Help at hand for when babies don’t actually sleep “like a baby” | HerCanberra

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Help at hand for when babies don’t actually sleep “like a baby”

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Like almost every first-time mother, Olivia Bartlett-Marques came home from hospital with a beautiful baby boy and no instruction manual.

And like most first-time mothers she’d been warned that sleep was going to be missing-in-action those first few months. But nothing prepared Olivia for the toll it took on her both physically and mentally.

The qualified fitness and nutrition coach was used to preaching to her clients the importance of sleep. But with a newborn, it all seemed out of control.

That’s when Olivia threw herself into the research on sleep and babies in an effort to nut out what was going wrong and why.

“After having my first baby, I felt the furthest from my previously healthy, energetic and ultimately ‘well’ self. I was exhausted and I was sleep deprived. I knew the importance of getting enough sleep as an adult simply to function at a basic level and I knew that I was not achieving that. Not only that, but I realised very quickly that I had no idea what my babies’ sleep needs were,” she said.

“I became fascinated with the science behind infant sleep and I quickly discovered that it is not too far dissimilar to that of an adult’s sleep needs. After that early realisation, a lot changed for me. I knew that both my baby and I needed to create a change because neither of us were getting the sleep we needed and it was impacting on my experience as a first-time mum.”

Olivia and her two sons, Kaya and Mavi.

Olivia dug into the research, engaged a sleep consultant and happily reports, “within a week my whole experience began to shift. I felt lighter, I had more energy, I was laughing more and my husband would comment on how much more I seemed to be enjoying my new role as mum”.

But it was also the start of a steep learning curve for Olivia as she became obsessed with the subject.

“For some reason, when our baby arrives we settle for less than average sleep. Somewhere along the line, we are told that when you have a baby that sleep goes out the window and that it’s all just part of having a kid.

“Not just that, when I would discuss infant sleep training amongst my friends, many believed that it was harmful and that there were long-term detrimental effects. This is simply incorrect and there is no evidence to support this claim.”

Olivia used her new-found learnings and her own confidence from settling her own baby, who was soon followed by another (with a third on its way!), into a career change.

She spent time as a sleep consultant for a Sydney firm before deciding to take the leap and set up her own baby sleep consultancy, Olivia Mae Sleep, which focuses specifically on the needs of Canberra families.

“For me, as a mum, I know that my kids get the absolute best of me when I am well-rested; I am more patient, more creative, and more in love with my life as a parent. Sleep is absolutely essential for me to function at my best and this was ultimately my motivation for sleep training my babies.”

Olivia Mae Sleep is a safe space for parents to explore what settling techniques may work for them and their families. Olivia doesn’t use a one-size-for-all approach and all of her sleep plans are individual.

“I work closely with the parents to ensure we’re going at their pace and that they feel supported and heard. Each client I work with is treated as an individual and I don’t give out generic guides.”

Olivia believes that parents should seek support only if they identify sleep as a problem.

Olivia and Kaya.

“I’m a big believer that a sleep problem only exists with a baby if a parent identifies one. Simply because a girlfriend does things in a different way with their baby, or a relative suggests a habit be changed, this does not make for a ‘sleep problem’.

“But if mum and dad are up all night re-settling bub and feeling run down and exhausted, to me this suggests that the whole family may not be getting the sleep that they need.”

Olivia works remotely, guiding parents and baby through the process through phone calls, email, text messages and Google docs to keep track of baby’s sleep.

She speaks to clients daily, and sometimes multiple times a day in the first four-to-six days and she analyses sleep logs so she can see what patterns are emerging and how parents are going with settling their baby. She also leaves comments and feedback on the sleep logs.

“The first few days are the most important as we want to see big changes in the way baby sleeps by night three. Once mum and dad find their feet and gain confidence, and we find some momentum, we can shift to text support or just use the sleep logs to communicate, but ultimately I make myself available for the two weeks and am guided by what my clients need from me.”

Olivia also offers home and overnight visits as part of her services, which are particularly beneficial for parents who lack confidence.

While each baby is different, Olivia has had experience in solving a number of sleep issues including night waking, removing sleep associations, setting up nap routines, curbing bedtime resistance, assisting babies to learn how to resettle, removing night feeding if mum is ready to, moving into independent sleeping when baby has co-slept and dealing with various setbacks including teething, travel and sleep regression.

At the core of Olivia’s methods is the science of sleep.

“This can often be overlooked when it comes to infant sleep training. Sleep is a biological need. We all need it to grow, develop and function. When a baby doesn’t get adequate sleep often developmental milestones can be missed, and bumps in the road such as teething and illness become much more difficult to deal with.

“At different ages and stages of development, a baby will require different amounts of total day sleep and therefore their sleep-wake windows will need to be different. Sometimes timing can be the difference between a baby that downright refuses sleep and a baby that takes regular and lengthy naps. In addition, we know that if a baby has poor quality of day sleep it most likely impacts negatively on night sleep, creating a nasty cycle that can be difficult to break.”

You can contact Olivia at her website oliviamaesleep.com  or her instagram at @oliviamae_sleep.

 

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