The Sleep Mums Golden Rule

This week, we’ll share the most important piece of baby sleep advice you’ll ever hear. It’s The Sleep Mums Golden Rule. A lot of parents don’t like rules when it comes to parenting advice but this rule will give you more freedom, not less. Plus it will help you and your family get more sleep. In fact, this episode is a gold mine of baby sleep chat!

1 – Sarah’s Favourite Word 2 – The Sleep Mums Golden Rule 3 – Coping with changes 4 – Staying on track 5 – The Golden Golden Rule

Ep10. The Sleep Mums Golden Rule Transcript

Cat: [00:00:00] Good morning, afternoon, evening, or maybe middle of the night, wherever you are, whatever time is, welcome to The Sleep Mums, the parenting podcast that will help you and your baby get more sleep. I'm Cat Cubie. I'm a broadcaster, blogger (I know some folk think that's a bit of a dirty word, but that's OK!) and bletherer. And this is Sarah Carpenter, baby sleep expert and consultant... so the dirtiest thing she deals with are newborn nappies! Ah those lovely Korma poos! Together we are The Sleet Mums.

Cat: [00:00:31] [I'm sorry I'm busting. I really need to go for a pee!

Sarah: [00:00:35] The old pelvic floor muscles working hard?

Cat: [00:00:39] Ok, I'm back. Let's do this.

Cat: [00:00:41] This week's podcast is about The Sleep Mum's Golden Rule of baby sleep. But don't worry, I know some folks think that rules suck when it comes to parenting. They're like, God damn it, 'I'm the one who's meant to be setting the rules!' But not doing this rule won't get you into trouble or anything, but knowing it will help you and your family get more sleep and actually probably make you feel less freaked out by the whole rule thing.

Cat: [00:01:07] Ok, first of all, let's talk about Sarah's favorite word, go on mike drop it now!

Sarah: [00:01:13] [musically) Consistency!

[00:01:16] Very Mary Poppins! I cannot tell you how many times I've heard Sarah say that, but it's probably about 20 billion, something like that. So it's your favorite word. Tell me, why the hell is it so important when it comes to baby sleep?

Sarah: [00:01:32] Babies and children thrive on knowing what's happening. So even if you don't think that you want a routine in place and you don't think you you're a rotuine like parent, which is totally fine, having the consistency, is going to give some structure to the baby's day, the child's day, and to your day. It doesn't mean that everything is going to go completely smoothly, some days everything will go tits up. And that's absolutely fine. It just means that you're going to have key things that allow you to plan a little bit and change the baby's behavior through consistency. So if you've got set things that are happening at the same time, each day, then your baby is going to fall into line with that to a certain extent. And we do always have flexibility around consistency. But consistency is the word that you're going to hear a lot from me.

Cat: [00:02:25] It might sound simple, but I know it's not. I mean, parenthood is exhausting and sometimes the path of least resistance just seems easier. That is true all the way out. So being consistently consistent can be really time consuming, actually, and can feel exhausting in itself because you need to make a plan. And also it requires patience because you don't always see immediate results from being consistent. But as you say, it's really important to know that some days it just goes tits up. But the whole point and consistency is the it's like most of the time...

Sarah: [00:03:01] You do really need to be comfortable with the key things that you want to be consistent with, it will be baby led, in the sense of the stage that your baby's at is what's going to dictate where you do need to be consistent. And you also have to have the whole family on board with it. And that that includes parents, carers, extended family. You don't want to put something in place having been consistent for a couple of weeks, have cracked whatever issue you've got through consistency and then you leave baby with someone else and they do something completely different. Again, it's all about communication and being on the same page.

Cat: [00:03:37] Yeah. So you need to work out how to tackle things together and all be in the same team, because if one parent deals with baby's, for example, if one parent deals with things one way and another does it in a different way, it can be can be difficult - because the baby's always going to want the parent that does the thing that they want.

Sarah: [00:03:56] Exactly. And it just means that you're starting a fresh every time you make a change. So if you've done something for three to five nights or days and you've cracked it in a sense and then someone else comes along and does something different, you're then going back to your starting point of battling it out for three to five nights. And it doesn't need to be a horrible battle. That's not what we mean at all. We're not talking about letting the baby cry for hours or Anything like that. We're just talking about having consistent things in place so that the baby and you know where you're going.

Cat: [00:04:31] Totally, but you've kind of let the secret out of the bag there! So there's consistency but it's basically the foundation of the golden rule, The Sleep Mum's Golden Rule, now on to our second thing, let's share this golden nugget with you, Sarah, The Golden Rule?

Sarah: [00:04:48] The three to five day rule. Again, it's another one of my favorites. People ask me, how can I make this change? How quickly is it going to happen? And my chat is always the same. You know, it's not going to happen overnight. It's not going to happen in an hour. You need to be consistent for a three to five days to see changes actually stick. And if it doesn't stick in that time, it's not right for you and baby. And that's OK. There's another thing that we can do to help. It's not just a one size fits all.

Cat: [00:05:20] The idea is that it takes around three days to establish a new habit for baby. And then once you've done the hard work, you should stick it out. So if they haven't fed through the night for three nights, try and stick to it. If they've slept through without your help for three nights, don't go back on whatever props - like we spoke by in our last episode - whatever props you've used in the past to help them get to sleep on the fourth night. If you've managed to get them to nap at the right times for half a week. Keep going, you're an athlete, you've got this...!

Cat: [00:05:52] I also thought it'd be quite good seeing as we're here to explain where this idea of The Golden Rule or The Golden Rules come from, because when Sarah first came to our house to help us as baby sleep consultant, my husband is quite a demanding person ['Love you, baby!] but he's quite demanding and he was like, I need to know the rules. What what can I do? What can I not do? He really needed something set out. So this was where The Golden Rule came from. He said, 'Right, Sarah, what is The Golden Rule?' And that was kind of how it came about..

Sarah: [00:06:26] It was really entertaining. I mean, these are all rules that I've used for years, but I've never had a label for them. The fact that Oli actually just need to text message the next day saying these are the golend rules and this is what you need to do and it stuck after that. So thanks Oli.

Cat: [00:06:44] And it's important, I guess, to mention the other side of this as well, isn't it, that it might take three days to to change things positively?

Sarah: [00:06:53] Yes, the downside is that it can take three days to make a negative change as well. But I always like to reassure parents by saying, you know, anything that can be sorted, can be broken, can also be sorted again. And there are going to be occasions; you know we're not asking people to be prisoners in their own home, you're going to go on holiday, you're going to have nights out (well, maybe not just now!) Ordinarily, you're going to have a life and that's totally fine and we actively encourage that as well. You just then have your bag of rules in place that when you're ready to get things back on track, you can implement these things and use these tools to get things back to where you want to be again. So it's three days to fix it, three days to break it, three to five days to fix it again.

Cat: [00:07:41] I mean, that is such a good point, because I know we're talking about The Sleep Mum's Golden Rule, but actually this is really just the start point of you making your own set of rules, if you like, or guidelines or foundations, for your own family. Because, as you know, what we're all about is basically giving parents and caregivers this kind of tool belt that helps make you feel more confident in what you do. You know, I'm not throwing you in here, but, you know, the other day you're saying, oh, sometimes I do this thing because I know that it's so easy to fix it. And I think that's the thing that can be really daunting for new parents, is that you're so worried that if you do something wrong that you can't get back from there. And that's why I think The Golden Rule is also really important, because it just means in the back of your head, you're kind of going, right, OK, well, there's this kind of buffer zone, basically, both in a good way and a bad way.

Sarah: [00:08:40] Definitely. And I do think that is so important. Like, I am the first to hold my hand up and say I'm a mum as well as a sleep consultant and what Cat's referring to is the fact that I do let my 4 year old come and sneak into my bed and I don't put her back. But if it happens once I know that I've got the next three nights to fix it and then that's fine. But we all love a cuddle and I'm not going to say no to mine. And you shouldn't say no to yours either, because we can just fix things.

Cat: [00:09:07] I'm going to say something, which in my head is sounding a little bit deep, but maybe not! I worried so much at the beginning about being the right kind of parent, reading all the books and all of that. And what what I think, a wee bit of experience has kind of led me to is realising, is that you will always be the right parent for your child because they're your baby and you will always have their best interests at heart. And that's why I get upset and frustrated by the parenting cliques, because, you know, we all just want to do the right thing and we don't really know what that is! That's why we have Sarah!

Sarah: [00:09:44] I think, as well, actually important to mention that, you know, you're saying that you do the right thing as a parent, and you absolutely do, but you also do the right thing for each child. You have done things so differently with Roar than you did with Indy because you're recognising that they are individuals and I did the same with mine. They are individual children. The routine that I had with Harry didn't work for Emily, for two reasons, you know, partly because she was a girl and her needs are slightly different, but also because she was number three. It is different and it's really, really important that you don't get hung up on this is what worked, so rhis is what's going to work again, that isn't always the case. And I cannot tell you how many people get in touch with me saying, I'm on number three, four or five. I should know what I'm doing. No, you didn't know what you're doing, you weren't at university to become a mum.

Cat: [00:10:39] Totally, University of Life [laughter]

Cat: [00:10:45] Ok, onto our third thing, I think we should talk about coping with change, as I mentioned at the start, consistency and so The Golden Rule can be really exhausting. And for a lot of tired parents, even making small changes can feel really daunting. So our third thing is talking about change and ways we can cope with it. So, Sarah, what are some of the ways we can cope with making changes as parents?

Sarah: [00:11:09] Well, first of all, you need to make sure that you and baby are ready to make the changes. You know, it might be that your baby's needs are changing and so you do have to run with that because you've got to meet their needs. But also it might be that your situation is changing and so you need the baby to actually come into line with something that you require.

Cat: [00:11:28] And that might simply be that you're really exhausted and not feeling like you're functioning could it?

Sarah: [00:11:33] Definitely. Absolutely. You know, you might have done something for so long and just suddenly realize that actually you're so sleep deprived now, that that's not what you want to do anymore. And that's absolutely fine. You're allowed to make changes just to make your family unit work better. So you have to just make sure that you've got the time to commit to the changes that you're making. If you've decided that you want to bring bedtime time to a specific time, make sure that for the next couple of weeks you can be consistent with that. You know, follow The Golden Rule of the three to five days just to get that really ingrained and then just have a little bit consistency around that. Don't make a change if you know that in three days time you're going to be going on holiday and you're not going to be able to continue to implement it.

Cat: [00:12:17] I think, you know, as you're saying, you need to make a plan, look forward and also bring everyone on board so that everyone that is a caregiver or parent for for baby knows what's happening and make sure they're committed too... A lot of talk about commitment, thats going to to be freaking some people out!

Sarah: [00:12:38] [laughter]

Cat: [00:12:39] I'm a wee bit impatient, so I have a bit of a tendency to be like I want to make the change and I want to do it now and maybe not look forward and do those things and then also probably get a bit frustrated, I guess, when things don't change as quickly as I would like them to. So, I suppose, another thing, another way of coping with change is just to remind yourself to be patient, that it will help in the long term and it will be worth it.

Sarah: [00:13:09] Definitely, and also remember that although we're talking about the three to five rule, it is there, but as I said earlier, it doesn't always work instantly for everything. So it might be that you've tried something for three to five days and then actually you just need to change that completely and choose something else or make that change be something completely different to what you I actually thought it was going to be if it's not working.

Cat: [00:13:35] And some babies might be a wee bit more stubborn, so three to five days might look more like 10 to 12 days [laughter]

Cat: [00:13:44] And that would have been me!

Cat: [00:13:49] So that's coping with it all, but how do you cope once you think you have it down? How do you keep that consistency going? So that's our fourth thing. How do you carry on with your favorite word (Cat sings) 'consistency' - oh dear it's turning into a musical!

Sarah: [00:14:05] It's really important to remember that once you say your new routine, your baby is going to become more flexible with another team. So although we're talking about consistency and we're talking about Cayman's and say things, once you and your baby know where you are, you will then have flexibility with them, not because baby is going to know exactly what's going on. I actually had a perfect photo from my client. The other day she sent a picture of baby number four cuddled up asleep on the floor because it was 10am and that was her nap time but mum had been distracted with the other three and hadn't quite made it up to the cot, she rolled over and went to sleep because that was nap time. So, you know,

Cat: [00:14:48] That's a fourth baby right there!

Sarah: [00:14:50] But, you know, it's just showing a baby does respond really well to the consistency. But also within that consistency, you do have the flexibility of, you know, a baby might be looking for a feed half an hour earlier or half an hour later. It's OK to have that change.

Cat: [00:15:05] And I guess maybe if we wanted to bring the three to five day rule within this as well, that would probably be quite a good way, if you look at your week, OK, once you've got past those initial stages of trying to ingrain whatever the new habit or new circumstances are, that you then go, right OK, if I'm looking ahead, am I week we can play around with a few days. Then be a bit less consistent on those other couple of days. But ideally you want those three to five days to be consistent.

Sarah: [00:15:33] Yep, definitely. If you're looking a week, as you know, within those seven days, I would actively encourage parents to do maybe three or four cot naps and three pram naps. So again, you're getting that consistency, because as we keep saying, none of us want to be prisoners to our own homes. You know, we do want to be getting out and about.

Cat: [00:15:56] So it might seem like a wee bit of a contradiction, but like once you're out of that buffer zone of the three to five days, it's almost like being consistently flexible is probably what's going to work for most people, because we are not robots, our lives are not... Well, some people's lives may look exactly the same every day, but most of us don't. Some days we feel differently. So you have to be able to go with that. And I guess that really, helpfully, as always, brings us to our final thing, which is a wee bit like an extra helping of The Sleep Mum's Golden Rule.

Cat: [00:16:35] Our golden golden rule, if you like, it's not quite as catchy as The Golden Rule is: 'Don't Worry If it All Goes Tits Up.

Sarah: [00:16:44] Absolutely. The bottom line is it is going to go tits up at some point. You know, we aren't all going to have the perfect days every day as parents. You're going to have off days. You're going to have grumpy days. You're going to have stress days. Babies are the same babies and children have off days, they have grumpy days, they have stress days. Take each day as a day. Don't think that one bad day means that you've now got two bad weeks or a bad month. It's not like that when you start your day again the next time, you're back on track, OK? And there will be things like teething could throw things for a few days, illness can throw things for a few days. But you have got the consistency and tools to get things back on track when you and baby are ready.

Cat: [00:17:27] I think it's such an important thing to say because I kind of, you know, for me, I guess I was quite anxious about all and I kind of imagined my day like a massive Jenga puzzle, you know, those wooden blocks that you pull out. And my fear was that if I pulled the wrong one out, then the whole day would come crashing down. And that wouldn't just be for that day. That it would affect all the other days. And I think that's probably true for lots of parents. I know you've said to me before that and many clients come to you saying, you know, I tried this and and then it went tits up. So I stopped doing it because that was the end of it. But honestly, it doesn't need to be like that. You can come back from a bad day...

Cat: [00:18:09] We are at the part of our episode where we get to answer a listeners question - [Cat sings] Do-do-do-doo-doo'...! I don't think it really needs a theme tune! Today, we have one from Kerry.

Kerry: [00:18:20] Hi Cat and Sarah. I have a four month old baby and a really well established routine. My Baby's getting a bit big for Moses Basket but I'm apprehensive to move him because I don't want to destroy everything that we've already got in place. What would you suggest?

Cat: [00:18:34] Sounding a wee bit windy there. What do you reckon she's pounding the streets with a pram?

Sarah: [00:18:39] A brilliant question because it's a transition that everybody goes through and generally a transition where everybody does get a little bit nervous. I often see little bundles, those who are actually bursting out of their Moses baskets because parents have been a little bit anxious about making the change. They've been unsure of how it's going to affect their overall routine. And so they just cling on to that security blanket of the Moses basket. So, once you have decided that you're ready and baby is ready to make the change, you want to set your cot up with a little nest - just so that it's not such a big, open, scary space that they're going into. Once you've got a little nest, then I would always recommend that you start, first of all, with a couple of naps. So, set aside your nap times on day one and just pop baby down. They're going to be a little bit out of kilter because of change, so try and keep things as consistent as possible with the surroundings. Look at your environment: put them down in the same sleeping bag that they've been in, pop them down in the same swaddle, give them same comforters, have your white noise, have a dark room. Try and keep everything as similar to the Moses basket as you can, but in the cot. The other thing that you can do, as well, if it is a Moses basket that you've been using, you can actually for a few days before you actually make the transition, you can put Moses basket into the cot. So the baby is in the Moses basket inside of the cot. Then after a few days, that's when you get rid of Moses Basket and then pop the baby down in this little nest in the cot. As with everything you're looking at three to five days for them to get used to it. So if you can, be really consistent over that time, do all your naps in the cots and your overnights. So you're going to get results faster because essentially that's going to be three or four times a day that you're settling baby in the cot, so you're going to get to the end goal much quicker than if it was something you were doing once a day, your baby is going to get used to it a lot faster. But again, you need a plan in place and you need to be sure that you're ready because what you don't want to do is put baby into the cot, they get a little unsettled or they have a bit of a freak out and then you quickly whip them out and put them back in the Moses basket. It's not going to help you in the long term or a baby.

Cat: [00:20:55] And obviously, if you wanted to do a wee bit more gradually, you you could accept it's going to be a slightly longer period of time but you could do all your naps in the cot for a week and then move to nights if you felt like you couldn't face it but the whole process will probably take longer. So it's a wee bit like a sticking plaster. You can either go for it in a shorter period of time or perhaps do it a wee bit more gently, but accept that it's going to take longer.

Sarah: [00:21:18] And the thing with that, as well as that you might find actually after baby has had a couple of naps in the cot, when you do try to put them back into the Moses basket they then resist it because they haven't got the space to have a good old stretch. And babies do like to wriggle and stretch by the time they get to the sort of four to six month mark, you know, they're much more on the move than they have been.

Cat: [00:21:36] I remember being really, really nervous about it. I think often as you come up to these milestones, I've said it before, you get a bit worried about what they're going to be like because it feels like a big change, especially those ones like moving baby into a cot... weaning. They all seem to come around the same time as well and so that can feel really quite scary. And I remember the build up to moving both of my kids into the cot. I was like 'it's going to be awful'. And then actually it was better than I thought it was going to be. But also I'd made quite a lot of effort to make sure that they were really familiar with the space that we played in it, they'd hung out in it. So it wasn't just this sudden you're not in this really cute little cosy Moses basket situation anymore and suddenly in this big, wide open space, they were kind of familiar with it.

Sarah: [00:22:27] You know, it is one of the very big things that your baby's not a baby anymore. And so people can get quite emotional about that. That jump to the cot really is, you know, they're going to be in the cot for maybe another two and a half years of their life. So, you've not got a tiny newborn anymore at the point when you moving. But it's also worth mentioning as well that some people will actually use a cot from day one. And that's absolutely fine. You don't actually need to have a Moses basket or any other things. You know, there are nice and lovely and snug the baby, but if you decide to use a cot from day one. That's absolutely fine.

Cat: [00:23:05] There's always that feeling right at the beginning before you become a parents, you're like, I need to have all the things... I need them! I've been told that I need them. And actually, as you say, you need far less stuff than you're you're told that you do.

Sarah: [00:23:20] Absolutly.

Cat: [00:23:23] Thank you so much to Kerry. That was our listener question this week. If you want to get in touch with us with your own listener question, just get online on Facebook or Instagram @thesleepmums, or you can send us a message on our website and put 'Listener Question' in the title. We usually try and tie in our questions to the topic that we're talking about. So sometimes it might take a little while for us to catch up with everything, but we think it's really important to put what we're talking about into practice in the real world.

Cat: [00:23:55] So that's five things about The Sleep Mum's Golden Rule. Actually, it was a total gold mine of baby sleep chat, not one, but two golden rules. As always, with all our help, we want to share with you the foundations of better baby sleep and then give you the tools and the confidence to shape how it fits into your lives. We are all different, thank God. And our parenthoods all look a bit different too - I mean, mine is definitely in a shady part of town! - We hope that helps. If it did, I'm sorry, I know we always ask, but it really helps us to keep helping you. Please give us a review, subscribe to the pod and share with all your parenting buddies at playgroupDay in the park or on your socials.

[00:24:36] Thanks for listening and sleep soon.

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