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3 Things You Thought You Knew About Your Babies Sleep with Fern the Sleep Specialist Gloucestershire

Got your attention yet? Nothing quite grabs the eye than a promise of unearthing magic secrets to getting an undisturbed nights sleep hey! I'm Fern, and I'm a paediatric sleep consultant working in and around the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Bristol, Somerset and Wiltshire.

I work to help connect parents with their little ones through attachment focused, family centred sleep support. So what is the secret? Well, I've no doubt you know it's never quite as simple as the perfect bedtime routine or a well timed "dream feed"...

but the secret the sleep industry really doesn't want you to know?... Is that you really and truly are equipped to know everything your baby needs already. No. It doesn't always feel that way, and I can understand why. With an avalanche of advice on Google, conflicting opinions from self proclaimed experts and more pricey one-size-fits-all sleep plans than you can shake a stick at, these seemingly helpful resources can often serve to distract and undermine the most important resource you have as a parent- your instincts. Standing in the way of building a deep trust within those instincts, is books, apps and various other vehicles of intense tracking and box ticking exercises.

When I consult with the families in my care, rarely am I blowing minds with unheard information- I'm almost certain you've googled it all. There is no gatekeeping, I provide the evidence and information and empower you to make informed choices that feel aligned with that gut instinct. Your baby, your child, is telling you everything you need to know about them and what they need, if only we could drown out the noise to truly see them. I facilitate bringing parents clarity in their own choices, to feel that they understand what their little one needs- or, if it all feels a little chaotic and uncertain, that they feel a quiet confidence in managing the trickier days (and nights!) So, what are the three things I promised insight too, I hear you say? 1. Teaching your baby to sleep is often touted as the key- that sleep is taught and you must teach is the holy grail to long term success. We are often told that we must toughen children up to the harsh realities of life. That being firm and hard will somehow make life easier in the long run. Instead of considering how we might make the world softer, by raising compassionate and empathetic adults, for future generations of communities that make for a kinder world. The same can be said for sleep.

Instead of forcing our children into society set norms- 2 hour naps at lunch, 6.30pm bedtimes and so on, no matter their protest, discomfort or personal preferences.

Instead of removing comforters such as dummies and special teddies - "sleep crutches" as often termed. or rushing to night wean because of increasing peer pressure...

Why not refocus our efforts on creating great environments. Safe relationships where babies can communicate (yes, often via crying) and be respectfully responded to, instead of left alone.

Why not provide primary care givers who are tired from being that responsive parent overnight, the practical and emotional infrastructure they really need? Rather than spouting nonsense of bad habits... Why not shift the lens to allowing our baby to lead, rather than conforming to teach what has become so expected of us?

2. Dreamfeeds will unlikely make your little one sleep better. Starting solids prior to 6 months will not be the key to resolving night disturbances and watering down feeds will not cure night feeding habits.

When we look to clues for what goes bump in the night, you are grossly misled by well, oftentimes, the entire sleep industry, that fundamental development and milestones that come with them are remotely within your control. Yes, we always navigate nutrition when taking a holistic approach to sleep, but it is irresponsible to allow parents to shoulder an unnecessary burden of thinking that if they facilitate a rushing of milestones, sleep will follow too. It really is true what they say, children get their in their own time- that can be a hard pill to swallow when it feels that everyone else's child has taken to solids, sleep, crawling, walking and talking so much quicker than yours. It feels easier to shift the focus to gadgets and experts that promise results, than investing the time and patience that is so often, the real answer. 3. No. Its not just what babies do.

Overnight waking IS normal yes. Literature suggests that waking 1-3 times per night even up to 18 months or so is common, but waking every half an hour, long stretches of crying and generally being perpetually unhappy is not just what babies do. If it feels like something isn't right, it probably isn't.

There's a fine line between normalising infant needs and behaviours, and telling parents who are on their knees with pure exhaustion and a seemingly inconsolable baby to suck it up. Which takes us back to that instinct. We have a problematic structure in our society where we hold mothers, primarily, as responsible for our children's behaviour and wellbeing, and yet render them almost powerless when they speak up to advocate for their child. We must plead to gatekeepers for referrals and support, often falling short due to our overstretched and underfunded NHS. We cannot expect babies suffering allergies for example, to sleep the night through because we had "the perfect" bedtime routine. We must be empowered to pursue the route cause of this distress and disruption, not least because it is fundamentally harmful in the long run to leave both child and parent chronically under supported in their wellness, whilst placing the blame at mother's shoulders for mismanagement of nap times. It's not you babe.. it really is them sometimes!

There are so many fantastic tricks and tweaks to helping create solid foundations for good sleep but if we don't start by shifting the focus onto the things that *are* within our control- Accepting and realising the true extent of what is not, we set the scene for a very difficult experience in raising our infants. We have to start seeing our children for what they are... tiny, highly intelligent and yet exceptionally vulnerable little humans who are trying to tell you: you are already everything they need.

To find out more about Ferns offerings you can find her at


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Leanne Elizabeth Photography is a family, newborn and baby photographer covering Gloucestershire and The Cotswolds.

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