For the next 4 months I’m privileged to be training with Lyndsey Hookway (BSc; RNC; HV; IBCLC) on her holistic sleep coaching course. Check out Lyndsey’s site here.

So what is holistic sleep coaching and how can it support you?

The key is in the title – ‘holistic’ ! This is a gentle exploration of all factors within a family and their circumstances. It should result in a family feeling reassured and supported.

Sleep ‘ problems’ do not happen in isolation and what one family can cope with another may not be able to. The Cambridge dictionary defines ‘ holistic’ as ‘ relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts‘. Family sleep is just that- a combination of other siblings, wider family support (or unhelpful suggests perhaps), finances, work circumstances and possible health problems. Sometimes trying to conform to what society deems is normal baby sleep can also be a worry.

Babies and children’s sleep can vary enormously in what is ‘normal’ for that child. It can vary enormously over the first 2 years without there necessary being a problem which needs ‘fixing’.

What factors affect sleep?

Age, developmental milestones, overtiredness, boredom, anxiety, feeding issues, allergies, sleep hygiene and environment. Circadian rhythms, excercise, naps and meal times, holidays and illness all affect everyone’s sleep!

Looking at this – it is no wonder that our babies struggle at times! On top of that, as young babies and children’s brains develop – sleep changes again!

The concept of a ‘ parenting village’ is also popular at the moment. In effect meaning that in many cultures babies are cared for by several adults – not just one or 2. Social support is a big factor in parenting and sleep, and can really benefit parents assuming they find a like-minded community.

What factors affect me as a parent?

When looking for support with a sleep issue there is so much information available online, via social media, magazines and books! How much of this is evidenced and research based and how much is based on ‘personal experience’ and anecdotal or out-dated methods? And how do you know!

Has children’s sleep changed from previous generations? Or has the world around us and our lives as parents become so much more busy and complicated? Parents are well aware of the need for attachment, love and responsive care. They are also aware of the need to keep their jobs, home and lives secure for their families. There can be a conflict and a compromise between the too! They are also in need of a rest at times – parenting is hard work!

So is the ‘sleep issue’ really problematic and abnormal sleep or is it normal baby sleep in the context of a logistically tricky environment? Does it matter though? If sleep is an issue within the household then parents need support. This is where ‘holistic’ support is necessary – by optimising some simple aspects of a child’s routine, feeding, and settling method we can prevent larger problems. A ‘knee jerk’ reaction to a temporary sleep disruption can cause more unsettledness. In addition, a solution or plan which does not feel a ‘good fit’ for a parent will be unsustainable and therefore,  unsuccessful longer term.

So some quick wins whilst pondering the need for sleep support!

Maximize your family’s sleep hygiene – remember a cool and dark bedroom and if it’s noisy consider pink or white noise. A consistent short bedtime routine helps set up good sleep associations. Regular sleep and wake times also help daytime routines and mealtimes.

Optimise the timing of naps and consider an appropriate length of awake times, depending on your child’s age – overtiredness can really reduce sleep at night.

Watch for your child’s sleep cues ( some are very subtle) and offer a nap at this point. Conversely don’t obsess about this, some babies are bored rather than overstimulated – consider your child’s temperament when looking at this aspect.

Ensure 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of dark – this will speed up the development of your baby’s circadian rhythm, outside time in later afternoon can really help a child/baby settle at bedtime.

Realistic parental expectations of what is normal feeding and night waking at your child’s stage of development can help reduce parental anxiety – a ‘solution’ to something normal may not help!

Optimise feeding – responsive breast and/or bottle feeding, effective breastfeeding and colic/wind/reflux or allergies will also affect a baby’s sleep. Switching to a bottle of formula will not necessarily improve sleep.

Get extra family or paid support for the really rough times, and remember that all things improve eventually – do whatever works to get the sleep your family needs right now and work on small steps to make the changes you may want.

For support and help contact me at Goodnight Solutions