About a month ago, I came across a post in another private Facebook group. This group wasn’t specifically for baby sleep and the post was presented in more of a health-related way however when reading through it, I very quickly realised that a lot of the baby’s struggles weren’t because of her health. They looked to be very much related to her sleep, or lack thereof. Loads of mums were replying to this mother, suggesting complex medical treatments and procedures that she should consider for her baby and not one person commented on the sleep side of things. Except me of course. I started to write to this mum about sleep and straight away, someone else chimed in and tagged one of the group administrators into her reply. Straight away the administrator told me I should not be commenting about sleep, that the advice I was giving was incorrect and so on. In my head, I thought “I bet you this lady has kids who don’t / never slept well and she is drawing on her own personal experience to argue my point. This lady and I went back and forward in what was a very lengthy discussion and sure enough, at the end of the conversation it came out that her children never slept well, and that she struggled with their sleep issues for years and years on end.
So, here we had the administrator, the health care professional, the “expert” of a well populated mothers / babies Facebook group telling me and everyone else following the thread, that the advice and information I was giving out was wrong and that she was right. In her personal experience, she had children who didn’t sleep and therefore her beliefs, values, her teachings, her advice were all based upon that. In her world, babies and children don’t sleep and that’s just the way it is.
Then about two weeks ago, I was having another discussion with a different health care professional. We were talking about napping. Her beliefs are that catnapping is normal for babies under 6 or so months of age and she was saying that if a family contacted her for help with this very issue, she would tell them exactly that. She would tell them that developmentally, catnapping is normal and that they should be ok with it. This woman has children herself and her children catnapped at this age too so in her eyes, in her experience, babies simply cannot nap for long periods during the day and they never will.
So now, we have two professionals telling mothers everywhere that “babies and children will always struggle with their sleep” and “babies under a certain age will only ever catnap and that’s just the way it is”. If I didn’t know what I know and I hadn’t experienced what I had experienced with my clients and my own children, I would believe them too and because of that, it’s highly likely that my beliefs and values would then be the same as theirs. If I had my baby and they were doing what these professionals were saying was normal, then I would just carry on thinking that’s just the way it is. I would probably end up with a baby that didn’t sleep well and even if me and my baby were struggling and at our wits end, I would have to just carry on because that was supposedly “normal”.
When we haven’t experienced something ourselves, our beliefs and values are very much shaped by others. We might also draw on traditions, trends, media etc. to influence what we believe in too. As a brand new or expectant parent, because our experiences are absent or limited, we rely on these things and these people to inform us and to educate us. Beliefs and values are very powerful. Whilst they can lead to very positive outcomes, they can also result in very negative outcomes too.
As a mother of three and a child sleep consultant, my beliefs and values are very different to those of the two women I mentioned above. I believe (and know) that all babies and children can sleep well and I believe (and know) babies of all ages can nap well. My own personal experiences, my professional experiences, my studies, my research all tells me that babies can sleep and therefore, these are my beliefs, these are my values and this is what I teach. I teach this to my clients, my family and my friends. I tell them that their baby can and will sleep very well and I tell them that if they set sleep up correctly for their child, they will sleep soundly, day and night.
So, who’s right and who’s wrong. Well it doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day, people can believe what they want to believe and they can have whatever values they like. BUT at the end of the day, everyone wants a baby who sleeps beautifully. We are all striving to help our babies and children sleep well. If believing in me and my values means that your child will sleep amazingly well and from a very young age too, then isn’t it wise to align yourself with me as a sleep consultant, as opposed to aligning yourself with someone who believes that young babies can’t and won’t sleep well until much, much older. Doesn’t it make sense to follow and work with someone who can help you achieve what you ultimately want to achieve?
I see it every single day in my own children and in my clients. Babies and children love sleep. They need sleep, they want sleep and they can sleep. I’m not kidding here; all human beings are very good at sleeping. Sleep is a basic, human function. It’s something that all of us are capable of do so easily IF it is set up correctly. If sleep is not set up correctly, then it is hard to do. If your basic needs are not attended to first, then yes you will struggle to sleep. Your baby is no different. Just think, if your cold in bed, you’re hungry, your wet, your overtired, it’s right in the middle of the day, it’s light and it’s noisy, then yes, sleeping is hard to do. However, if you’re are warm, well fed, your clean and dry and you’re in a nice dark, quiet room, your perfectly tired and it’s your ideal bedtime, then sleep should and will come very easily. It’s very much the same for babies of all ages. If you facilitate sleep for your little one, they will sleep. I believe this and know this, Maryanne believes this and knows this, Dream Start Baby believes this and knows this and you can believe and know this too. And if you do, hey presto, you too will have a baby who has a wonderful healthy relationship with sleep and who can and will sleep like a champion now and for the rest of their life.