Babies sleep a lot. As they grow older they sleep less and less. Many parents struggle with their baby's sleep (and therefore sometimes their own sleep!). This week, we had the honour to ask Gentle Sleep Expert Joanna Minuzzo from Sleepy Time Baby about some of the things about sleep.
- What made you decide to study further about sleep? It was something that I had always been interested in and had a gift for, settling babies. Before I had my own I used to help a family member settle her little boy who didn’t sleep well.
My daughter didn’t sleep well and I struggled with Post Natal Depression and Anxiety so that started my journey into learning more about babies’ sleep. The a few years later while on maternity leave I studied my certificate…and the rest is history!
- Why are you so passionate about sleep consulting/ sleep training?
I know how much sleep deprivation fed into my PND/A and that it robbed me of my lust for life and being able to enjoy the children while they were so little. I knew I couldn’t cope on no sleep and knew that there were other mums out there that were struggling just like I was.
As soon as I started to get some rest, my mental health improved, my children had a better temperament and I was able to be the mother I had always wanted to be.
I get to talk to exhausted mums that feel the same way I did and I am lucky enough to support them through to getting more sleep. Seeing the family transform gives me goosebumps. I love it!
- I thought sleep should be something that comes naturally. We all sleep every night and we need it to survive. Why do families need to go through sleep training?
Good question! We DO NEED sleep to survive! Not every family NEEDS to do sleep training. To be honest I’m not a fan of the term sleep training. For me it’s more about nurturing your child to sleep and changing rituals around sleep. Whether or not parents get help with sleep is a personal preference. Some parents seem to not be affected so much by the lack of sleep and do really well, others not so much. They are the families I talk to.
- Is sleep training something every family need to go through? When should parents should seek a sleep consultant such as yourself?
Some parents don’t need any help at all and do just fine. There is no set time on when a parent should contact me. As a rule of thumb, if they feel like they can’t cope and their mental health is being affected, I would say then. Really when the family is ready. Can be any time. I see parents with 3-year-olds and some with 6-month-olds. It depends on the family and how they are functioning. What works for one family may not work for another.
- Most of the sleep training methods that I have heard of include letting baby sleep in their own room and not actively reacting to their cries (i.e. letting them cry it all out). Are all sleep-training the same? What is your approach like?
To be honest I think this is a common perception of sleep training and that is why I don’t like the term sleep training. It has such a negative connotation. Sleep coaching and sleep help has come a long way from the cry it out method! Its not something I would advocate for. The ONLY time I would tell a parent to put their baby in a room and let them cry is if the parent is getting so frustrated, they are at risk of harming the baby. If that was the case there would be a whole safety plan attached to that with other parenting professionals on board, very, very unlikely.
There are SO many methods out there now. For me, I prefer a more gradual approach. Something that takes more time but with no crying and distress. I don’t want mum to leave baby until baby is ready and mum is ready. That takes time and commitment.
- Breastfeeding and sleep- at night, which one should mothers prioritise?
Never out your supply at risk and never refuse your baby a feed if you think they are hungry! There is a way of breastfeeding your baby and ensuring they are not reliant on you to go to sleep. This can be done quite successfully even while co sleeping.
- What’s the #1 mistake a lot of parents make relating to their baby’s sleeping habits?
To be honest, it’s not my place to deem other parents’ choices a mistake or not. Its not a mistake or a “Bad Habit” if it works for you and you are happy with it.
- Is there such thing as the correct/ normal sleeping patterns for babies and what does that look like?
There is a standard for the amount of sleep your baby should be getting over a 24hr period but I wouldn’t say that it was a correct or normal pattern. For example, my oldest daughter needs a lot of sleep, she is a deep sleeper and has always had higher sleep needs in order to function (like myself). My youngest daughter has always had lower sleep needs and can survive on a lot less sleep and still function well. She still falls with in the recommended guidelines, which you can download via this link.
- Is there a recipe for success for sleep training? Can you summarise this in a few words?
Consistency!! I cannot stress this enough! When your baby stops sleeping you start to panic and try everything when you really just need to stick to one thing consistently and you will get there.
- If there is one thing you want all mums to walk away with after a consult with you, what would it be and why?
I want them to feel empowered, well supported and ready to enjoy a good night’s sleep when it happens for them. Often after your baby has been waking habitually, I find mums can’t sleep because they expect to wake up constantly. They often need a reset too.
FURTHER COMMENTS: Don’t listen to other peoples’ opinions on your parenting! Everyone will have an opinion, good or bad. Do what is right for YOU! Co sleep, sleep train, breast feed, bottle feed, do what suits you and not anyone else. Do it with pride. As long as you love your baby that is enough!
Learn more about Sleepy Time Baby and what Joanna's sleep coaching is all about on her website: www.sleepytimebaby.com.au and follow her on social media: