What are Baby-Led Sleep Solutions?
Shawnee Baker of Advanced Nurturing, Awakened Sleep Coach & Lauren Heffernan of Isla-Grace, have joined to create Baby-Led Sleep.
With an emphasis on mother's instinct, connection and emotional concepts, our holistic sleep approach nurtures the parent-child relationship.
I began the journey of sleep consulting as a parent educator, lactation consultant, pediatric and NICU RN. I wanted to apply the methods used for developmental care concepts in the NICU, and emotional wellness through conscious parenting to the principles of sleep work. Through my own experience, years of education, extensive parenting, and sleep courses, I began to see what was missing for so many parents. There was a conflict between nurturing parenting practices and achieving healthy sleep. Main stream sleep solutions were all about "training" your baby and using cry-based methodologies to achieve results. With the focus on controlling behavior through disconnection, rather than being attuned to your child and supporting them emotionally. This was not in line with my parenting philosophy and the need for alternative sleep solutions was born.
It was around this time that I met Dr. Shefali, who not only validated my beliefs and supported my theory but had more knowledge and wisdom than I could imagine. Her deeper understanding of psychology and inner awareness of the true self, was exactly what was needed for the connection between mother and child. Blending concepts from conscious parenting into sleep strategies became the main principles for "The Awakened Sleep Coach" and the launch of "Baby-Led Sleep". Recognizing that brain development in the first three years happens at an alarming rate, that our emotional blueprint is formed during these years and that traits from infancy become a part of one's personality, the need for educating new parents was clear and become my mission. I was not comfortable following the recommendations of sleep pioneers from twenty years ago, but rather wanted to be a leader in the industry for this new parenting paradigm. Becoming aware of the need for emotionally supportive parenting, trusting our maternal intuition and balancing the new research on healthy sleep habits isn't easy, but is parenting ever easy? It was clear that parents and babies needed to sleep, but sleep training was not following the path of connected, attuned parenting. Discovering that Lauren and I shared similar views on our approach to parenting and sleep solutions, a partnership was created. Baby'Led Sleep has become the new approach to nighttime parenting. By following baby's lead, listening when they tell you they are tired, responding to them when they tell you they need help, guiding them when they ask for safety, recognizing when you have become a barrier to sleep. By attuning and understanding your baby, you can make changes that are necessary and support your baby through those sleep challenges.
Baby-led sleep is a process of understanding your own emotions, your own role in your child's ability to sleep, your reactions and interactions, becoming a conscious parent right from the start! Your child's developmental stages, the science of sleep, the foundations for healthy sleep, transitioning through co-regulation to emotional wellness, what that really means and how to do it through connection, the scaffolding method of social emotional learning, the path to emotional intelligence, building stronger relationships, how play facilitates sleep, responding to different temperaments, balancing nutrition, knowing when sleep is food related, the "gut" brain, environment, rhythms, patterns, predicatbility, and following your child's cues along the way. Once all of these principles are in place and connected parenting is practiced during the day, babies and toddlers begin to feel emotional safety. It is only once emotional safety is achieved and the nervous system is in a down-regulating mode, can we start the process of changing sleep associations and teaching self-settling. The brain cannot learn when it is under extreme stress. The goal of baby-led sleep is to follow a baby's lead, respond appropriately, provide containment when your baby asks for it, create safe limits for your child and help them learn when they are receptive and connected to you.
Emotional wellness is our main focus and is not taught in our culture. We believe in respecting each other as spiritual beings and allowing each other the freedom to express emotions and release tension. Studies indicate that emotion release is beneficial by removing toxins from the body and flushing chemicals from the brain. Human beings are designed to release emotion and crying serves a purpose. Knowing we are both highly intelligent and highly emotional, in comparison to all other animals it is important that we connect through tears and share emotion with others. We need to accept and not control our child's limbic system, to know what it is to be human and to feel all of our emotions in a safe secure environment, supported by a loving, connected parent. Baby-led sleep always begins with the parent and teaches moms how to understand her own emotions first. We often don't know what we cannot see, motherhood opens doors you couldn't see into before. You need to have clarity and a deeper awareness of your true self to reflect on how these emotions can interfere with baby sleep. Through this process, both you and your baby will be prepared for the subtle changes you need to guide them through.
Just like adults, babies and children must first learn what it feels like to be safe and secure, to be stable and steady, next they can learn to be adaptable, flexible and resilient, and finally they will show you that they are ready and willing to move out of their safe space. Looking beneath the surface and adding the skills that parents need in order to recognize and respond to their baby's lead is the solution for baby-led sleep! When you use the tools for emotional safety and teach with connection vs disconnection, you build a relationship with your child and send a strong message that you will be there no matter what! This goes beyond sleep work well into the toddler years for managing behavior and establishes a bond between parent and child that lasts a lifetime. The building blocks for all adult relationships one day.