Attuned attachment and sleep learning…can I practice both with my baby?

August 4, 2020Uncategorized

Question? I don’t want to use cry it out methods.  Can I avoid it and still have a baby that sleeps?

“ Look at my beautiful beyond words baby, I just can’t wait 'til I get to sleep train her,” ... said no parent, EVER.  The idea that we will someday cause this little wonder to cry, on purpose, is usually pretty far fetched in those first blissful few weeks with your new snuggly baby in your arms.  I remember being super secretly judgy towards my friend who was in the throes of using the Ferber Method with her 6 month old, and thinking, “ oh, I will SO be choosing a different path.  That one is not for us, we are practicing Attachment Parenting, so clearly my child will sleep like a champ….you know…because of the baby wearing.”  Cut to 4 months later, and my fierce, independent soul of a child was waking up every 90 minutes …All. Night. Long. 

I was a basket case, and frankly, so was he. It was through my sleep learning journey with my little nugget that I realized what conflicting information we are given in those first few months postpartum around sleep and our babies.  On the one hand, we are told “ there are no bad habits in the first few months of life," or  “You cannot spoil a child by holding them too much,” which by the way, I absolutely agree with.  On the other hand, we are also given the message that there is some type of badge of honor for moms whose babies are able to consolidate their night sleep.  We are also told that “Babies need to self soothe, sleep independently and put themselves to sleep.”  Ummm…..Is there a way to have both? 

Are there steps I can take in the early months that will encourage my baby to learn how to sleep well while also being an attuned, attached and responsive mama?   YES!! Here’s how:

As my little guy learned how to access his own innate ability to learn how to sleep, I remember having this A-Ha moment of 

 “ oh, I just needed to get out of his way a little bit.”  

I have had this sense many times since, as my kiddos are my greatest teachers  as well as reflections on things I need to work on, like letting go.  As a parent, we are tasked with the enormity of letting go literally from birth, and continuously as we guide our children towards independence. The secret sauce is knowing when to step back and let our kiddos take the reins, allowing them to shine on their own.   As a parent, I am always asking myself “How can I raise the bar by doing less?” Let’s apply this to early sleep!

Here is the key to working on this early: your mindset.  Rather than thinking about working towards this lofty goal of “sleeping through the night,”  consider sleep habits one of the many abilities you will be working on with your child to master.  We are paving the way for this baby to lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits, which will lead to skill around going to and staying asleep.  If you think about this like any other developmental task, such as walking , or doing puzzles, we would not expect immediate mastery, but rather we would slowly see the building blocks of this skill being laid down at each child’s individual developmental pace.  Guess what? sleep learning is unique, just like your tiny human.

So, what can we do?  I am a firm believer that in the first few months of life, our job is to continuously nurture our attachment and attunement to this little person.  This means, as we teach the baby that we are attuned to their needs, that we will hold them when they cry, feed them when they are hungry, they will in turn, learn to feel secure and confident in that attachment, enabling independent exploration to follow.  But, part of being attuned, is assessing “ Is today the day for something new?”  For those seasoned parents out there, you know, things are always changing, and the trick is to keep up with the change.  

Approach sleep with an attitude of curiosity from the start.  Your baby will fall asleep in your arms, which is delicious, but don’t be afraid to at other times experiment with putting her down awake.  Meaning, those times that you notice are sleep times, but don’t quite match up with feeding times, try something new.  Swaddle your baby up, sing, sway, put her in the mood… and then, put her in the bassinet, drowsy but awake.  See what happens! Is today the day?  She cried?  Oh, today’s not the day!  Pick her back up and do what works. You already have that solution in your bag of tricks.  Then, and here is the important part, try again tomorrow, and maybe the next day, and maybe the next day after that.  This is not a failure, this is just something you are working on, like tummy time or grasping toys, and eventually she will get it.  I tried this approach with my second guy for 17 days in a row before finally he went to sleep like a champ.  Did he do it again the next day? NO!  But, we kept practicing, and he got really good at adding this skill of putting himself  to sleep to his own sleep repertoire.

I have found that babies that have multiple ways to access sleep in their bags of tricks, like being rocked, nursed to sleep, in the stroller, but also sometimes on their own, tend to be able to begin consolidating their nighttime and daytime sleep all on their own.   Some babies are naturally good sleepers ( like adults!), and for some HOW the go to sleep becomes increasingly important as it relates to their ability to stay asleep.  As parents,  it’s easy to stall out because something is kind of working and we don’t want to rock the boat, but guess what? As your little one grows, they CHANGE and become capable of SO much more. Sometimes we just need to step out of their way.  Raising the bar by doing a little less.   

Giving your baby the space to appreciate and come to love their alone time is such a gift. Allowing our kids to feel confident in their abilities, tackle frustrations and work through problems, enables them to build resiliency and build independence.  As with any parenting task, think about your end goal and then think about the steps you could take to support your child to get there.  Even for families who utilize the Family Bed, fostering some independence around sleep will create lifelong healthy sleep habits that are sustainable for the whole family.  As with all things parenting, it’s so easy to fall into the deep dark hole of comparison. My advice?  Find a path that feels like a good fit for you, your baby and your family. 

Please remember, sleep  is only a problem if it’s a problem for YOU, no one else. Remember that mindset of curiosity, and that we are all a work in progress.  Lastly, please know, YOU are the perfect parent for YOUR uniquely amazing child.  

McMoyler Method: Taking The Judgement Out Of Childbirth

February 24, 2018Parenting Resources, Parenting Village, Pregnancy + Childbirth, Uncategorized

McMoyler Method : Taking The Judgement Out Of Childbirth

Trying to decide which childbirth prep  curriculum to bring under the Kinspace umbrella proved to be a daunting task.  At the core of Kinspace is inclusivity.  It is my goal for every parent to feel supported without judgement, provided with education and resources that will nurture their individual paths as new families.  In other words, parenting education is not about teaching parents how I would do things, but rather presenting a wide array of common best practices and guiding each parent to feel confident in making the perfect fit choice for their family.  No family is the same, just like each birth is unique.  I often hear disempowering statements made about birth that result in mamas feeling shame or remorse around their birth story.  I also believe….and hold on to something here….every birth is natural. 

You had a baby? Awesome! You did it!  It’s natural.

As a psychotherapist specializing in postpartum depression and anxiety, what I often see on the postpartum end of things is moms having experienced trauma from their births, shame at how things went down and an overwhelming feeling of having let their babies and themselves down. 

I see mothers that have beautiful, healthy babies who are unable to enjoy their gorgeous little human because they fear that they caused irreparable damage to their children as a result of their c-section.  I see moms with thriving babies who deeply fear they will never be able to have attached relationships  with their child because they were unable to do skin-to-skin in that first hour after birth.   I also see moms approaching birth with rigid expectations and plans rather than the sense of  empowered flexibility necessary to be able to move through unexpected occurrences.

The real quandary is how do we teach and empower moms to trust in the magic of their bodies, while also allowing them the emotional freedom to accept guidance or make alternate choices? 

This idea of educating without judgement always makes me remember one of my most favorite postpartum mamas.  We will call her, Hannah.  During the first session of my Mama + Baby groups, the moms share their birth stories. Hanna would probably describe herself as holistically-minded, but also quite Type-A.  While bouncing her little one on the birthing ball, Hannah began her story by sharing her Birth Plan, which, being Type-A, was perhaps 12 pages long, and sounded glorious!  She had  a home birth planned, in a tub in her living room, surrounded by her doula, midwife and family.  There was, of course, the perfect ambiance planned: music, candles, essential oils, the works.  At some point it became apparent to the midwife that complications were beginning to arise, she made the call to move to a hospital to ensure mama and baby safety.  Once at the hospital, and after many days of labor and hours of pushing, Hannah ended up having an Emergency C-Section.  As I am listening to Hanna share her story, I am assuming we are headed towards a place of self-criticism about the birth of her beautiful son, and I am preparing myself to offer her validation and encouragement.  But, I gotta tell you, what she said next not only surprised me, but gives me goosebumps each time I share this story. 

She said, “ As I felt myself  moving towards a road of disappointment I thought, you know, this is not just my birth story.  This is also my son’s birth story, and he may just have a different plan than I did. He deserves to have his birth story too.” 

Yep….I still have the goosebumps!  

For the more seasoned mamas out there, you may already know, these tiny people come to this world with their own personalities and temperaments from the start.  Figuring out how to parent in a way that suits your personal ideals and matches up with your baby’s temperament is the secret ingredient, right? For whatever magical reason, Hannah was able to tune into that wisdom in the moment, but can that be taught prenatally? I say, Yes!

Enter McMoyler Method.   I had the good fortune to meet and train with  Sarah McMoyler, RN, and to say it was life changing for me would be an understatement.  The message of McMoyler Method “Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby….However we get there”,  is the common thread that can be felt throughout the curriculum.  That message speaks to me as releasing parents from judgement or pressure to “get it right”.  I am one of those people who really does believe that knowledge is power.  If you have an understanding of the anatomy and birth process, you will be able to lessen the feeling that things are happening to you and feel a part of the conversation.  Approaching your birth as if your are training for a big athletic event is another core principal that really speaks to me.  Every athlete needs a coach! Partners can and should have an integral role in supporting mom through the birth.  The reality is that the research shows that the more support a mother has during birth, the faster it goes and with less need for interventions. By giving parents a solid foundation of knowledge, coupled with practical coping tools, we take some of the fear away and leave behind a sense of empowered flexibility to take on this wild superpower that we have to birth babies.   

As a professional, as a mom, as a human, nothing makes my heart happier than to see a new mom  embrace her inner Confident Badass, and that begins from the start. 

By shifting the narrative around birth, by allowing space for ALL birth to be natural, what I see, are parents that are now able to more comfortably  navigate the postpartum period and experience the wonder of childbirth and the pride in bringing their tiny human to this world….however that came to be.