What has been your biggest challenge as a parent?
My biggest challenge as a parent has been healing the past and coming to terms with how I was parented, recognising how this has impacted my own parenting. There is so much work to be done when we have children to figure out what we needed as a child and did not get from our own parents and the things that trigger us. We have to figure out, for example, why we are constantly looking for perfection and we are needing to be in control. These are things that often times will stem from how we are raised and we need to identify them.
What do you think are the biggest challenges new parents face?
Too much information and too many opinions. There are so many ‘experts’ right now helping new mamas which can be both a blessing and a curse. Becoming a new mother is very overwhelming and Dr.Google has made it more difficult. Instead of looking inward for the answers, and trusting our hearts and our instincts, we are turning to the internet to look for answers (not only Google but Facebook mummy groups). Everyone has an opinion and this takes an overwhelming situation and makes it more difficult. I do think that this really comes down to the loss of our village. We used to have a village of family around to help the mother care for her baby and that has disappeared which has led mothers to turn to technology to fill the void.
What inspired you to help parents with their child’s sleep?
It is one of the first places that parents can feel challenged and conflicted. I am very concerned about the way that we are sharing information about infant sleep. We are using schedules, and wake windows, and sleep totals to make mothers feel like they are failing. When their child does not sleep according to the books/schedule, mothers are made to feel like a failure and even worse, scared into thinking that they are harming their baby’s development.
My WHY in doing what I am doing is to let mamas know that more often than not, what their baby is doing is exactly what they should be doing and remind them that a lot of books and schedules our there are not based on normal infant sleep and do not take into account all of the really common reasons that baby’s wake at night.
It is really important for parents to feel empowered, and confident. Tell a mama that she is amazing, and that she is doing an amazing job at parenting and that is exactly what will happen. Tell a mama that she is failing, and that is exactly what will happen.
How has your approach to children’s sleep changed?
One of the biggest changes in my approach to sleep is just the learning that I have done from so many of the amazing coaches in my community about all of the things that can impact baby sleep.
What advice would you give any couple before they think about having children?
Do the work to heal your past - both of you!
What is your go-to healthy meal for the family?
Hmmm… that is a good question! For us we are not big meat eaters so we eat a lot of beans. I absolutely love red lentil/chickpea pasta with tomato sauce, veggies and hemp hearts.
What aspect of motherhood have you enjoyed the most?
I feel like now that I am more confident, I am enjoying it more. Now that I parent with my heart, I am loving it so much more than when I was reading all the books.
What do you think of the reputation of people who ‘teach’ sleep training?
As I am sure anyone will soon know after following me on social media and my website, I get very upset with sleep trainers. You CANNOT train a baby to sleep. Sleep is a biological function just like eating and eliminating. Your baby has been sleeping in utero just fine for 9 months without any training at all. The only thing that determines whether we sleep or not is our circadian clock (governed by light and darkness) and the build up of sleep pressure. I would just ask anyone who is being told to train their baby to do anything, to do some research/reading about exactly what they are training them to do.
Do you think social media gives unrealistic images of parenthood and children? Or do you think that is changing?
I think that we have a choice as to what we choose to follow and read. For me, my feed is full of accounts that are very real about motherhood but that means that I have to choose this. I get to choose the accounts that I follow and an Instagram feed, for example, full of real and honest reflections on motherhood is a wonderful thing...
What would be your one piece of advice to any new parent?
Let go of the need to control, be in the moment, and follow your heart (I know that is three!)
Lauren Heffernen is the founder of Isla-Grace Sleep, who believes in a holistic approach to improving infant sleep.
Their Baby-Led Sleep™ approach places an emphasis on a mother’s instinct and a baby's cues.