term sleep habits for the entire family. She is the mother of two boys, president of Attachment Parenting Canada, a Dr. Sears Health Coach and an admitted work-a-holic. She loves to play video games with her boys as much as she loves to play outside.