Infant sleep education needs to happen during pregnancy.
For most doulas, a client expecting their first baby is typically not concerned about their future baby’s sleep, or how they will function with far less sleep than they typically need.
Like me, they probably have a lot of questions about what to eat, what not to eat, how they will know they are in labour, and can they have the birth experience that they envision? The sleep deprivation part either seems too far away to give thought to, or the client doesn’t really know what they are in for.
It is not until that baby is born that the primal instincts kick in and mama realizes putting a fussy baby into a crib is not as easy as what she imagined. Many families suffer in silence due to a culturally-instilled fear in admitting our struggles. We want to be able to ‘do it all’ and see asking for help as a weakness. Finding support you can trust is often not as easy as we imagine, especially if you are displaced from your family and/or the family that is around does not support your parenting choices.
Many new parents find themselves trying to find this much needed support in parenting books or researching on the internet, while in a tired and overwhelmed state. I firmly believe we should be setting parents (and babies) up for success long before the baby is in arms. Parents need a better understanding of normal/biological infant sleep and more realistic expectations…oh and help!
From personal experience, I know how invaluable a doula is.
When my first son was born I really had no idea what I was in for. I hired a doula because my friend was in training, and I thought it would be nice to have her by my side. I had no idea at the time how invaluable her 30 hours of support was, it was such a gift to me, my son, my husband, and my mom too!
No, my birth didn’t go as planned. It started with an induction that soon turned into other interventions. After our son was born she helped me reconcile things not going as I had planned. She helped me with breastfeeding, and gave me the encouragement I needed.
“Things were playing out very differently than what ‘What to Expect in the First Year’ had led me to expect.”
Unfortunately after our postpartum visit, I was consulting books like “What to Expect in the First Year” for baby-rearing tips. I was fearful of ‘bothering her’ too much with my problems; my main concern was around sleep and getting enough of it. Things were playing out very differently than what “What to Expect in the First Year” had led me to expect. At four months old his sleeping was not becoming consolidated. I believed I needed 9 hours of solid sleep to function. I believed I needed to control this situation, and in order to be a good mom, I had to have him sleeping in the crib through the night. Then when I asked Dr. Google, I was told about the four month sleep regression – I was getting many conflicting messages. I felt very judged even from family members, and I felt like I was really failing.
Parents need support long after their baby is born.
I will skip ahead to when I got my head aligned with my heart and what felt right for me as a parent. I got educated and then accredited by Attachment Parenting International and I trained with Dr. Sears.
While my own journey was a challenging one and it took me a while to find my way, I wanted to make this transition easier for families, so they didn’t have to go through what I went through. I feel as though a doula is the natural choice to bridge the gap between the exhilaration of birth, and that moment we all face when we realize what we have really gotten ourselves into!
I want doulas to be armed with the information on sleep that can help parents avoid feelings of shame and not being ‘good enough’ that so many (like me) experience.
Some doulas have partnerships with local Sleep Consultants that they trust, and others have become certified in some capacity to service their clients beyond a single postpartum visit. From over a decade of experience supporting families as they conceive, carry and give birth, bebo mia inc. continued to stumble on a real problem. If you were a maternal support worker who did not philosophically agree with the behaviourist model that sleep training operates from, you really had nowhere to send your clients.
There is a new way to get this information into the hands of parents that need it.
bebo mia inc. and I were motivated to create another route for families to go for sleep support. Our Infant Sleep Educator program is not only for your clients who want to approach parenting from a place of deep connection and attachment. It is also for your clients who do not want to leave their baby to cry-it-out, or your clients who are unable to sleep-train, or perhaps had a bad experience trying it in the past.
Our resources, whether it is this Fact Sheet, or being connected with an Infant Sleep Educator in their area, will help your clients to feel comfortable in their new reality, confident in their instincts, and enable them to create solutions that address the root of their problem.
Print this off and add it to your doula tool-kit. While your client might skim it now, in a few months’ time they will be digging it up again, and breathing a sigh of relief, thanks to you!
Brandie Hadfield is the co-creator and facilitator of our Infant Sleep Educator Certification program. Her work as a Parent Educator and Sleep Expert provides parents with an alternative method of sleep support that fosters healthy, long term sleep habits for the entire family. She is the mother to two boys, president of Attachment Parenting Canada, a Dr. Sears Health Coach and an admitted work-a-holic. She loves to play video games with her boys as much as she loves to play outside.
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