Photo: Courtesy of Kathryn Ross
I knew nothing about baby sleep before I became a mom.
Throughout my pregnancy, I spent countless hours reading about the stuff I thought was most important: pregnancy, birth, postpartum recovery, nutrition, milestones, education, speech… Pretty much everything except sleep. I naively assumed that, after a few weeks, my baby would naturally start sleeping longer stretches, and those 3 a.m. wake-ups would naturally fade away. (Spoiler: They didn’t.) In fact, it wasn’t until my son was three months old that I learned from another mom about the concept of a “wake window.” This ignited the beginning of my journey to learn all there was to know about baby and toddler sleep. I became passionate about helping other parents find sleep, completed a sleep-consulting certification and launched my small business, marketing primarily through social media.
I really enjoyed building my sleep-focused Instagram account, publishing daily posts and stories about sleep tricks and tips, while also sharing my own personal experiences of the ups and downs of my child’s sleep journey. I revelled in being able to help other parents improve their child’s sleep, and ultimately their own, as finding sleep with a baby can sometimes feel like trying to locate the holy grail. I loved being able to work with parents to find what worked best for their families. Sometimes that meant reassuring them that they weren’t “ruining their baby” or “creating crutches” by rocking or nursing them to sleep. Other times it meant teaching parents how to use sleep training methods, reminding them there was zero shame in doing so. It was never my place to judge what a family decided to do, I was simply there to support and guide them.
Unfortunately, I quickly realized that the world of baby sleep was a very divided, and ultimately, toxic one. When I would share a post about safe co-sleeping practices, I’d receive comments and private messages about how I should be ashamed of myself for condoning unsafe practices and endangering babies. But when I would share a post about sleep-training methods to encourage babies to sleep alone in their cribs, I’d receive an equal number of comments and messages about how I should, once again, be ashamed of myself for condoning unsafe practices and endangering babies. It began to feel like no matter what I posted or how non-judgemental I tried to be, I would be bombarded with hate. I would get daily messages from strangers telling me that I simply could not believe in co-sleeping while also believing it’s acceptable to sleep train.
I knew that having a public social media account would open me up to criticism. Still, after about a year, I decided to quit sleep consulting. I still find the endless knowledge on social media about baby sleep quite fascinating, but it also comes with strong and fierce opinions, ones I was tired of navigating and defending. The constant need to explain my eclectic and wide approach to baby sleep, which I was so proud of, no longer brought me the joy it once did.
I’m still grateful for my time as a sleep consultant. Interestingly, working in the field allowed me to see the importance of, and gain a passion for, something outside of baby sleep: compassionate and supportive parenting, which is the new focus of my social media account (which you can find here, if you're curious). I am passionate about parenting from a place of empathy and understanding, rather than judgement and intolerance, to model for our children that we can take different paths, but still support each other in the process. So whether you co-sleep or sleep train, use purees or baby-led weaning, gentle parenting practices or Triple P, know that you are supported in deciding what is best for your family.