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Baby Sleep: On Their Own – With Our Help

A typical day in the life of my Inbox. 

Email subject: HELP!!!!

From: Alex and her eight-month-old baby.

I don’t know what happened. Things were going so well. I would nurse her to sleep and she slept for four or five hour stretches. All of a sudden she is up every hour or two crying. It feels like I have a newborn again.

Cut to: A week later and after Alex’s 8-month old is on her way to learning the developmental skill of falling to sleep without being nursed down.

Email Subject: SO Grateful!

Thank you so much. We did it. It was hard for a couple of nights but she is falling asleep peacefully and sleeping through the night. I knew she could do it. I was just afraid I couldn’t do it.

This is a typical sleep scenario I hear every week. Replace the word “nurse” with rock, walk, stroll, pat, sit with, lie down with, etc., and this is also a common scenario I hear all too often for babies six months to four years old.

Although I started out as a RIE teacher, I have been studying and working with family sleep issues for over 15 years. When my second child was born my own sleep deprivation and desperation led me to seek solutions. This was when I developed my sleep program Compassionate Sleep Solutions. At that time there were only a handful of people who are now commonly referred to as Child Sleep Consultants. What I have learned about family sleep is continually supported by what I learned from the Educaring approach.

Mindful Moments

On their own – with our help.

I call these “mindful moments”.  Moments when we need to tune in and use sensitive observation to assess the following.


  1. What can my child do on her own?
  2. When can he do it on his own?
  3. Does my child need my help?
  4. How much of my help is called for in any given moment?

The foundation of my program, Compassionate Sleep Solutions, is built on the RIE Educaring principals and Attachment Theory. How we respond to our infants, when we respond and what we do in our responsiveness (or reactiveness) influences both sleep and the growing bond with our infants.

  • Respect – We respect the self, the child and the entire family by providing the highest quality of sleep in the home.
  • Our goal: An authentic child – An authentic child is one who feels secure, autonomous, competent and connected.
Here is the paradox: Your baby can feel both; separate and secure – both; autonomous and connected. And the truth is that many humans sleep better in a bit of separateness, even baby humans.

By consistently providing and responding to the following needs our babies feel secure and connected in the caregiving routine.

  1. Relationship: The bond and the secure attachment
  2. Food: Nursing, bottle feeding and any meal time.
  3. Sleep: Offering the best physical and emotional environment for promoting quality sleep.

The Newborn 0-to-three months – In the beginning we feed and remain in relationship (rocking, holding, co-sleeping), to facilitate sleep.

Most parents don’t seek my help because they are doing anything wrong. They seek help because they are doing everything just right – for a little too long. 

In my book The Compassionate Sleep Solution: Calming the cry I address the very important process of understanding the difference between the child’s authentic need and parent reinforced needs at each stage of development. I teach families how to unravel this enmeshment and replace “parent reinforced needs” with their child’s natural abilities to self-sooth and learn the skills of sleep.

We continue responding and discontinue fixing. With our help our babies increasingly learn how to fall and re-fall to sleep on their own. Even while learning how to sleep we can deepen connection with our babies. How and when we show up supports both the secure attachment AND the child’s natural drive toward autonomy.

Here is the deal. At some point we get to stop fixing sleep for the child. If we keep responding to our child like a three-month old – she will continue to sleep like a three-month old.

We all know it, because most of us have done it. Fixing sleep all night starts to wreck parent sleep. When is the right time for you, your child and your entire family to get the sleep you all need? At some point it gets to be in that order. You will decide for the child what is best for you and your family. Because if we don’t take charge it will start to feel like the inmate is running the asylum.

This is your decision. My specialty is helping parents focus their intent, get out of their own way and get into action. Sleep is really a side effect of what I teach. As a follower of this blog you are already on your way to an honest and authentic relationship with your child. All of this applied to sleep gives our baby/child this message – Sleep is delicious. Sleep is an act of self-love and family love.

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