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Getting proper sleep as a new parent can have a huge impact on your mental health and subsequently the health of your infant. But in order for you to get good stretches of sleep, you need your little one to get into a healthy rhythm.
Joining me today to talk about establishing healthy sleep patterns based on our knowledge of child development and biology is Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, founder of My Sleeping Baby, and mother of 3, Eva Klein.
So whether you’re already in your postpartum period or still pregnant and feeling anxiety anticipating those sleepless nights, this episode is one you won’t want to miss.
There is so much evidence out there that shows that driving chronically sleep deprived is just as dangerous as driving behind the wheel intoxicated. And yet we’re telling moms in the US when you’re six weeks postpartum and sleep deprived, you need to get behind the wheel of your car and go to work.
Dr. Sarah (00:23):
Getting enough sleep when we have a new baby can sound like a total fantasy. And while sleep deprivation just sort of comes with the postpartum period, there are definitely things that new parents can do to help encourage healthy and even longer sleep patterns right from the start. Joining me today to talk about ways parents can get some much needed Zs for their babies and for themselves is certified infant and child sleep consultant, founder of My Sleeping Baby and mother of three, Eva Klein. So whether you’re already in your postpartum period or just pregnant and anticipating those sleepless nights, or maybe you have older kids and you’re still trying to figure out how to reestablish healthy sleep patterns, this episode is going to be one you won’t want to miss.
Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology, and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.
Hi everybody. I’m so happy today we have Eva Klein. She’s a certified infant and child sleep consultant, and she is here to talk to us all about that beginning. I just have either about to have a baby or I just had a baby, and I need to think about sleep from a whole new vantage point now because everything’s changing and how do we set everybody up for success?
Amazing. Well, thank you so much for having me here, Sarah. I’m so excited to be talking about literally my most favorite topic in the entire world, which is sleep.
Dr. Sarah (02:22):
And you’re a mom all about how much and how little I should say, sleep we might be getting when we first have a baby. And first of all, can you talk a little bit how you got into this work and a little bit more about why sleep is your favorite topic of all time?
Oh, totally. So my story is a little bit, I guess, out of the ordinary in that I’m actually a lawyer by training. And what ended up happening was I graduated law school, had my first baby shortly after writing my last set of finals, and she was that really easygoing, happy baby that just sort of made me look good, made me look and feel like the best mom in the entire world, despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing. And so that was really great considering I was studying for the bar exam while she was a newborn. So it’s sort of like I needed her to be really easy and thank God she was. But then a couple years later, I gave her to my next baby and my next baby had the complete opposite temperament to my older one. And that this baby was very high needs, very challenging, really, really difficult if I’m going to be honest, in that she cried a lot, seemed to be uncomfortable all the time, even though she never really had reflux or anything like that.
And naturally, sleep was not her strong suit. And so unlike her older sister who was sleeping eight hours stretches magically by five weeks of age, this baby really wasn’t sleeping at all. And it got to a point where she was about four months old and waking me up every 90 minutes all night long, I was so wiped, I thought I was going to die. I just wasn’t functioning at all. Forget barely functioning. I was not functioning physically, mentally, I was just sort of going through the motions, getting through the day with the one and only goal of keeping my kids alive that was alive, fed, basic functioning. That was all I was capable of doing at that point. And so it got to a point very quickly where I had figured out I need to figure out a solution here. I can’t live like this anymore.
And so I opened up some sleep books for the very first time and figured out what to do to make the situation a little bit more manageable. So I started getting three to four hour stretches of sleep, which definitely does make a difference when you’re only getting 90 stretches beforehand. So it was better, not great, but it was good enough that it allowed me to have this moment of clarity where I sort of thought to myself, Hey, why don’t I use up the rest of my maternity leave to get my certification to become a sleep consultant? Because I guess what I forgot to mention is I live in Toronto, in Canada where we get 12 months of mat leave. So I had time, I feel really bad mentioning this on a podcast where most people are American listening to this.
Dr. Sarah (05:34):
I know, definitely. Right?
It’s really, I feel horrible rubbing our country’s matt leave policies in your face. But I just had to mention it because it’s
Dr. Sarah (05:44):
We can get into the politics of American maternity leave policy is a disaster, but disaster realistically, it’s not like there’s a reason why in countries that have longer maternity leaves, they have a lot better outcomes for moms because it takes a long time to get into this rhythm with your new baby. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned parent as you’re describing, it’s the kid and the demands of that moment. And so having enough time to really establish a rhythm, establish sleep, h hygiene for yourself and rhythms with your kid, it’s hard to do that in six, 12 weeks, which is what most women in America get, which is
Bonkers it bonkers. It’s insane. I mean, not to get too tmi here, but at six weeks you’re still bleeding by the six week mark since you’ve given birth and you’re supposed to go back to work at that point. I mean, on what planet? Does that make any sense? And go easy on yourself, ladies, that is not normal to begin with, to be expected to go back to any semblance of full-time work when you are only six weeks postpartum or even 12 weeks postpartum. To be honest, I get 12 weeks is better than six. But yeah, it, it’s beyond me the truth. But anyways, to make, but the reality is
Dr. Sarah (07:18):
Working within that reality because a lot, I mean, I fully agree with you, couldn’t agree with you more. Get on my soapbox and scream to at top my lungs. We need longer maternity leaves and paternity leaves. Yeah. Yes. But we don’t have them for so many people, at least in our country. So how do we look at that in the context of sleep? Because sleep is definitely interconnected with our ability to be at home with our kid and not have to wake up the next morning and go to work. We have to be at, yes, we have to function in ways where our bodies and our family life isn’t really facilitating for sure. So we to do it anyway.
For sure, a hundred percent. And that is how I got into this business. Even though I was on maternity leave, let me just make something very, very clear here. I was not working. I was off, and my two-year-old at the time was in a full day nursery program. I was just, and I’m putting the word just in quotation, mark was here. I was just home with my four month old without any other massive responsibilities. And I was not functioning, I was not coping how I would’ve been expected to do that while also working, while also I just being able to, how would I have been able to drive to work on sleeping 90 minutes at a time when there is so much evidence out there that shows that sleep deprivation, driving behind the wheel, chronically sleep deprived is just as dangerous as driving behind the wheel, intoxicated.
And yet we’re telling moms in the US when you’re six weeks postpartum and sleep deprived, you need to get behind the wheel of your car and go to work. I haven’t even gotten to, now you have to use your brain at work, whatever that might look like. It’s beyond to me. But that being said, I was struggling that maja and I wasn’t even back at work then. So really go easy on yourself if this is a struggle. But in a nutshell, that is how I got into this business completely by accident. Because what ended up happening was I went back to work as a lawyer part-time. My boss let me come back. I launched my, what was supposed to just be a side business, but the side business ended up growing really, really quickly, which I am beyond grateful for because loved working as a lawyer, but this is a heck of a lot more fun and way more rewarding if I’m going to be honest. And so I’ve been doing this now that baby of mine is now nine and a half. Wow. So it’s been a solid eight plus year journey. I had another baby a few years later, so I’ve got three kids who are now 11, nine and four and have been doing this full-time ever since and feeling very, very grateful for that.
Dr. Sarah (10:09):
It’s good work. I mean, it’s good work to be doing. And I feel like it’s very gratifying when you can help people when they’re feeling really at a loss. Because the thing is, not everybody goes to a sleep consultant. Not everybody needs a sleep consultant. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But I think when people, you know, and I are similar in that I’m a psychologist, I work with people who people usually don’t reach out to me when things are going good and they probably don’t reach out to you when things are going good. People usually reach out for help in whether it’s for mental health or sleep consulting, when things are feeling really hard, what we’re trying isn’t working. We know we could feel better. We know something needs to change and we know we need support in getting that place to shift. Yes. So
That’s usually how it looks.
Dr. Sarah (10:59):
And so I think I’m imagining that parents who call you are hurting. They’re feeling really like what is the mood? What is the sort of mental state of the people who say, okay, I have to figure this out beyond, I’m just sleep deprived. But
Yes, I would say a lot of them call me first and first and foremost feeling very overwhelmed because Google is a double-edged sword, right? Google, Facebook groups, communities, the internet as a whole is wonderful in that there is so much information that you can get very quickly at your fingertips, but it’s equally overwhelming because so much of that information is conflicting. It’s so hard to be able to figure out, well, what’s going to work for my baby? Because spoiler alert, you have a baby, not a robot. And so just because one blog post or podcast episode or well-intentioned friend is telling you, oh, try this or do that, there’s no official guarantee that that is necessarily going to work for your little one. And so it can feel beyond overwhelming trying to figure out what to do. And I think that it can also feel very, I find a lot of moms, they feel very conflicted around this topic as a whole because you love your baby more than anything, more than life itself.
And you would literally do anything for your baby to help them be that happy, healthy, emotionally stable human that you want them to be and be. There is unfortunately so much conflicting information and advice out there that around sleep and sleep training as a whole, that can make you feel, gosh, on the one hand, I love my kid more than life itself, and I would never do anything to harm him. But on the other hand, I’m literally dying here. I’m not functioning. I’m a mess to be around. I’m not the best mom to my kid. I’m not a great mom to him at all, because I can, I’m barely keeping my head above water and I need to be able to fix this, but I don’t want to harm my little one in the process. And then they end up feeling kind of stuck, not yeah, wondering, okay, well how am I supposed to rectify this? Yeah. And that’s really hard and really heavy. Those are big heavy feelings to be grappling with here.
Dr. Sarah (13:45):
What that makes me think of, did you ever see that viral TikTok video? Oh, that just sort of happened recently of this mom. She was a young new mom and she was just in tears talking about how her baby wasn’t sleeping and she hadn’t slept in many, many, many months. And she was just like, how do people do it? How do they get their kid to sleep? And feeling as though the only option is cry it out, which I can’t do, but my baby was just supposed to figure it on their own and they’re not. And what was interesting, one, just her pain and her struggle I think was so relatable to so many people. But I think one of the reasons why that video was so did go so viral or as a product of it going viral was the response that people had to, it was so if you read the comments on any of these reposts of, this video is so polarizing, and it was all about throwing answers at this woman.
Yeah, just sleep train, just co-sleep. Just do this, just do that. And it was like I kept being struck by, my own reaction was, I feel like I want to know what’s happening for this mom and this kid. Yes. Before, how could you possibly give a prescription to a TikTok video? Because, which that’s the problem with social media in general, but these, it’s not simple. It’s not just do this or just do that. There’s so much nuance and there’s so much uniqueness and information that goes into every family and all the things like the parents’ temperament, the child’s temperament, all kinds of other factors. How do you help parents kind of understand there are options that fit wherever you are at? And that’s the kind of the answer, the question we have to answer.
Yeah. Well, I am a very firm believer that there is no one sized fits all approach to anything in life. But specifically when it comes to parenting and in particular when it comes to sleep, I have a lot of friends who have bed shared with their babies since day one, and they still co-sleep on and off with them as they’re older. And it really does truly work for them. And I would never, in my wildest dreams tell someone to stop doing something if it works for them, if it works for you. Amazing. I tried, the bed sharing thing never worked for me. I joked with a friend of mine that when it came to my attempt to co-sleep with this baby of mine that wasn’t sleeping, there was coing, but there was no sleeping. There was just literally, is coing a verb? That’s the only part of it that was actually happening on my end.
So did not work. But I would never tell someone to stop doing something that doesn’t feel right to them. But I think that a lot of these strong opinions on the matter really just don’t have a place in this discussion because people are allowed to do their own thing, and there’s more than one right way to be able to approach this. And so I think a lot of the time, by the time moms come into my space, usually they’ve, they haven’t completely moved past that mental hurdle, but they’re sort of down the road. They’re far enough down the road that while they might need some reassurance to make sure that first of all, I’m the right fit for them to work with and they feel comfortable with my approaches and how I do things, that at the end of the day, they know that simply waiting it out and doing what they’ve been doing until now is just not working for them anymore.
But for the mom that was in that TikTok video, again, it’s how long was it? 30 seconds. I don’t want to, by no means am I trying to jump to conclusions here and psychoanalyze who she is out of a 32nd clip, but my spidey sense is say, is telling me that she might not be quite there yet. She’s still just feeling so beyond overwhelmed, not knowing which direction to go. And I really feel for her, I really, really do because she should be able to feel comfortable making her a decision that feels right for her and for her family, and not have to feel so heavily influenced by all these insanely strong opinions. Do this, do that. This is horrible. This is harmful. Well, this is more harmful when really the reality is that there is more than one right option here. Yes, there’s more than one right answer. And that is okay.
Dr. Sarah (18:38):
I really agree. And I just in general, my spidey senses go up too, whenever there’s a really extreme stance in any one direction, because I think, you know me, I am st. I’m looking at everything through the lens of attachment theory. And I think people don’t understand attachment theory all that well sometimes and will sort of get very binary with it, right? Yes. And the reality is there are as many ways to create a secure attachment as there are as many different ways to learn how to sleep. They’re not a mutually exclusive things. And there’s also, and secure attachment isn’t black and white. It’s very gray. It’s about all these amalgamation of experiences, this accumulative collection of interactions that we have with the safe person who sees us, who soothes us, who helps us to feel like I can trust you. And that’s not easily broken by one interaction. And so I think there’s this really intense fear that gets put out there that teaching your child to sleep independently only looks one way and that way is damaging to an attachment relationship. And I think there are certainly ways that you could sleep train that could be damaging to an attachment relationship. Yes. I also think that there’s a lot of ways that you can interfere with an attachment relationship that has nothing to do with sleep. And there’s a lot of ways that you can help a child go through that whole range of learning.
Like you said, there’s so many different ways to approach it and that you can do it in a way that certainly preserves attachment safety.
Yes, of course. And on top of that, I would say that I think a really big puzzle piece that many parents, many moms in particular are not aware of is that there is so much that you can do to improve your little one’s sleep. That actually has nothing to do with sleep training. For example, I have tons of moms who reach out to me when they’re either pregnant or when they’re little ones are newborns, three, four, six weeks old. We are not doing sleep training for a newborn baby in that age range. But I will tell you that there is still quite a bit that we can do in the sleep department at this age to maximize your little one’s sleep, to introduce some healthy sleep habits early on, and most importantly, be able to avoid some much bigger problems down the road. On a personal note, I have a newborn sleep course that teaches all of these things step by step.
And it was inspired by baby number three, who’s now four and a half. He was my third baby, but my first baby that I had as a sleep consultant. So at the time, I had been in this industry for about four and a half years. And so suddenly I now had my own little Guinea pig to be able to apply everything that I had been teaching for quite a while. And to make a very long story short, by the time he was six weeks old, I had him sleeping eight hour consistent stretches of sleep throughout the night, and he was exclusively breastfed. I’m just going to mention that because immediately people are was a formula. No, there was no formula in the picture at the time. He was exclusively breastfed, nor was he one of these unicorn babies that was just happy all the time and naturally slept like a champ. He was not, I wouldn’t put him in the high needs difficult category. He was really what I like to call a textbook baby in that if I met him halfway, he’d meet me halfway. And the end result was because I actually knew what I was doing the third time around. I mean, I kind of do this for a living. He was sleeping like a champ consistently. And that eight hour stretch never went away. The eight hour stretch eventually when he was old enough turned into that 11 to 12 hour stretch.
Dr. Sarah (23:03):
That’s great. Oof. So let me ask you this. Obviously baby number two and baby number three, you’ve already told us we’re very different temperamentally, but looking at baby number two as sort of your control experiment, and baby number two is the experimental case because you had all these new interventions that you were trying. Yes. What was different for you? How did you approach N having this new toolbox with your third child in the sleep department? What behaviors did you engage in that were different from two to three? Yes.
So tell you, the very first thing I’ll mention is that going into my experience with baby number three, as a newborn, I was acutely aware of how to get him on an age appropriate routine early on that would allow his daytime feeds to be maximized and for me to avoid having an overtired baby on my hands. So one of the things that I always teach my moms of newborns about is what’s called awake window or awake period. So awake window refers to the amount of time that a baby of any age can be up for before they begin to get tired and need to go back to sleep. And what happens is that if your little one is up for too long and they’re up past their awake window, they become overtired. And what happens when they become overtired is actually no different than what happens when we become overtired, which is that your nervous system begins secreting higher levels of cortisol.
And when you’ve got, which is a stress-related hormone, and when you have higher levels of cortisol in your system, it’s going to make it much harder for you and your newborn, well, your newborn baby in particular, to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep. And so one of the things that I was aware of going into this was how often my baby would need to be napping. Throughout the day, newborns have very short wake windows. Their awake windows are 45 to 60 minutes maximum, and that includes the length of the feed. So if your little one is still learning how to breastfeed, or maybe he does know how to breastfeed, but he’s three weeks old and each feed takes 30 minutes long and then you’re done feeding him, and then you change his diaper, maybe you do a little bit of tummy time and then guess what?
He’s ready to go back to sleep. That’s pretty normal for that age. But a really common mistake that I seem moms making and I definitely made with my first two was that as the day would go on, my little one was not napping every hour. My little one would be up for these longer periods of time, and maybe she’d be happy, maybe she’d be not happy. But I then said, oh, well, it must just be colic, right? She’s just a fussy, cranky newborn baby, which of course there’s always going to be some truth to that. But the reality was, looking back, I was going, oh my gosh, my two month old would be up for two hours at a time, especially near the end of the day when I had my toddler home with me. Of course, she’s going to be overtired. And so the end result was that in addition to having all this extra crying with my se first and second baby, more my second baby than my first cause, as I said, my first was really easy.
My second baby cried, and I didn’t know that I put in the extra effort to ensure that she was napping when she needed to be napping. First of all, there would’ve been a lot less crying, which would’ve been a lot less stressful for me because hearing your baby cry over and over and over again over a fairly long period of time is inherently stressful. On top of that, she would have been a better sleeper at night because one of the biggest, most common culprits of a baby’s night completely falling apart, especially in the newborn stage, is if they’re up for too long and become overtired, and then as a result you are going to have a baby who is that much more unsettled and it’s going to be a lot harder for them to stay asleep if they’re not napping enough during the day. So there’s a very famous SA saying Sleep, but gets sleep.
But a lot of people don’t know how that applies to newborn babies in particular. So the end result with having that insight going into baby number three was number one, he was never overtired because I always had my eye on the clock knowing when he was going to need to go down for a nap and when he needed to go down for the nights. The second puzzle piece was that I was also acutely aware of when he needed to eat. And so I might not have known what day of the week it was or what month it was for that matter, but I did know when he was going to be due for a next feed, when he was due for a feed, when he was due for a nap. And I had a good app to be able on my phone to be able to sort of remind me when he was due for a feed and for a nap, because it’s a lot to remember when you’re a postpartum mom, but it paid off in dividends because the second big, big thing that I’ll just mention is that my textbook average newborn baby, honest to God, barely ever cried.
Why? Because I almost always knew what he needed before he was even aware of it. And it was to a point where my husband would brag to our family and our friends and be like, oh, yeah. He would say, oh my God, JJ is the best. This kid never cries. And that may have been a factual statement, but to ignore the why behind that statement, I think does a disservice here because when you hear about a baby who never cries, it implies that you just have this unicorn baby on your hands who’s happy, happy, happy all the time no matter what. No, he did because there were times where I would lose track of time because although I’m still human and I would lose track of time, and I would think that he was due for a nap at seven when he was really due for a nap at six because I miscalculated things by an hour, and then he was overtired and would scream his brains off.
So I did not have a unicorn baby on my hands, but because I still was on top of things and I almost always knew what he needed, it meant that he never got so overtired that he didn’t know what to do with himself or over hungry for. I know that’s not a term, but I’m making it a term today because Over Hungry sort of describes that baby that needed to eat a half hour ago and is now so worked up because he’s so hungry that it’s going to take so much more effort on your end to actually feed that baby because they’re just so beside themselves. I very rarely found myself in that position. And then the end result was that my experience as a postpartum mom with a baby in this age range was so much easier. It is so much easier when you have a baby who is not screaming and crying all day long. It goes without saying, and when your baby needs to eat and when your baby needs to sleep, that literally removes 80 to 90% of the reasons why your newborn is going to be crying.
Dr. Sarah (30:47):
Yeah, it’s true. And it’s interesting because obviously we’ll throw in temperament as a possible of that because you can have kids who have very sensitive nervous systems who cry very easily. So yes, a little hunger could set them off, whereas you have kids who have a sturdier nervous system and they could be starving and they’re still like, oh, I’m still playing, and they don’t tell you. But barring that variability, I do. I hear you. When we are able to accurately read our child’s cues, perhaps like the pre cues, right? The cues, yes. That come before the real cues get, we get more subtle. I always talk about having a, as parents, we want to develop a more sensitive instrument for reading our child’s cues, and I think a lot of that’s what you’re talking about are you’re anticipating things because you’re understanding their rhythm. Yes.
Dr. Sarah (31:41):
Also, I think as a result of your training, had really real, had a good sense of developmentally appropriate expectations for sleep needs and how long food takes to digest.
Right? Right, right. A hundred percent. And I want to just emphasize that when I talk about knowing when my baby needs to sleep, when he needs to eat, et cetera, this is not mostly intuitive stuff. I just want to emphasize that this is not knowing, oh, listen to your mom gut and your mom gut knows when he’s hungry. No, no, no. This is something that I teach because it really is actually not in mostly intuitive. Of course, there is mom tuition that goes into everything that we do with parenting, but really the vast majority of it was, oh, JJ woke up from his last nap at one 15, so he’s probably going to be tired by two 30 and oh, he finished his last feed at 1130, so he’s probably going to be hungry somewhere between one 30 and two to two and a half hours later because he was exclusively breastfeeding.
So you’re absolutely right in that understanding biologically how often an exclusively breastfed newborn baby needs to eat versus an exclu exclusively bottle fed baby, which is a little bit different. Also, knowing and understanding age appropriate wake windows allows for those calculations really to be able to guide me on understanding what my little one needs so that I ended up minimizing, crying in the newborn stage and really maximizing sleep because I did not sleep train him. He was six weeks old and did that eight hour stretch completely on his own. I just want to emphasize that there was no controlled crying of any kind that went on here. I did begin to put him down somewhat awake once a day. That’s also something that I teach moms to do. If they are in the right mindset and if they’re feeling up to it, that’s absolutely something that you can begin to do if you want to.
And that’s what I did begin to do with him. There was no crying involved, some fussing, but babies are allowed to fuss. There wasn’t any crying, but it just meant that over time he began getting better and better at putting himself to sleep on his own because we worked on it every single day, so that by the time he was six weeks and he was napping when he needed to be napping, eating during the day when he needed to be eating during the day, and was basically putting himself to sleep at bedtime on his own, the magic happened. And of course, there wasn’t severe reflux or anything physiological getting in the way of this. That is when the magic was able to really begin to happen for me in the sleep department, except I shouldn’t use the word magic, because magic implies that it was this supernatural force that Mary Poppins just came to my house and sprinkled sleepy dust, and then boom, that was it. He began sleeping like a champ, which was really not the case, as I just described.
Dr. Sarah (35:05):
Right. Yeah, no, it’s some intentionality and some thought. And it sounds like also some real attention, right? Attention to the attention to sort of the schedule, attention and prioritization of it, like Yes. And that’s hard. The more kids you have, the harder that is because obviously, like you said, when your toddler comes home from school, it’s hard to stay on top of that schedule in the back of your mind because there’s so many distractions.
I agree. I’ll tell you that. I actually see it. I flip that I would flip the scripts around, and I see it in the opposite way in that when I prioritized my little ones, my newborn’s sleep needs, it meant that he was, and his feeding needs and whatnot, it meant that he was so much easier for me to take care of. It meant that he was a happier, well-rested baby, and as a result, I was less stressed. I was more well-rested, which gave me more energy and wherewithal to be a better mom to my two older kids when they came home from school. And as a result, I was less overwhelmed than I would be on the days where I maybe wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have been. So I see what you mean, and I can appreciate that when a new mom is hearing this, and maybe she also has a couple older kids as well, she’s going, well, oh my gosh, how am I supposed to do that? Because I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old or a six-year-old that I also need to be keeping alive. And I get that Again, this was baby number three. This wasn’t baby number one. But I’m telling you, with that little bit of intentionality on the front end of this, it pays off massively and makes taking care of your other ones and keeping them alive and well, not just alive. Well, yeah, driving. It’s so much easier.
Dr. Sarah (37:02):
Right, because I also think, like you said, all that stress that comes from a stressed child and that comes from not sleeping and struggling around nap windows being extended too far, and then they’re overtired and it’s just, it’s chaotic. That impacts us. It impacts how we could our bandwidth to show up. It’s, it’s like stress is contagious for the whole family. Yes. And so I think it’s important for parents to give themselves permission to do something proactive, very targeted at improving sleep, knowing that there’s no quick fix and no magic pill that will, every kid’s going to respond to this differently. But I do think, I feel like people sometimes throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes to, well, you’re not allowed to talk about anything related to sleep training if you want to have a healthy child. And I think that is, that’s just not true.
And healthy parents are one of the most important predictors of healthy child. You need to, parental mental health can cannot happen if we don’t give it space to be prioritized. We got to look at both things, right? Want to, so parents giving themselves permission to sort of say, it’s not all or nothing. No, of course. And what you’re saying is all these things you’re describing have literally nothing to do with attachment, like separation, not me, not responding to your child. It, it’s literally the opposite. It’s about complete attunement. It’s about holding space for your child’s needs. It’s about anticipating them, holding them in mind, meeting them where they’re at, prioritizing their needs inside the family rhythm and routine. And everybody benefits from that.
A hundred percent. And as you were saying, there’s at when my son was six weeks old and sleeping eight hour stretches, at that point, there was no sleep training involved. He would take some of his naps in the bassinet when I was helping him a little bit to fall asleep, but the naps that he was taking near at the end of the day when my two older ones were home, those were in a baby carrier. So there you go. It just meant that I intentionally would put him in the baby carrier when I remembered, when I would look at the clock and go, ah, it’s been an hour, an hour and a half, whatever his wake windows were at that time. And then I would intentionally put him in that baby carrier and get him to sleep knowing that he was just beginning to get tired, and then he would be soundly asleep in my baby carrier where I can then go and make dinner and help my kids with their homework and do everything else that I have to do.
And without that, the second time around, I did not have that insight. And so it meant that I had a two year old and a baby, which was, oh boy, was that hard because that’s another way of saying I had a big baby and a little baby, and I wasn’t aware of how often the little baby needed to sleep. And so it meant that I was, I’d pick up my two-year-old from nursery school around three o’clock. My husband would come home from work around six or six 30. And so for that three to three and a half hour period, I was literally counting down the minutes, the seconds until my husband would get home and I could hand one of them off to him because I was drowning. I had this very high needs, exhausted, sleep deprived baby. So it’s the really difficult temperament plus the sleep deprivation combined.
This is a baby that would let the entire street know that she was not happy with life at the moment, coupled with a two-year-old who was otherwise really happy and easy, but needed. Her mommy wanted me to play with her, wanted attention, wanted me to take her outside, wanted me to do all these things. And I was just literally trudging through mud, just trying to get through the day alive with my kids alive and intact, and the third time around when I had a third kid. But I actually knew what I was doing. It was so much, it was so easier. It’s a game changer. I can’t even describe in words how different my postpartum experiences were with baby number two and baby number three. And so if there is one big massive myth out there that I would love to dispel, it’s that you can absolutely tackle baby sleep head on when they are a newborn, despite the fact that you are not doing sleep training. There is so much that you can do that can really improve your little one’s sleep and maximize sleep in that newborn stage despite the fact that you’re not doing sleep training.
Dr. Sarah (42:24):
Yeah. I totally think that’s so important. And I think what I hear you saying is like, okay, it’s about learning how a child’s brain and body work, how the circadian rhythms work, how the stress response work, how the nervous system works, and using that information to inform how you are planning out and responding to your child’s needs. It’s a lot of, when I talk about emotion dysregulation and tantrums, it’s learning how a child’s brain and body works, which is the same, that nervous system response, that dysregulation, that tantrum, it’s a nervous system response. We have to understand what’s happening in a kid’s brain and body in order to effectively respond to it. And this just feels very, very similar. It’s just you kind of have to take a little bit of time to learn the sort of developmental information, a little bit of the nervous system and brain stuff get out.
And I say it like that. It makes it sound complicated, not, I mean, it’s, it’s not. It’s about learning sleep schedules and not necessarily forcing your child onto a sleep schedule, but knowing what awake window is, knowing what their body looks like when it starts to get too tired, knowing how to move. I mean, we talk about fight or flight. The opposite of fight or flight is rest, digest. Yeah. You cannot put a baby to sleep unless they’re in rest digest. Yes. If they’re in fight or flight, you can’t put them to sleep. You have to kind of understand that piece. And I think you do a very, very nice job of making it feel very simple and accessible and doable. So I’m so glad that you shared all this with us.
I’m so happy. Yes, these concepts, the vast majority of them anyways, really are applicable throughout those first 4, 3, 4 years of your little one’s life. Like a wake window is always going to be a concept that you are going to want to know about when figuring out when your little one needs to sleep. The only difference is that your three week old might need to nap every 45 minutes, whereas your three month old might need to nap every 90 minutes, whereas your one year old needs to nap every three to three and a half or four hours depending on the baby. So your baby gets older. The wake windows gradually get bigger over time, but the concept is always the same, which is get them down before they begin to get tired to avoid over tiredness so that they can fall asleep nicely, take a really good nap, and then as a result, not be overtired. Go into the night. So the recipe is still the same. The ingredients just might look a little bit, the actual ingredients or the measurements for that matter might be a little bit different. That’s all.
Dr. Sarah (45:21):
Totally. And if people want to learn more about your work or learn more about your sleep course, where can they find you?
Yeah. So if you had to, my website, mysleepingbaby.com, all the information will be there. I ll also send you guys a link to my newborn sleep program as well. It’s very affordably priced at just $79 to be able to get access to it. And I also have a Facebook community group called My Sleeping Baby Facebook Community, where I hang out in that community group daily answering people’s questions, posting free content. So it’s a really great community for moms of newborns, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers to also be able to connect with one another and get some community support around all the various different sleep transitions that moms go through.
Dr. Sarah (46:16):
Oh, what a great resource. Well, we’ll link all that in the show notes. And thank you so much for being here.
Thanks so much for having me. This was great.
Dr. Sarah (46:29):Thanks so much for listening. If you want to learn more from Eva and get access to her Newborn Sleep class or join her Sleep Bible program, she has offered Securely Attached listeners an amazing deal. Just use code Sarah40 to get 40% off any of the sleep resources that she has on her website, mysleepingbaby.com. And if there’s something else you could use some support with a question or topic you want me to tackle on the show, I would love to hear from you. Send me a DM on Instagram @drsarahbren or go to my website, drsarahbren.com/podcast and fill out the question form. That’s drsarahbren.com/podcast. Until next Tuesday, don’t be a stranger.
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