My email is bombarded with advice, reports, research, ideas and opinions about what is RIGHT for babies at sleep time. No wonder people become SO confused and frustrated. Here are some uncomplicated things to think about when you are given ‘advice’. Does it sound sensible? Does it respect the experience of both the parents and the individual baby? And does it promote your instinctive parental behaviours?
On numerous occasions I have said, and will say again, I have never met a bad parent! Parents are doing the very best they can and if someone is telling you all the things you have done wrong, it just undermines you as a caring parent.
If you cuddle and feed your baby to sleep and they are sleeping happily and you are happy, how can it be wrong?
There is nothing more divine than a beautiful babe asleep in your arms. If they sleep on your chest, just remember that tummy sleeping is not recommended for safe baby sleep reasons, and sleeping on a sofa or chair can pose risks of SIDS as well. Being sensible is the key. Keep baby physically safe AND be kind to yourself and your baby.
Here’s something to consider to help you avoid some of the challenges that may occur down the track;
Do you intend for your baby to need out of home care if you return to work? Or do you think you might like or need to spend some of the times when your baby sleeps doing other things? IF the answer is yes; then it means your baby will eventually need to sleep somewhere that is not in your arms. If this is the case, occasionally allow your little one to sleep in their cot or on their mattress so they are not too challenged when the time comes when you expect them to sleep in their own space. Cuddling to sleep sometimes and sleeping in the cot offers a … sensible balance.
If your baby is struggling with settling in their cot, then offer them comforting and company as they adjust so it is not distressing to them. If you are under no pressure to stop cuddling to sleep and having them sleep in your arms, then you will be the best judge of the best way for your baby to sleep. Just keep in mind that it is really important to consider the physical safety of your baby’s sleep environment at all times; no matter where they sleep, keep it safe.
Another thing I recommend for parents is to put your ‘filter on’ when reading and listening to all the ‘advice’. If the information is respectful of both you and your baby, then keep listening. However, if the information says that your baby needs to be ignored or left to cry without you, or if it just feels wrong; such as advising you overheat your baby and to place them in a physical or emotionally distressed state, then it is neither respectful nor sensible.
Babies are capable of basic survival behaviours when tiny, such as needing comfort, care, emotional and physical nourishment. Therefore expecting them to self soothe or understand daily life, is asking too much of them. They need loving care so they can grow and mature to begin to master more complex tasks, such as self-soothing. The best move is to smile very politely when you are given unhelpful advice, don’t worry about stating your case, thank the deliverer for the advice … keep your filter on and move on! This way you keep the emotional and physical welfare of you, your baby and your family at the front of all information, making decision making easier for you.
Finally, when you experience that ‘how could this possibly be right?’ gut feeling when reading or being given advice, then trust that it is highly likely that your gut instinct is the right advice to follow. Again I say it, I have not met a bad parent, but I have met parents who have followed unhelpful advice even though they felt it was wrong. Parenting is an art, a very tiring art sometimes, however one important skill of the budding artist is to keep the health and welfare of the family front and center of all decision making.
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There are some common themes when it comes to managing our children’s sleep. And although every baby and toddler is an individual, parents tend to share similar responses to sleeping problems. One is hoping that things will get better with time, the other is finding it difficult to ask for help.