Ever since I became a parent myself, sleep and attachment theory have been near and dear to my heart. You see, when I became a parent, I had no idea what normal infant sleep was supposed to look like. I grew up with many people telling me that babies wake up all the time. I also grew up with the stories of my own sleep habits, including that as a baby I didn’t really wake. I was what we call “a good baby.” So, with such an abundance of conflicting information, I had no idea what I was in for when my own little baby came along, and had no plan whatsoever when it came to sleep. I didn’t think I needed one. I just assumed that my baby would go to sleep when I put them in their crib as I had done. I was in for a surprise!
After my sweet babe was born, the suggestions of what I should be doing with regards to sleep and feeding came in almost immediately. Before I even had an opportunity to get in touch with my intuition as a parent, I was bombarded with so many “rules”. This resulted in a rocky start for my baby and I as I attempted to follow advice that was not based in science and was not working for us.
Throughout the first few months of my baby’s life, sleep was a big issue. I did not come from a flexible background, and it was very difficult for me to cope with the fact that my baby needed to be parented to sleep. I truly had no idea that sleeping is a learned skill, and when I was confronted with fact this I was absolutely shocked. Almost every night during our late night feeds we would fall asleep on the couch and stay there until my husband got up for work the next morning. I am so grateful every day that my baby never fell and got injured, as I had no idea how dangerous this practice is. Here is some information on safe bed-sharing practices. You should NEVER sleep with your infant on a couch.
After several months struggling with my conflicting intuition and reasoning mind, and out of sheer exhaustion, I finally admitted to my husband that I wanted to bring the baby into bed. I was so afraid that I would meet resistance from him, but I did not. He came from a home where co-sleeping was a regular occurrence, and I think that he was relieved that I was finally allowing myself to trust my intuition.
My relationship with my baby and my husband improved exponentially from that moment on, and I have never regretted the decision I made to bring him into my bed. We all began to sleep better. I barely even had to wake to meet his night-nursing needs, and everyone was happier and more harmonious.
The thing is, when I made the decision to bring my baby into my bed, I had no information about the science of maternal and infant sleep. I had a lot of guilt and fear of judgement when talking about it with anyone. I also didn’t know if I was doing it safely, and to be honest, I didn’t think about it… I was just exhausted. (In the end, my intuition guided me and I was doing it safely.) The only encouragement I had was the loving guidance from my mother-in-law and my husband who assured me that my choice was a good one. (to benefit from this work you do not have to bed-share)
Once I was getting more sleep I was able to do some reading on the subject. One of the first books I read was Attached at the Heart by Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson which gave me a basic knowledge in attachment theory. From that moment, I knew I had made the right choice for myself and my family. I learned to believe in the language value of my baby’s cry and not feel like I was doing something wrong by picking him up and cuddling him when he cried. I learned that by doing this, I was helping him to develop a secure attachment to me, and that is the foundation for emotionally secure children who eventually grow up to be independent and confident adults.
What I learned from these books was so valuable to me! I was not interested in controlled crying methods, and these books showed me that science backed me up on that! I only wish that I had had the knowledge before giving birth, so I could have relaxed into parenting right from the beginning and spent more time enjoying my baby.
The existence of sleep trainers was not on my radar, as I was not interested in a stranger coming into my home and “training” by baby. The very name “training” leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as if they are not innocent humans in need of our love and connection. Our babies need us. They need us to pick them up when they cry, they need us to let them know that we are there for them, to make them feel that all is right in the world. And besides, doesn’t it feel SO good to cuddle your sweet babe and feel them relax into your embrace?
Sleep training or consulting is a growing industry as industrialized society moves further away from species appropriate sleep habits and expectations. (think: solitary sleep, all night long by the age of four months) Infants are NOT developmentally able to sleep through the night at four months. Although some babies do, the majority of them do not, and the widespread belief that this is the type of sleeping habit that all parents should expect of their babies is incredibly damaging for both. It causes parents to believe that something is wrong with their baby, and that they must "train" their baby to sleep through the night through the practice of controlled crying methods. This is so emotionally damaging for both the baby and the parents and always breaks my heart when I read about it happening in online groups.
Sleep Education fell into my lap while I was on maternity leave for the third time. I had no idea such a program existed. I hopped onto a free webinar by bebo mia, and before it was over I knew that I would complete the training. The stories told reminded me of my own experience as a first-time parent. I remember how happy I was when I discovered that it was ok, even beneficial for me to ignore baby trainers and just relax into mothering, and I wanted to bring this information to new parents everywhere so that they could feel confident with their sleep plans.
As an Infant Sleep Educator, I provide parents with the science of infant sleep and brain development. I help parents create Sleep Strategy plans to ensure everyone in the family get the most sleep possible, while also finding balance and time for self-care. It is very difficult to make good sleep decisions without understanding how your baby’s brain works and the differences between infant and adult sleep. Once you have an understanding of how your baby’s brain works, you will be able to make sleep decisions that are right for you and your family.
This is work I feel so passionately about, because of my own journey and struggles. I am so grateful that I have this service to offer and help parents understand their babies better. Because of that understanding, you will be able to foster secure attachment, raise confident children, and get more sleep without resorting to controlled crying.
I have been there. I have been sleep-deprived and exhausted following advice that is not based in science. It was draining both physically and mentally and was hurting my relationship with my baby. My hope is to spare countless families this struggle by helping with prenatal education and sleep consultations so that you and your baby can sleep well, and your baby can have happy memories of sleep.
Amelia Rebolo is a Brampton-based doula servicing the Greater Toronto Area.
You can find out more about my sleep services here.