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Let's normalise supporting children into sleep




It seems like "independent sleep" is the holy grail of the baby sleep world. How very convenient would it be to have a baby or young child who happily put themselves to sleep without your input? Putting a baby down and getting on with our day (or evening) is what many of us expect before we are parents.


It is often touted by mainstream sleep trainers that in order for a baby to be able to stitch their sleep cycles together overnight, the magic bullet is falling asleep independently to begin with. So a lot of parents put a lot of effort into training their babies to not expect or ask for support as they fall asleep.


Some easy going babies are capable of adapting to independent sleep without any fuss, even though independent sleep in infancy isn't the biological norm for our species. There are genetic temperamental differences that impact babies' willingness to sleep alone. (I've got a post on this coming up, keep your eyes peeled!) But most babies won't sleep independently unless they are trained to.


And that makes perfect evolutionary sense. Sleep is our most vulnerable state. Babies nervous systems are primed by millions of years of evolution to need closeness to feel safe and drift off. Close proximity to caregivers as they fall asleep also has a myriad of developmental benefits. It regulates heart rate, blood pressure, and wires baby's brain to feel safe in later life.


Your presence and support as your baby falls asleep is not a problem. It is the biological and evolutionary norm. It is developmentally and psychologically healthy.


There are more or less gentle ways to achieve independent sleep, and I can give advice about how you might work towards this resepctfully if that's what you need to do. But I also want to tell you that you don't *have* to do this. I honestly believe that independent sleep is a red herring. Babies can and do sleep well at night even if they are supported into sleep.


This is is our commitment in our family: we will continue to support our son into sleep until he tells us he no longer needs it. And I'll work to remind other people supporting your child into sleep is normal, and healthy, and developmentally appropriate.

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So much of my work is about normalising the normal: helping parents develop more realistic expectations about what biologically normal infant sleep actually looks like. More often than not, a baby wak