It’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 and I have quite a few thoughts I’d like to share over the coming week. 

First up today is frustration. 

Frustration with the mismatch and mixed messages being continually fed to families. 

Of organisations and services promoting #IMHAW2022 on their socials while over in our free peer support group, we are unpicking the mess they’ve caused by telling a parent that they must teach their baby to self soothe/settle and cut night feeds because they are too dependent on them for sleep. 

It gets old you know... 

The messaging that tries to make a service, technique or program seem gentle and kind and like you really do ‘get it’ and that you genuinely believe that you cannot spoil a baby with too much love, oh but, you can totally responsively sleep train your baby and they will cry but it’s a protest cry, oh and you can shush them, or rub their tummy, oh but don’t feed them to sleep!  

I’m so, so tired of it. 

Drowsy but awake what a joke! 

Feed-play-sleep … why do something that fights against nature? 

I 100% believe that all of these sleep interventions, the researchers invested in them, the programs backed by millions of tax dollars, the private sleep training industry are built with the very best of intentions and with the sole view of improving parental wellbeing. I really do believe that. 

I don’t for a second think that any of the directions taken is malicious or with ill-intent towards infants. 

But, I do believe that I need to keep calling a spade a spade and say it's time to move far beyond these behaviourist approaches to infant sleep. 

They don’t serve babies. 

Yes, parents need to be well in order to care for their baby. 


But any solution to a parent’s mental health and wellbeing that comes at a cost to the infant’s needs is frankly no solution at all. 

Infants needs matter.  

Including their need for night time parenting throughout the first few years of life. 

Babies are 100% vulnerable and dependent. They are also voiceless in so many ways (though their cry is compelling if we listen). 

Just because they cannot verbally bring words to voice their needs and their struggle does not mean that they should be minimised to mere ‘wants’ in order to make it simple to address the needs of the parent. 

Their needs remain and no matter how inconvenient or challenging they may be, they WILL remain because a need is a need. 

I don’t pretend that this makes it easy to support families because it’s not. 

The time, space, skills to actually sit and recognise the dynamic (and often intense) needs of a growing baby alongside the challenges that family faces in meeting those needs and their wellbeing and work out a plan to properly support them the way they need … that’s a big job! 

Need help working out where to start on your own journey?

I know, because that’s what we've been trying to do off the back of online volunteer peer support for the last 5 years (spoiler: we are nowhere near enough), but we have proven 1000s upon 1000s of times over the immense power in building knowledge, self-efficacy and resilience by working through the process with families. 

Infant mental health matters. 

How we raise our children matters, to growing brains and connected, resilient families. 

This Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, I implore all people working with infants and their families to start taking serious steps beyond sleep training. 

We can and should do better. 

Carly Grubb

Founder and Managing Director of Little Sparklers, home of The Beyond Sleep Training Project 

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More thoughts coming tomorrow... 


Image credit: Vida Images