Baby sleep companies need to stop taking advantage of new parents.
Baby sleep companies that promise better sleep for wakeful babies are taking advantage of tired new parents and it’s time we started talking about it.
The other night I came across a popular baby sleep company ad on Facebook, that was showcasing one of its ‘success stories’. Curious, I decided to check out some comments left by other mums and to my horror, saw that several mums were commenting about their newborn’s sleep and looking for a program that could help them.
‘My 4 week old sleeps well during the day but is up every three hours over night,’ one new mum asked. ‘Could your program help me?’
There were so many ways this company could have responded to such a comment.
‘Your newborn sounds totally normal, and three hourly-waking for feeds is to be expected. Keep doing whatever you’re doing!’
‘We don’t recommend sleep programs for newborns, as this is a crucial time for establishing breastfeeding. Your baby will need to be fed regularly overnight to make sure your supply is abundant.’
‘Newborns need food, love, warmth and security, and sometimes these are required overnight. Your newborn doesn’t need to learn anything more at this stage.’
‘Put your money away, our company believes that newborns already know how to sleep. Any disrupted sleep at this age is biologically normal and something all new parents deal with.’
Yep…SO many ways this company could have reached out to this confused new mum, reassuring her that her baby was normal and that she was doing a great job.
But this baby sleep company didn’t offer any of these sorts of comments. Instead they posted a link to their newborn sleep program and suggested she check it out.
They did the same to all the other mums with newborns enquiring about sleep programs, and there were stacks of them. Business was looking good for this company.
Overwhelmed, I clicked off the ad and felt a surge of anger towards the way new parents are being misinformed and led astray when it comes to newborn sleep.
Newborns don’t need sleep training
Baby sleep companies like this one take full advantage of tired and vulnerable new parents who aren’t aware of what normal newborn sleep is like.
I was more than angry when I went to bed that night. I was fucking furious.
There is a time and place to suggest a routine and feeding schedule for babies, but the newborn period, also known as the fourth trimester, is NOT one of them. During this time, the focus shouldn’t be on getting more sleep, but should be about bonding with the new baby and ensuring that his first experiences in the world are safe and warm.
Early parenting is hard, exhausting work, and parents should be reminded that this is typical, not told that there is something wrong with the way their newborn sleeps.
Sleep programs focus on settling techniques that remove associations like feeding or rocking to sleep, with the holy grail being ‘settling self to sleep alone’. Babies this little should not be encouraged to separate from their parents or food source, as they are simply not biologically robust enough to manage this. It goes against their natural instincts. Newborns love being rocked and fed to sleep, because that’s the way they’ve been living in utero.
Tired parents need support
Sleep programs for newborns aren’t regulated nor recommended by actual baby experts, and if a parent with a newborn is struggling with sleep deprivation, they should be referred to their GP or maternal health nurse, not an online sleep program that won’t take into account their personal situation.
I’m not saying that we don’t ever need help with getting our babies to sleep better. As babies get older, chronic sleep deprivation can take its toll physically, emotionally and mentally, for the whole family. But newborns are fragile and wholly dependent on us. They need a lot of things, but they don’t need sleep programs.
Here are the ways baby sleep programs (and books) let newborns and their families down:
1. There’s nothing wrong with newborns
Newborns don’t have to change their behaviour, they’re perfect just the way they are. Having spent nine months in your cosy uterus, doing all the things that developing babies are meant to do, they come out of the womb still operating as a primal, biological mammal. We need to respect this, not try to adjust their behaviour to conform to our world. Parents need to be supported to meet their baby’s needs as often as possible. Yes, this is bloody hard work, but that’s parenting.
2. Sleep programs resist the needs of infants
Newborns depend on their primary caregiver for food, love and comfort, which are crucial to their survival. Baby sleep programs however, encourage parents to resist the needs of their infants, which are all communicated by crying. By encouraging parents to push through crying and work towards self-settling, they’re at risk of ignoring important communication from their newborns. Encouraging new parents to resist their newborn’s needs and place their own needs for sleep in place of them is ridiculous and irresponsible.
3. Sleep programs disrupt breastfeeding
In the early weeks of breastfeeding, placing a newborn on a feeding schedule interferes with the demand feeding that needs to take place while milk supply is being established. Newborns feed at this age (and beyond) not just because they are hungry but for a variety of reasons – fear, insecurity, a need to be close to you or for a warm cuddle. Asking parents to restrict feeding can have disastrous consequences for breastmilk supply, which will cause a whole other set of problems.
4.They disempower parents
If new parents were told that their newborns are supposed to wake in the night, there would be less of them thinking that they and their baby have a problem. Instead of being directed to a sleep program, tired and vulnerable new parents should be offered support and reassurance that they’re doing an amazing job. Hearing that they need a sleep program tells them they are doing it wrong and need help, while the latter empowers them with confidence to keep going.
5. They don’t take into account individual characteristics of babies
Some babies have higher needs than others for comfort and physical connection. That’s just the way they’re built and no sleep program is going to change that, or should even try to. Parents should be encouraged to see their baby as unique and individual, not a problem that needs to be sorted.
The bottom line is this: new parents need support during what is one of the hardest, most grueling experiences of their lives. By offering a standard online sleep program, baby sleep companies are disrespecting the needs of parents and their babies…and making money off them to boot.
Baby sleep companies and books need to stop shoving sleep programs and solutions down the throats of vulnerable new parents, which tell them there is something wrong with their newborn’s sleep – and with their parenting – and start offering support and encouragement instead. Anything different is taking advantage of tired folk that don’t know about the normalities of baby sleep (i.e. how most of us start out as parents). And in my book, that stinks.
It’s time we started spreading the word – don’t you think?
← Back to blog