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SUMMARY- Join Carly and Amanda as they discuss what happens when parents are supported with access to parental leave, education about nursing and sleep and support from their peers and partners. 

Full Episode Transcript: 

Carly:
The Beyond Sleep Training Podcast- a podcast dedicated to sharing real tales of how people have managed sleep in their family outside of sleep training culture because sleep looks different with a baby in the house and because every family is different there is no one-size-fits-all approach to take.
I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this podcast is being recorded, the Kalkadoon people, I pay my respects to the elders of this nation and the many other nations our guests reside in from the past, present and emerging. We honour Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, water and seas as well as their rich contributions to society including the birthing and nurturing of children. 

Carly:
Welcome back to the Beyond Sleep Training podcast. I’m your host, Carly Grubb. This week’s guest is Amanda Sawyer, who comes to you all the way from Canada. And I’d like to welcome Amanda as someone who volunteered to come and talk to me on the show through our group, the Beyond Sleep Training Project. So, hi Amanda. Would you like to introduce yourself…?

Amanda:
Hi Carly.

Carly:
… and your little family?

Amanda:
Yes. Hi, everybody. Thank you for having me on the show. My name is Amanda. I am from Canada. I live in Alberta. And I have my husband, Christian. We have two dogs, and we have… I like how I introduce my dogs first.

Carly:
They were your babies before the babies.

Amanda:
Yeah, that’s right. We did have them first. Yeah. And then we’ve got one son who’s two-and-a-half, and we have another baby on the way who’s due January of 2022. So, about halfway there. And then we’re going to see how life changes with two.

Carly:
Very exciting. Congratulations.

Amanda:
Thank you.

Carly:
Very special. Now, just to get us started on your story then, beyond sleep training, what sort of ideas did you have around sleep before you had your first babe?

Amanda:
Honestly, I went into it with very little knowledge. I want to say I did start doing some reading. I actually joined the Beyond Sleep Training group prior to giving birth because I wanted to sort of network and get some experience related from other mums and other parents and things. And so, that’s kind of where I started to get my instincts on things that I wanted to follow, because I knew I kind of wanted to take a gentle… a gentler approach. I remember when my son was quite young, I went to a big mum’s… I guess it was like an expo sort of thing where they had all different kinds of vendors and booths with information. And there was one that was specific to sleep training. And the way that it came off to me was that it was the opposite of how I felt, and it just felt like… it almost was as if they were like preying on tired mothers and they were just… and it was very sales driven, a sales pitch. And so, I think my son was only a couple of months old at that time, but that’s sort of where I started to get the idea that I… I liked following my instincts. I went off of a lot of natural instinct, and so prior to having a baby I just… I knew I wanted to let things go naturally. And I… the only thing that we sort of prepared was to have a bassinet beside the bed. So, we knew we were going to have the baby in our room for the first… they recommend six months, even better a year. And so, we were completely prepared for that. We knew we wanted to have the baby close by because I also was very adamant on breastfeeding. So, I wanted to have… make sure that baby was right beside me because I know that was going to be a constant thing. If… well, honestly I wasn’t too prepared for how constant, but you figure that out as you go. But that was the only thing that we really prepared ourselves with, was just to have a bassinet by the bed. And then when it came to how often and what the timeline was like and what schedules were like and things like that, that was all day by day.

Carly:
Amazing. So, when you’d found us, so you already had this idea that you were going to need to have babe nice and close to you with the bassinet set up so that you’d be able to breastfeed. That sounds like way ahead of where most people are in terms of actually being prepared for the fact that that’s going to be a good way to help you get some rest. Did you have in your head that you’d eventually want to have babe in a cot in a separate room? Or was the plan always going to be [5:00] that you would be wanting to keep them nearby?

Amanda:
I knew that I wanted to transition him to his own room eventually, but I was very flexible on when. I didn’t want to push it. I always wanted to let him take the lead and just see where… because he always had a bedroom that I sort of had set up as a nursery, and all the change table and everything was in there. But… and we had a crib set up, but I knew that I had no idea when he would go into it. But it pretty much just held laundry for a good… almost year. Actually over a year. Because, yeah, we had him… we ended up having him sleep in our bed for a while, and then we transitioned him to his room where I still would – because we had the monitor set up and I would still respond instantly, the same way I would when he was in the bedroom with… because I nursed him up until just recently he weaned naturally. I think, I don’t know if it’s because I’m pregnant or what, but he ended up making it. We made it to two-and-a-half-years of nursing. And so…

Carly:
That’s amazing. Well done you.

Amanda:
It was always on demand, and so when he ended up being in his own room I… I would go in and it would turn into I’d nurse him to sleep.

Carly:
So, when you’d nurse him to sleep, so obviously like as he got bigger and whatnot, were you still then like putting him into a cot? Or had you set up a different way to arrange things?

Amanda:
We set up a… I guess if a crib is the same as a cot – a bigger…?

Carly:
Yes. Sorry, yeah.

Amanda:
Bigger than the bassinet. Yeah.

Carly:
Yeah. Sorry. I’m realising I’m just saying cot.

Amanda:
Oh, that’s alright. Yeah. No, I know you guys say nappies too. So, I’m… I know a little bit of the lingo difference.

Carly:
That’s one thing about the project, isn’t it? Because we’ve got such a global audience I feel like all the terms, especially because we have an Australian base…

Amanda:
Yes.

Carly:
We have a lot of our Australian terms, and so we’ve heard this from a lot of our volunteers, that they quickly start like connecting the dots. But in the Australian brain it’s actually, yeah, sorry about that.

Amanda:
Oh no, that’s alright. Yeah. I’m just making sure that I was responding with the same technical…

Carly:
Yes. Yep. You’re there.

Amanda:
Yeah, yeah. At least you know we’re all global and we’re all far apart, but we all seem to have a lot in common some… it seems to come up that we do.

Carly:
Absolutely. And so you were using the cot at that point? Or had you set up a separate surface again?

Amanda:
This was in the cot at this time, and so I would take him out. He was in a sleep sack and so I would just sit upright. One thing I learned my lesson on, and that I will maybe get for this baby, is I didn’t have a proper nursing chair. I just had a… I brought in a kitchen chair into his bedroom.

Carly:
Aw.

Amanda:
Because I thought, whatever I can… I can handle it. I’m a… I’m strong. And so I would sit in this kitchen chair nursing this toddler, this like large baby. And…

Carly:
That would be tough on the arms.

Amanda:
It was, but I think instinct and just, you know, it ran its course and it just, you know, it was what I knew to do and what worked, and I would nurse him to sleep and then I’d just lay him gently and he would… and he’d sleep through the night. But he honestly, the wakeful times through the night were very seldom when he did transition to the cot.

Carly:
There you go. So, there’s something for people listening along too. Because quite often, like the transfer’s just something that so many kiddos just won’t be a part of. So, it’s also good to hear from somebody who, you know, there’s no harm in trying these things. If you’ve got a babe, you can transfer then it’s absolutely a valid option for you as well. Did you find that when… you felt a difference between your levels of fatigue from when you had babe in your room with you, to when you needed to get up to tend to him in the other room? Or did you kind of wait until the wakefulness had eased a bit before you did that, so it wasn’t so intense for you?

Amanda:
I feel it was… it was about the same. It felt very similar. And… and just I got very lucky where his wakefulness… I think once he was in his own room, I would always nurse him to sleep and then… and I don’t even like to brag about it. Sometimes I was in a new mum’s group, and they’d ask, oh, how long is everyone’s baby sleeping at night? And mine was going around 12 hours because he’s just… he’s been a great sleeper for a long time. I’d probably… I won’t be as blessed with this baby perhaps.

Carly:
Yeah, but I think that’s a really, really important part of the story too, because it’s almost assumed that if you do these things, like nurse your baby to sleep and then pop them down, that you’re going to have a wakeful [10:00] baby, like that’s the cause of it. Whereas…

Amanda:
Yeah.

Carly:
… your little fellow is obviously a great example of a baby who just sleeps the way he needs to sleep, and he calls when he needs to call you, and you help him when he needs your help. It…

Amanda:
Yeah.

Carly:
… he’s not asking for anything more or less than what he needed, which is amazing.

Amanda:
Right. Yeah. And I found that the only thing that was really important and really mattered was that we were responsive. And it was always me. I sort of took that on myself. We have a… a full year of maternity leave in Canada, and then I ended up actually just staying home with him after that because, you know, things change.

Carly:
Because you could.

Amanda:
Yeah, yeah. So, exactly right. And, but anyways, the first year and you’re preparing for it. So, I knew like this is me all in. And so what was important to be was that if he did call for me at night that I was responding, because I… breastfeeding was something that I knew prior to giving birth was that I wanted to give it a very good go. I knew that it was going to be on demand. I knew that I wanted to have a good supply and that meant nursing often. And so it stayed that way even when he was in his own room, where I would make sure that I went in every time.

Carly:
You had such good breastfeeding knowledge. Had you done… did you know breastfeeding parents before you had your babe? Or where did… where did all of that knowledge come from?

Amanda:
It actually, interestingly enough I worked in – before staying at home with my kids… almost kids – I was in the dental field. And so, I worked in a dental office where we actually performed tongue-tie release on infants. And so there was a lot of training and knowledge that got passed along, because we would have toddlers or infants come in that were the mums were having trouble nursing and it was because of different severities of tongue-tie. And so, I got to see and learn about different patients and the importance of nursing, and our dentist was very knowledgeable. So, I feel like that’s where I kind of got the first… We would have a lactation consultant come in as well, and that’s where we got a lot of our referrals. And so being pregnant in that office, I found that it was so beneficial to have all these connections and resources that I could look into. And so that’s where I sort of, I knew the importance of breastfeeding prior to giving birth because of all of this exposure to nursing mothers and…

Carly:
That’s an amazing setup. And I guess that also probably opened your mind like, you know, knowing that you needed to be able to nurse frequently around the clock to be able to maintain your supply. It kind of gives you a different version of how you’re expecting to parent overnight, if you know that that’s going to be a priority for you.

Breastfeeding and sleep

Amanda:
Right. Yeah.

Carly:
Oh, that’s so cool. I’m glad. That’s a…

Amanda:
Yeah.

Carly:
That’s a really interesting way to have come into parenthood. That’s impressive. I like it.

Amanda:
It was very, very interesting. And a blessing for sure.

Carly:
Absolutely. So when, you know, we know that babe, ultimately he was a pretty fantastic sleeper. Was it always like that? Like, what was… as a newborn how was life looking with sleep with your babe?

Amanda:
There were periods, and that’s where I find that I would try to relay some of my experience to other new mums, because I found that it was important. There was one thing I didn’t know about, and that was cluster feeding. That was something that I had to figure out what was going on, what was happening, because it hit hard. Absolutely. And in the newborn stages he was nursing so intensely and so frequently that it was confusing and tiring and… but I just went in and I started doing some looking up. And I… I might have even found something on the Beyond Sleep Training group, honestly, because I was so… I was in such a deep-dive on that page that I learned about cluster feeding, which was a term I had never heard of. And so everything in my instincts told me to push through and it would be beneficial to supply and to establishing strong… a strong breastfeeding bond with my son. And it worked, and it was absolutely exhausting. But I pretty much, I knew what I was signing up for in a way because I would just set myself up on the couch. I’d watch a lot of TV because he would just constantly nurse, and I’d have my snacks and my water. And then eventually, I’d say it was when he was about six, seven months old was when we started getting the sleeping through the night. But other than that it was me sort of preparing on multiple feeds per night. The newborn stage was… I’d say for the first three months, almost four months [15:00] was a cluster feeding party.

Carly:
Nice. And so you, and by following babe you were able to know that you were getting your supply to whatever they needed for that growing stage. That’s, I found similar with my babies. And you’ll find it with your second baby. It’s so interesting,  because they are all quite different. But… and their versions of cluster feeding can be quite different. But I found all three of mine definitely did have patches of cluster feeding. And it’s reassuring to know that it’s their little body doing the job they need to to make sure that your body can produce what they need to produce as well.

Amanda:
Exactly.

Carly:
So, yeah.

Amanda:
I tried to remind myself of that because I think that’s a time when a lot of mums will… they think that their supply is low.

Carly:
Supply.

Amanda:
And then so the supplementing starts.

Carly:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Amanda:
Which it is the case for some. But I thought, you know what, I’m going to… something… there was a lot of honestly instincts in my body with a lot of the things that I did do in parenting and sleeping…

Carly:
Keeping an eye on output is massive. Yeah. Keeping an eye on your baby’s output. Because nappies really don’t lie generally. Like, they’re a pretty good sign of how babe’s actually receiving milk.

Amanda:
Yes.

Carly:
And how their body is able to process it and whatnot. And I remember, like that… that was some of the best information I ever had when I was freaking out about cluster feeding baby, was to check the output. As long as the output was really good then you could rest assure that babe was very well-nourished.

Amanda:
Yeah.

Carly:
And they were just boosting that supply up to handle their next big growth stage. So, that’s, yeah. It’s a…

Amanda:
Exactly. Yeah.

Carly:
It’s a bit of a confidence game, but there are those little signs that you can look out for to know that babe’s going okay.  So, with daytimes then. We know that night-time was obviously pretty, pretty impressively amazing for you… you and your babe.

Amanda:
Yeah.

Carly:
But what was daytime looking like for you in terms of naps and things like that?

Amanda:
Interesting topic, because that was one thing that also came instinctually for me, was contact napping. That was a big thing that just ended up happening. It wasn’t something that I prepared for. I didn’t even prepare myself on how often babies should nap at certain ages. I know that I had a lot of advice come from family members and other people that had babies, and you kind of get lots of different ideas. A lot of people sort of wondered, oh, do you ever put him down? Does he ever get put in a…?

Carly:
The answer is no.

Amanda:
And the answer was… And, you know, you say sometimes, but pretty much I want to say like majority of the time I just let him sleep on my chest. And it was fine for me. It didn’t bother me one bit. I didn’t feel like I was crazy about having to do things when he was asleep or… I found that it was just, you know, what I… what I needed to do. And… and it felt nice, and I tried not to let the pressure of others, or keeping a clean house, or things like that get to me, because I knew that especially in that first year it was going to go by so quickly and that… and I didn’t feel like I was spoiling him. I didn’t feel like there was anything detrimental that I was doing. I thought in my mind and in my heart, like no, there’s not problem with this.

Carly:
And your heart and mind were correct. That’s amazing.

Amanda:
Yes.

Carly:
And I love that you were able to do it without those feelings of guilt, because so often people come to contact napping feeling so conflicted about the experience. And I know that with my first guy it still pains me to know that out of my three babies he probably contact napped more than the other two, and yet I have no photos. None of my contact napping with him. And it goes…

Amanda:
Right.

Carly:
It really speaks to the fact that I… I felt really guilty about it. It wasn’t something I was savouring at all. Whereas with my second and third baby I really relished that time and there’s so many photos of baby snuggled  up tight on my chest, and it’s a beautiful memory.

Amanda:
Yeah.

Carly:
But yeah, it’s still a little bit heartbreaking that I missed that with my first. So, I’m glad you got that with your first.

Amanda:
It’s hard with the first though when you do… because it’s… it’s not like I didn’t have, you know, some awkwardness when people would ask if, you know? Or they’d say, oh, are you ever going to put him down? Or you need to learn how to, you know. They all kind of encourage you to…

Carly:
Cut the apron strings and all of those things.

Amanda:
Yeah, yeah. He’s… exactly. And so, it was like I had… I definitely had a hard time feeling confident around other people when I was responding. I loved when I was able to relate to other people that were doing the same thing. That’s when I really relished in… [20:00] in my decision. But it’s, even though no matter what kind of responses I was getting, I knew that it was still what I was going to do no matter what. So, I never…

Carly:
I love that.

Amanda:
I never forced myself to do… do anything different. But it’s funny with your fist baby that that’s kind of you feel like you don’t know everything and you’re kind of taking advice. But you at the same time want to do things that feel good for you and good for your baby, that feel natural. And then the second one comes around and you’ve been there, and you think, okay, I don’t have as much pressure I feel like, because I know I can do it this way.

Carly:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Amanda:
And so I’m looking forward to seeing what the experience is like with the second one now.

Carly:
Absolutely. I know second baby I definitely got good at breastfeeding walking around. And I got… the baby carrier got a workout. That’s for sure.  But we worked it out. Like, you figure it out, no worries. Like, it’s not… and I know it can be intimidating beforehand, and sometimes the things that worked for your first babe don’t work so well with your second and you get that, oh my gosh, what do I do now? But otherwise…

Amanda:
Yeah, yeah.

Carly:
It’s just a different kind of… there’s not that same level of doubt. That’s for sure. We… so, where did we… we haven’t really talked about your support crew yet. So, it sounds like you had an amazing access to leave, which I know not everybody listening along has that kind of access to leave. But in terms of support in your life outside of you having some extended leave at home, how did that look for you guys?

Amanda:
Um, I’d say one thing that was very important was that I joined a new mum’s group. And so, it was… I think it was perhaps about 12 weeks long, and we would meet weekly. And it was led by the health services in our province. And so, we got a lot of information on just different levels of care, when you start solids. There was some things about sleep where I feel like a lot of organisations are getting a little bit more openminded about sleep and people doing things…

Carly:
Great news.

Amanda:
You know, it’s not… it’s not all cookie cutter. So, I found that that was very supportive. But just having, being in the same boat, because it was a new mum’s group. So, I was in a group with five other new mums that we were all in the same boat. Babies were all the same age. And so, we still keep in touch, and we still have a text group where we, you know, we’re all talking about potty training now because we’ve all got toddlers. But that was a big support system. I’d definitely say family members. Also, I just have a really great husband. He’s very hands on and he’s always been very great at letting me have some me time, and he kind of takes over. Knows, okay, she needs a bath. Leave mum alone.

Carly:
Yeah.

Amanda:
But at the same time, you know, it’s just having a good… just good people around you. I got very lucky. And then I’d say just a lot of it was natural instinct. That is how I kind of went into it. So, yeah there’s…

Carly:
Did you say that before you’d had a baby, did you have a really strong sense of self? Like have you… would you say that you’re quite a self-confident person who could trust yourself before a baby?

Amanda:
Yeah, I’d say so. Yeah. And, well, in some ways. For sure there’s definitely like different levels of…

Carly:
Yeah.

Amanda:
… of confidence and things. But for the most part, especially when it came to nurturing and motherhood, I… I didn’t doubt myself in a lot of ways. I mean you do have your moments, of course, where… where you’re just tired. And everybody does, because everything’s different and it’s not all consistent. You’re not having the same day every single day and routines aren’t going to be the same all the time. But I found that I just knew that I was… I always wanted to be a mother. And so, it’s something that…

Carly:
I really love…

Amanda:
Yeah.

Carly:
I really love that. And I love that you could trust yourself. Because I feel like that something that’s really challenging for a lot of people when they head into like their matrescence, become a parent. That it can take some time to actually find your feet. So, it’s amazing to hear from somebody who was able to just nestle on in, straight into those instincts. It’s really powerful. So, yeah, I’m really pleased we got to hear that part of your story. Can you tell me as, being someone who was going to breastfeed on demand and followed through with that and nurtured the way that you felt was right, [25:00] what were some of the helpful things you found for your partner? Like, how was he able to be a part of that relationship with you and your baby?

Amanda:
I would say… I think he, just any of the decisions, there was never any pushback. I don’t know if that’s something that’s common where, you know, I knew right away that I wanted to have a bassinet beside the bed, and he trusted that that was the right thing to do. I know that some of, you know, people that he knows, or people that we… you know, friends of ours have always gone, you know, straight to a crib in the nursery. And so, it’s not like he didn’t have knowledge that there were other ways. But he always was very trusting in choices that I made, in choices that I felt… So, that was a good feeling, is not having to defend myself on things that I felt were important. I know he did want to be a part of – that was definitely a challenge for us, was that he wanted to do some of the feeding, and I didn’t pump. I just exclusively breastfed. I did later on try, and he did feed a couple of bottles, but it just… it was more work than we needed to do.

Carly:
Yeah.

Amanda:
And it was always just easier and ready, and we had a great thing going with me nursing. So, that was one thing that I felt kind of bad that he missed out on. But he was able to, you know, show… you know, bond with the baby in other ways, with playing and rocking to sleep. He was great with that. Was, he would always go in sometimes and just try rocking and… He did contact napping too honestly, if our son would fall asleep on his chest. It’s not like he was ready to just go lay him down somewhere. He also relished in having his baby sleep on his chest too. So, there were times where he got to do the same, sweet, caring things too. So…

Carly:
It’s a beautiful thing. And I think too, I know that sometimes with that first baby where all the intensity can feel like it’s all about the boobs. I know once…

Amanda:
Yes.

Carly:
… our babies got that bit older and it… and especially once you’re welcoming a second or third baby and whatnot, there’s all the toddlers and there’s all the other things that go into the care of raising a child that become so much broader for your partner as well. Like, I think there’s a certain… It’s almost like that first baby, there’s a little bit of figuring out how you all fit together in this puzzle. So, I think that’s a pretty normal experience people go through. So, yeah, I wouldn’t say you were alone on that at all.

Amanda:
Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see with the second one how much… because I had only my one son to spend all this time breastfeeding with and contact napping with. But now it’ll be with a toddler and a newborn, and so it’ll be interesting to see what that’s going to look like and how my partner will be involved with a lot of, I think the toddlers care? My… when, you know, he’ll be three at the time when the baby’s born, so there’ll be a lot more I think dad doing the baths and bedtime and that kind of thing. But…

Your newborn baby

Carly:
It’s a nice mix up. I know that we found that, even with as far as the extended family goes, once you’ve got more than one little person requiring care it’s much easier for everyone to chip in. It’s not like you’re treading on each other’s toes because there’s plenty to be done. So…

Amanda:
Yes. You’re right about that.

Carly:
It’s good fun for that. And it’s pretty exciting times for you guys, getting ready for that second baby.

Amanda:
Yes.

Carly:
Now, I’m just looking at our time and we’re actually coming up to our 30 minutes already. You’ve given some amazing tips and tricks that you… have worked for you guys with your first babe. Do you have a particular tip though that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Amanda:
I would say don’t feel pressure from others. That’s a big one. Take everything with a grain of salt, but also just follow your instincts, and don’t be afraid to contact nap.

Carly:
Beautiful.

Amanda:
That’s probably the main thing that got me through. And that’s the most important to me.

Carly:
It’s so lovely. And it’s great to actually be able to reflect back on that and see that it was important to you. So, it’s great that you were able to hold on to that.

Amanda:
Yes.

Carly:
And relish it. And it’s… it’s the kind of stuff that sears into your memory for all time. So, that’s very precious.

Amanda:
Right.

Carly:
Well, thank you so much for coming on today, Amanda. And really looking forward to hearing when you welcome your second babe. We might be able to get you back on down the track so we can hear how things panned out with your second little love as well.

Amanda:
You bet. That would be really cool.

Carly:
Well, thank you so much for coming on and, yeah, looking forward to talking to you again soon. Thanks Amanda.

Amanda:
Yes. Thank you, Carly. Thanks so much. [30:00]

Carly:
I really hope you enjoyed the podcast today the information we discussed was just that information only it is not specific advice if you take any action following something you've heard from our show today it is important to make sure you get professional advice about your unique situation before you proceed whether that advice is legal, financial, accounting, medical or any other advice. Please reach out to me if you do have any questions or if there's a topic you'd really like us to be covering and if you know somebody who'd really benefit from listening to our podcast please be sure to pass our name along also check out our free peer support group the beyond sleep training project and our wonderful website www.littlesparklers.org. If you'd like even more from the show you can join us as a patron on Patreon and you can find a link for that in our show notes if listening is not really your jam we also make sure we put full episode transcripts on our little sparklers website for you to also enjoy and fully captioned YouTube videos as well on our Little Sparklers channel so thanks again for listening today we really enjoy bringing this podcast to you.

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