“Sleep while you can! You won’t sleep again once baby arrives!”
How many times have you heard that? If you’re a parent, chances are you heard it at least a thousand times in the weeks and months before your child was born. And as soon as your little one arrived, chances are everyone started asking, “are they a good sleeper?”
It’s enough to give anyone a complex!
And have you noticed that the makers of baby gear have figured out that sleep is one of the biggest concerns new parents have? I can’t turn around without bumping into a new product that claims to make baby sleep longer, better, quicker, deeper, or some other magical claim. From swaddles to noise machines, big expensive gadgets to books. It doesn’t matter, there are a million products designed to solve a million sleep problems.
But what if we’ve been looking at sleep all wrong?
I’m not talking developmentally. We’ve talked about the myths of sleep training before and we know that sleep can change depending on the age and stage a child is at. What I am talking about is the stuff. Of course there are tools and tricks that help us sleep, but which ones are legitimately helpful and which ones are just dollar signs in disguise?
I wanted to know so I reached out to our sleep coach, Rosalee Lahaie Hera of Baby Sleep Love and we very quickly realized that not only do most of these gadgets not work (either in the short-term, or in the long-term), some of them are just outright dangerous!
One of the most important things for parents to know is that how a product is marketed is extremely important. In Canada, the only approved, safe-sleep surfaces are labeled “crib”, “bassinet”, or “cradle”. In the United States, “play yard”, or what we call a pack’n’play is also safety tested.
Any product that does not call itself one of those things has not been safety tested or evaluated for safe sleep by Health Canada.
Unfortunately, that means all those fancy “soothe your baby to sleep” baby beds, “sleepers”, rock and plays, and cosleepers are not safe sleep surfaces. And in addition to being potentially unsafe, these beds are only meant to last a few months! Babies grow quickly and by four months most infants have outgrown many of these products. Leaving babies in these gadgets after they have outgrown them can make them even more unsafe.
Okay, but sleep deprivation is real and tired parents are looking for solutions, right?
Right. The thing is, gadgets aren’t actually solving your problem anyway! Not in the long-term at least. While you might get a few immediate weeks of relief, before long your child’s sleep is going to shift (four month “sleep regression” anyone?) and now your baby is too old for that wonderful, expensive, sleeper bed and they don’t know how to put themselves to sleep.
So what do you do?
Take all the money you would have spent on fancy machines and lights and beds and everything else, and put it toward building a support team for the entire family. It is possible to create healthy sleep habits and hygiene right from birth! Use a doula to help you become familiar with your baby’s normal sleep patterns. If that isn’t working or you want more help with sleep, working with a sleep coach to create an individualized sleep plan for your baby and your family can create the life-long healthy sleep habits and skills your baby needs.
By hiring expert help, you are learning the skills you need to support your baby both now and in the future.
Like so many other things in life, the experiences are so much more valuable than the things.
Meaghan Grant works with families to explore their options and help them to discover their own strength through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. She is a Certified Labour Doula, Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, and Postpartum Placenta Specialist. As co-owner of Toronto Family Doulas, Hamilton Family Doulas, and Family Doulas of Ottawa, she is committed to providing judgement-free support of all birth and parenting choices.