Sleep is a hot topic among new mamas, and seasoned ones too for that matter! No one is immune to having a child who doesn't want to sleep.
There's some words or terms in the sleep world that are seen as dirty words; dirty because there's a lot of judgment around them. Often there is a stigma around the following terms based on misinformation and misunderstanding of what they actually mean, or what they represent.
Sleep training, self-settling and independent sleep are terms that often get a bad wrap; and come tangled up with connotations and preconceived ideas of strict and harmful practices.
The problem with the stigma around sleep training is that it puts incredibly exhausted, emotionally vulnerable and mentally tortured women at risk of succumbing their critical needs for the sake of conforming to ‘good mum’ ideals. It puts mothers at risk of deep struggle, complete self-sacrifice and sleep deprivation induced depression based on the belief system that ALL sleep training is bad.
When you become a mum, and sometimes even long before, there’s an inherent acquisition of beliefs and ideas about how you’d like to parent. Whether it be through experience as a child, or watching friends and family parent, you start to imagine yourself in that role and what values you want to bring to the table. In today’s society we see labels for everything from communication, showing affection, discipline and of course, sleep. Naturally we start to align with terms that best describe our core values, including ‘natural parenting’ or ‘attachment parenting’ for example. And this is where our inner beliefs begin forming about how we want to and think we should mother and parent.
Sometimes, it works and continues to work! The ideas we had and the values we focus on means that from feeding to bedtime, everything works. But for some, it works...
Until it doesn’t. And that’s where we come undone.
When we hit rock bottom. When we’re beyond exhausted. When we’re teary, emotional, angry, irrational, anxious, depressed and completely dysfunctional in daily life and relationships – then what do we do?
Our beliefs around how we should do this gig called mothering, that worked so well at the start, feel like they are no longer serving us. Our beautiful ideas and ideals start to feel like heavy weights, simply because how we envisaged raising our child becomes consuming and suffocating and the 'alternative' is embroiled with negative connotations, which we may have previously judged. The judgement and fear we have around alternate options becomes paralysing.
We don’t want to step into the realm of the dirty ways of sleep training and self-settling – because we’ve judged these things for so long. And yet we spend every waking minute trying to get our overtired, distressed baby to sleep while asking ourselves “How the hell do I keep going?” and thinking “Why won’t you just go the **** to sleep?!?”
Sleep deprivation sucks. Rock bottom sucks.
All of these 'dirty' words, however, can be achieved gently and in consideration of your parenting style and choices. A child can learn to calm itself off to sleep and become an independent sleeper with the help of sleep training in a way that is not traumatic (for the child or parents!), without long-term damage to their mental and emotional brain development.
Sleep training can be utilised in a way that is safe, and in a manner that is supportive of both the mother and the baby’s needs.
Our motherhood community needs to drop the stigma around sleep because our fellow mamas are suffering. Most of us are not resistant to mother guilt and in order for all of us to get more sleep, and enjoy the magic of motherhood we all need to stand together and support each other in doing whatever it takes.
If this means that a mother has to utilise sleep training and help her babies to self-settle to create an independent sleeper so that the whole family can get some rest – then let’s stand together and support her. And let’s know that she was probably right there with her child throughout the process and no long-term damage to the mental health of the child was caused.
Let’s stand together because these 'dirty' words in the sleep world don’t always mean what we think!
No mother deserves to suffer the devastating effects of ongoing sleep deprivation. No family should have to endure the pressure of exhaustion. It affects everyone.
Let’s destigmatise sleep training so that tired mamas can access
the support they need.
Renee Sciulli (Sleep Consultant – Sweet Dreams Baby) and
Dr Amanda Watson (Chiropractor – Australian Children’s Chiropractic Centre)
are holding their supportive sleep event
on Wednesday 4th of March
9.30am - 11.30am
Get your ticket now
as this workshop sells out in advance.