Welcome to this interview! Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Hannah Chandler, owner of This Rested Nest, a holistic sleep consulting agency that provides resources and personalized support for parents struggling with their child’s sleep. With over 18,000 families helped, Hannah is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. In this interview, she will share her experience and insights into the common baby sleep myths, the biggest challenges parents face when it comes to getting their babies to sleep, and the importance of establishing a consistent sleep routine for infants. So, let’s dive in!
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your experience in the field of baby sleep?
Hi! My name is Hannah Chandler, and I am the owner of This Rested Nest, a holistic sleep consulting agency that provides resources and personalized support for parents struggling with their child’s sleep. I have six children of my own, through both birth and adoption. I have experience in the field of psychiatric nursing and am a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. I have helped over 18,000 families with their children’s sleep through consultations, guides, over social media, and through my membership program.
What are some common misconceptions and baby sleep myths you’ve encountered, and how do you address them?
There are three misconceptions and baby sleep myths that I hear most often.
Baby sleep myth #1: Sleeping through the night
The first is that your baby should be sleeping through the night within a few weeks. Many parents feel as if they are doing something wrong, or that they have a “bad baby” if their little one still wakes frequently after several months. However, the statistics tell us that even by 12 months old, 43.4% of babies are still not sleeping 8+ hours and 27.9% are still not sleeping 6+ hours. In fact, I want parents to honor and embrace these frequent wakeups, because they are thought to be a protective factor against SIDS. I suggest that parents learn about biologically normal infant sleep and set realistic expectations for their little one. Every baby will begin sleeping longer stretches at different rates, so never compare your baby to someone else’s.
Baby sleep myth #2: Solid food helps baby sleep longer
The second misconception is that starting solid foods will help your baby sleep longer stretches. The reality is that their digestive systems can struggle when going from a milk-only diet to one that includes solids. Babies can also wake more frequently if their breastmilk or formula intake lowers due to new foods, as they are seeking to replace the lost milk during the day. The best advice I have when starting solids is to always offer milk first, never begin solids before 6-months-old (or the recommendation from your pediatrician) in order to achieve longer stretches of sleep, and to be patient and supportive if your baby seems to be struggling or waking more frequently during this change.
Baby sleep myth #3: Keeping baby awake is the secret to sleep
Lastly, many parents believe that if they keep their baby awake longer, or put them to bed later, their baby will sleep better. After a baby reaches around 4 months old, they begin producing melatonin, also known as the “sleepy hormone.” This hormone is produced in response to darkness but can be suppressed when cortisol (the stress hormone) rises. When a baby is pushed passed their natural awake tolerance, their cortisol may begin to rise, in turn lowering their melatonin. This hormonal imbalance can cause babies to have a harder time falling asleep, can cause frequent night wakeups, and can even contribute to a baby waking early! It is important to pay attention to your baby’s sleepy cues and put them down for sleep when they are ready. Don’t get wrapped up in the “awake window” charts you see online or force your baby to stay awake longer in the hopes that they will sleep in; I promise you that it will backfire!
What are some of the biggest challenges parents face when it comes to getting their babies to sleep, and what advice do you have for them?
When babies are struggling to fall asleep there are a few things to consider. Since my approach is holistic, I encourage parents to look at every aspect of their child’s day when troubleshooting issues that arise. Sometimes babies can’t fall asleep because they’re hungry, or they haven’t had enough activity to become tired enough for sleep. In some cases, it is as simple as moving into a dark room with soothing music in order to eliminate distractions and create an environment conducive to sleep.
Another huge factor that contributes to a baby’s ability to fall asleep easily is timing. Putting a baby down for sleep before they are tired enough, or after they have become overly tired can both pose challenges. There are so many guides and charts online about awake windows, but the best thing you can do when it comes to figuring out the timing is to tune in to your individual baby. Every baby will show signs that they are tired in different ways, and it’s important to recognize and honor your baby’s individual sleepy cues.
Lastly, parents may need to take a look at their soothing methods. I have seen parents simply hold their baby and wonder why they won’t fall asleep. Many babies require gentle bouncing, rocking, humming, etc. in order to get to sleep. Try cycling through positions and soothing methods to see what works best for your baby.
How important is establishing a consistent sleep routine for infants, and what are some key components of a successful routine?
I love a good routine! Routines have been shown to increase a child’s sense of security, as well as help babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. The best length of time for your routine is whatever length you feel you can be consistent with. My favorite formula for creating a great bedtime routine is to include something that supports your child’s mind, something that supports their body, and something that supports their spirit.
An example would be a calming bath, reading books, and saying a special prayer or affirmation. Another one might be to give your baby a massage, sing them a special song, then nurse them to sleep. For a toddler, you might include a “daily recap” in which you talk about your day and tell them your favorite part of being with them that day. Your routine doesn’t have to be exactly the same every night, but it should follow a similar pattern of events so that your child recognizes what is happening and by association begins to become calm and ready for rest.
Our final thoughts
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is essential for both parents and babies. However, as a parent, it can be challenging to navigate the world of baby sleep, especially when there are so many myths and misconceptions out there. However, with the help of a sleep expert, you can learn the best practices for promoting restful sleep for your baby.
It’s important to remember that every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. However, by understanding the science of sleep and implementing healthy sleep habits, you can help your baby get the restful night’s sleep they need to grow and thrive.
By avoiding common baby sleep myths and following the advice of a sleep expert, you can create a positive sleep environment for your baby that promotes healthy sleep patterns and supports their overall development. So if you’re struggling to get your little one to sleep, consider consulting a sleep expert to help you develop a plan that works for your family.
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Perfecting Your Child’s Bedtime Routine | Sleep Foundation. (2021, January 15). Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/bedtime-routine