Managing sleep expectations

“Is your baby sleeping through the night?”

“Have you got a ‘good’ baby?” 

“Oh, your baby is still feeding during the night?”

These seemingly harmless questions are fuel to the pressure parents face to expect their babies to be behaving in a manner that sometimes just isn’t developmentally normal or appropriate.

Particularly in Western culture, modern parents are constantly fed a barrage of expectations when it comes to their little one and how they parent. Sadly, so much of this goes against what is biologically normal for an infant.

Image courtesy Zach Lucero

The harsh realities of modern day parenting

Social and cultural ‘norms’ are frequently shouted so much louder than the actual science, that it can be hard to drown it out. I hear all too often about women needing to get their life back, and for that to happen, they need their baby to sleep through the night with zero feeds by 6 months. But is this what the parent wants, or is this what they have been told is expected of them?

Parents often fear that their child has a serious sleep problem when their child does not conform to the expectations the parents have (Crnic, 2005; Crnic, 1990).

However, we do seem to have found ourselves to be in a sleep epidemic. Parents are more tired than they ever have been, and it is worth considering that this may not be solely because of their little one’s sleep.

There are so many factors affecting us differently now, but what hasn’t changed is our children. ‘It takes a village’ is a well-known phrase relating to raising children, but this concept isn’t as widely adopted as it once was. Parents living miles away from their family, not having a solid social support network and a partner that is back at work after two weeks. This can be extremely isolating and make those first few months even more difficult and tiring.  

This, combined with the fast paced culture we now live in, the need to go back to work as soon as possible, and the financial pressures that follow, all factor into the extra tiredness and stress that can leave parents at crisis point.

When parents open up about their issues, voices around them say that if they stop breastfeeding, sleep train and leave their baby to cry, then all of their problems will be solved.

But this just isn’t the case.

Sometimes, simply being reassured that your baby’s behaviour is NOT problematic but in fact completely normal, can be enough of a weight lifted to help parents feel as though they aren’t at crisis point anymore. Gentle and holistic sleep coaching can help you make the changes that are age appropriate, and professional support can make a world of difference.

We can’t stop people making non-evidence based claims, but we can form a community of parents who support each other, rather than adding any fuel to the fire.

If you are worried about anything and are struggling with your little one’s sleep then hop over to my website to explore my support options. For daily hints and tips, follow me on Instagram.