Baby Sleep: Learn What's Normal Before You Start Sleep Training
When it comes to having a baby in the house, the biggest complaint is usually centered around sleep:
She won't sleep unless I'm holding her.
He won't sleep for more than 5 minutes at a time!
He won't nap at all during the day and I'm about to lose my shit.
I'm so exhausted because she won't stay asleep and I have to get up for work in the morning.
Any of this sound familiar?
And to add to your exhaustion, there's the opinion of others draining the last of your energy. But here's the thing: your mother-in-law probably didn't have to stay awake all night with a baby and then head off to work for the day when the sun rose.
Moms Are Tired AF.
I'm a working mom and I have four kids, so I totally understand why you're so tired. It's like, exhaustion amplified by the emotional load of being a mom. Next to having a sick or unhappy baby, it's the hardest part of motherhood. Girl, I can understand why you're thinking about hiring a sleep coach!
(RELATED: All About Postpartum Exhaustion)
Sleep coaches are becoming increasingly popular with new parents. I remember the days when I, too, would have forked over hundreds of dollars for the promise of just one night of sleep. Some of the best naps I’ve ever had were while I was sitting at red lights with a minivan full of screaming kids, so I get it.
But does sleep coaching work and is it the right choice for your family?
As I always say, the best decisions are made from collecting information and deciding whether or not it makes sense in your situation.
As a mom, hiring a sleep coach was not the right choice for our family. As a nurse, I worry about the health implications of leaving a baby alone all night because babies are supposed to wake frequently, eat frequently and be changed frequently. As a woman, I completely understand that being exhausted all the time does not make for a healthy mind or body.
So, in my quest to find information that is trustworthy, I turned to the Cochrane Library. This is an online resource for health professionals where they engage in randomized trials and collect scientific data. Here’s what the Cochrane Library had to say about the effectiveness of sleep coaches:
Educational interventions aimed at sleep enhancement increased the amount of infant sleep by an average of 29 minutes in 24 hours but had no significant effect on the average infant crying time in 24 hours at six weeks and 12 weeks of age.
Well, 29 extra minutes a day is something, right? But the fact that your baby will still cry as much isn’t too encouraging. I noticed that their data was collected when a baby is 6 and 12 weeks old so I thought I would search for some information about older babies. Here's a few statistics that I found:
- Only 16% slept through the night at six months old — 84% were NOT sleeping through the night at 6 months
- 17% woke more than once per night, ranging from twice to eight times
- 5% woke once every night
- 9% woke most nights
- 50% woke occasionally
- 16% of six-month-olds had no regular sleeping pattern
- 61% of babies slept in their own crib by 6 months
Isn’t it cool to see how your baby waking at night is actually normal? In fact, 34% of parents brought their baby into bed with them for night waking.
It seems as though there are a few different methods to sleep coaching and all of them feature a crying baby as a by-product. The goal isn’t to get a baby crying, but by not meeting their comfort needs immediately, it’s going to happen. Here’s an article about a few of the more popular approaches being used. Check out some of the parents had to say: for some families, sleep coaching was the right decision for them.
When I was researching sleep coaches, I found a lot of them advertising online. Apparently the Journal of Pediatrics did too, because they did a study about the qualifications of sleep coaches advertising online. Turns out, not all coaches are created equally as some are doctors, nurses and therapists (makes sense, right?) but some haven’t any post-secondary school education at all.
If you decide to use a sleep coach, ask about their educational background, qualifications and fee structure. Remember, the person you choose will be coming into your home and spending time with your family.
Resources to Help Your Baby Sleep Better.
If you decide not to use a sleep coach, here are some resources to help your baby sleep better.
There's no doubt that a lack of sleep is critical for some moms. If you're considering using a sleep coach, you may also consider hiring a postpartum doula to manage the nightly duties a few nights a week. Check out my blog post about doulas here!
Hang in there, Mama. If you're a mom that's at higher risk for postpartum depression, make a plan for sleep before the baby arrives. Even if you don't need to put it into action, it can take a lot of anxiety away while you're pregnant.
Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup
Hey there, I’m Joanne.
I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!
As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.
Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!