By Sarah Patel.
The founder of Teach To Sleep and a mum of two young children, who are 18 months apart. Sarah has worked in education for over 15 years as a primary teacher and a senior lecturer in primary education. Two years ago, Sarah retrained to become an infant sleep consultant.
One of the things I am really passionate about is dispelling common myths around infant sleep and empowering parents to trust their instincts. As a parent when our baby is struggling to fall asleep or get back to sleep, we naturally want to help them, but should we?!
So should we be helping our babies to fall asleep or are we creating bad habits?
We often hear that babies need to learn to self-soothe in order to be able to sleep independently. That they do this by “being left alone to work out how to fall asleep by themselves”. Which essentially involves crying until they eventually fall asleep through exhaustion. This makes no sense to me. Infants are unable to learn when they are dysregulated and alone. They learn and thrive when their needs are met and they feel safe and secure.
There are many ways we can support our babies to fall asleep, such as feeding, rocking, and cuddling; all of which help to prevent babies from becoming overtired and enable them to fall asleep feeling safe and secure. This is what lays the solid foundations for sleep
But what about using things like soothers? Do they help or hinder sleep?
Soothers provide sensory input and soothing mechanisms which can be great for calming down, especially during bedtime when babies are often overtired and overstimulated. The sucking motion calms and relaxes babies, encouraging the onset of sleep. Not only can soothers help babies to fall asleep but they can also help babies transition through sleep cycles. MAM found that 87 % of parents who took part in their research believe the soother helped their child to improve their own ability to self-soothe and sleep better.
Research in 2005 by Fern Hauck, an associate professor of family medicine found that soothers can help to reduce SIDS when they are used specifically during sleep times. The research also highlights the importance of waiting until breastfeeding has been well established before introducing a soother, which can be up to 3-6 weeks.
Are there any soothers you recommend?
Not all babies will take a soother but if they do, MAM Soothers can provide your baby with maximum comfort, thanks to the SkinSoft™ silicone teats which have a 94% acceptance rate. They have also been developed in close collaboration with designers and orthodontists so are well worth a try.
MAM also have Night soothers which glow in the dark. Allowing you to find the soother with little disturbance if needed or for your little one to locate themselves when they are a bit older.
What is your final piece of advice for parents?
When it comes to supporting your baby with sleep, I am all for it! Trust your instincts and trust your baby, I promise you that you won’t regret it.
For more sleep tips and advice, you can follow Sarah on Instagram. @teachtosleep where she provides free resources and runs weekly Q and A’s on her Instagram stories.
And for advice on how to introduce soothers CLICK HERE