March 18 2022 – Joyce Tang
SLEEP! We all need it. We don't all get it.
It's something that can plague new parents from the moment their little one joins them. In honour of World Sleep Day we have asked some of our burning Sleep questions to the lovely Joanne from Holistic Baby and she has shared her knowledge and advice with us!
First the basics - who are you and what is your expertise / job / role?
My name is Joanne Burgess and I work for HolisticBaby offering mums support with sleep and settling, dealing with stress, getting enough sleep, managing your expectations and mood support. I have completed the NDC program for Providers and Educators and I am a qualified Possums Clinic NDC Parent Mentor and mother of one.
The reason I chose to work in the area of sleep is because I had a baby that was a low sleep needs baby and with no support, I have a ‘lived experience’ on how hard and how very confusing this time can be. Even though there is so much information out there on sleep, it is still very confusing and often the traditional ‘sleep training’ doesn’t feel right for us as mums and I know there is another way that works with your baby.
What is your number ONE baby sleep advice?
To work with YOUR babies sleep regulators!
It is important to understand falling asleep isn’t within our conscious control. If I was to ask you to raise your right hand you can do this on cue but if I was to tell you to fall asleep, you can’t fall asleep on request. And frustratingly enough, the more you try to fall asleep, the harder it actually is…This is also true for your baby. You can’t make your baby sleep, however you can work with their 2 biological sleep regulators, which will ensure your baby falls asleep when sleep is needed.
These 2 regulators are the circadian clock, which is driven by environmental cues like daylight, rich sensory activity and the sleep-wake homeostat, which is driven by ‘sleep pressure’.
Can you help toddlers sleep better too?
Absolutely, the sleep regulators apply regardless of age even us as adults.
What age do kids sleep through the night?
It is very normal for a baby up to 12 months to wake through the night and even at 2 years old a small number (developmentally normal) still call out at night.
What's the best way to help them sleep through? Can you?
Remove any obstacles that may get in the way of healthy sleep. By that I mean cueing into your baby to make sure any obstacles such as hunger for milk (feeds) and their hunger for a healthy sensory diet have been generously offered as this will result in your baby’s sympathetic nervous system (SNS) being turned right down (not dialled up). When we are stressed we have high levels of SNS arousal - think a heart beating fast, breathing quickly, blood flowing to our limbs for a ‘fight or flight’ response and adrenaline and cortisol are released into our body.
Our aim is to make sure our babies are dialled right down, we have offered generous amounts of milk and we have met their hunger for a diverse rich sensory nourishment and we are we working with THEIR sleep regulators. Remember it is very normal for a baby to call out and wake for the first plus 12 months of life.
What's the best way a new parent can prepare themselves for their new baby's sleep (or lack thereof)?
My advice here would be to approach sleep as relaxed as possible and to get to know your baby through experimentation and responsive interaction (cued care) and again to work with their unique regulators. Parents could start to look at their own nervous system and sleep regulators and what relaxes them before they are tired to sleep.
Do you recommend any sleep aids?
Milk and a rich sensory diet.
For me at night, I do things that are relaxing, I turn off screens, I turn lights down, I talk in a slower, quieter voice, which all starts to get your body ready for our big sleep at night.
How do you know when a child is ready to drop their naps?
There are quite a few factors to take into consideration here and every child is different.
Generally I would suggest when night sleep starts to become impacted and excessive night waking becomes unmanageable start to look how much sleep your child is taking during the day.
If you could change one thing about what is portrayed (in the media or in general knowledge) about baby sleep, what would it be?
Hmm, good question and there is probably more than one thing I would love to change if I am being honest. A lot of what is portrayed in the media is mainstream sleep training advice that has stemmed from the 1950’s/1960’s and isn’t very helpful or relevant as we have a lot more evidence based research these days.
What the research now shows us is babies sleep needs are highly biologically variable. A newborn can need anywhere between 9 and 18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. That's a big difference from baby to baby but rest assured, babies develop normally no matter where they sit on this spectrum.
Anything else that you think people should know? Anything that can help us realise we aren't alone in this?
At HolisticBaby we run a Mothers Support Group every Thursday via Zoom and in this group we support Mothers with post birth recovery, (physically and emotionally), feeding, settling, wind, reflux, feeling of isolation, lack of sleep and much more. This is an amazing space where mums can come, relax and receive reassurance and support and discover they aren’t alone in this journey of motherhood and a lot of what they are going through is very normal. And it’s a great way to stay socially connected with other mums and babies.
This group is moderated by myself and Cathy McCormick, who is a Midwife, IBCLC and Possums Clinic NDC Practitioner.
You can get more advice about Mothers Support Group or book a one on one consultation with Joanne at holisticbaby.co.nz
Your special discount code: WORLDSLEEPDAY for 15% off all Woolbabe products.