Hi there!

I'm Tracy 

I'm the founder, writer and advocate behind the award-winning blog, Raised Good - a guide to natural parenting in the modern world.

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Nighttime parenting isn’t a set of sleep strategies, it’s a relationship

“In about 95% of cases the reason a child doesn’t sleep well is…sleep props.”

They were her exact words. A very popular sleep “expert’s” unqualified statement that found its way into my inbox.

Included in the definition of “sleep props” were mothers nursing their babies to sleep and parents lying down with their children until they fall asleep. “If you let your child fall asleep while you’re cuddling” she said, “That’s a mistake”.

I’m incredibly grateful that I’m immune to scare tactics like these. And my mission is to reach as many parents as possible to let them know that this popular, yet misguided tactic-based approach to nighttime parenting is complete bullshit. Why?

Because many parents believe these words. Our culture believes them. Our society believes them. Why?

Because they’re convenient.

Because they’re profitable.

Because for some reason, it’s become more socially acceptable to let an expensive, minimalistic, cradle-come-straight-jacket shake our babies to sleep rather than gently sway and sing to them as they fall asleep in our arms.

But, the problem (for the sleep training industry) is that babies don’t believe them. And neither do a growing minority of parents.

Mothers who nurse their babies to sleep.

Fathers who bedshare.

Mothers who breastsleep.

Fathers who lie patiently beside their children for as long as it takes for them to surrender to sleep.

If we are brave enough to listen, our children tell us exactly what they need. And it’s simple.

They need us. They need connection. They need contact. They need security.

And if we’re being honest, we need the exact same things…we’ve just been taught to bury our feelings. To doubt our instincts. To deny the very customs that make us human.

We are, after all, social mammals. We’re a carrying species. We’re designed for social sleep.

It’s biologically normal to nurse a one, two, three or four-year-old to sleep (and through the night).

It’s developmentally appropriate for an eighteen-month-old to wake multiple times a night.

It’s physically and psychologically healthy for a mother to fall asleep at 7pm with her child (and as socially inconvenient as it may be, to not want to trade that for going out).

And yes, it’s hard. But, no it doesn’t make parents “sleep props”. It doesn’t make breastfeeding a “bad sleep association”. It doesn’t make responsiveness a “sleep crutch”. And it doesn’t mean our children have “sleep problems”.

It means they’re sleeping like babies, not like adults. It means they’re staying in lighter stages of sleep, as nature intended, to naturally protect them from SIDS. It means your nighttime breastmilk is a source of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone that helps babies fall asleep. It means your touch is regulating their physiology, stabilizing their heart rate, modulating their temperature and stimulating their breathing. It means you’re following the path our hunter-gatherer ancestors laid out and parenting through the night in the way your baby needs.

Because parenting isn’t a set of strategies, it’s a relationship; whether it’s light outside or not. Nighttime parenting, by definition, is half of that relationship. How could different rules apply based on the setting of the sun?

Before the sun goes down, we respond. After the sun goes down, we ignore. Nonsense.

The truth is that after the sun goes down is when sleep training becomes intensely profitable. And so, those who stand to gain the most are trying to make the rules and lure us into playing the game. Only these “rules” are more like cunning traps than helpful signposts; duping, guilting and scaring vulnerable parents into fixing their babies that aren’t broken.

For me, one of the biggest surprises of motherhood has been that nighttime parenting is about so much more than sleep. In challenging my preconceived ideals about what infant and toddler sleep should look like and rather accept it for what it actually is, I was able to learn how to flow with my son rather than fight against the little person I love most in the world.

When we choose to deal in the reality our child is showing us, rather than fantasy that’s marketed to us, we’re able to identify the root of the problem. In the haze of new parenthood, we don’t need quick-fixes, we need support. We need shoulders to cry on. We need people in our lives who are willing to step up and help, instead of pressuring us into sleep training and unfairly putting the weight of responsibility on the tiniest shoulders in our families. We need someone to care for our baby while we take a shower. Someone to make us breakfast, to fill our water bottles, to run our errands, to fold the washing, to make our bed, to help us feel human. Someone to remind us that the sacrifices we are making are monumentally worthwhile. Someone to help us establish rhythms and sleep practices that care for parents without compromising the valid needs of babies.

“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too.” L.R Knost

So, don’t let others define your relationship with your child.

Use your nights to choose midnight cuddles and morning snuggles.

To respond to your child and nurse in synchrony with his needs.

To teach your baby that he can trust you to reliably respond to him.

To reassure him that he can rest in your love, not work for it.

To establish healthy emotional patterns within his rapidly developing brain that his needs matter and that his voice will be heard.

No matter what some may say, it is physically impossible to spoil your child by being responsive. Babies don’t manipulate, they communicate. So, trust your instincts. Follow your innate wisdom and believe your baby.

Let him guide you to show you what he needs, day and night.

Hi there!

I'm Tracy

Hi there! I’m Tracy - the founder, writer and advocate behind the award-winning blog, Raised Good - a guide to natural parenting in the modern world. Based in Vancouver and originally launched in 2016, I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response and the global community that’s developed. 

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  1. The Royal Pools says:

    Keen to hear your views on how much this still applies when pregnant with #2, and #1 is still wanting this level of attention. Both during the latter stages of pregnancy, and when #2 arrives.

    Our 24mth old wakes up 4-5 times a night, and right now that level of attention is quite ok, but the future months and further appear a bit harder to be assured of the same…

  2. Shannon says:

    Thank you so much for this piece. It spoke to my heart. I have a nine month old. I started out trying to get him to sleep in Moses basket, then wooden cot then camp cot. Nothing worked. He wanted to co-sleep and we just went with it. Now we put him on a mattress on the floor big enough for one of us to slide down at anytime if he needs us. Last night he went to bed at 6pm and slept till 6am. First time. In between he has two dream feeds and just wants to feel us then he is fine and sleeps further. We put him on the floor because he rolls so much when he sleeps. I read books on sleep training and a lot of it did not work for me. I want a secure child and my baby is doing just fine without me trying some strategy.

  3. Kirsty says:

    I love this article. What about a 2 year old who won’t dsy nap (except usually 2 days a week when at day care or if we go for a drive, but hus afternoon behaviour confirms he still needs the nap? I’ve tried everything from controlled crying to gradusl withdrawal, cosleeping, rewards. I can only get about 20 mins of quiet time if we read a book together. Thanks

    • Abby says:

      I feel you. It can be so frustrating to not get the quiet you want, need, or expect. You’re not a slave to your child, and if you need a helping hand, ask for it.

      However, if your baby needs you, he needs you. If you need quiet, you already know what it takes. Just read with him. Lie down with him. You don’t have to be limited by unrealistic expectations of what should be. You can embrace what is. He’ll be big so soon. Cuddle him while you can. Enjoy how much he needs you. You are the world to this one human. How many people are in the world who will love you so very much, so completely? So take all the snuggles you can get. You have a very precious gift that lots of other people would give anything to have. Snuggle your baby. Let the house go to hell. It’s replaceable. He is not.

  4. Heidi says:

    Thank you! Your posts are always such a breath of fresh air. I’m happy to parent my children both day and night. I’m happy to follow biological breastfeeding. And I know there must be other mothers who feel the same, despite all the “expert advice” trying to make it sound like something is wrong when my children simply do what they are designed to do. So thank you for being a voice for those of us who don’t quite know how to put these thoughts into words.

  5. Courtney says:

    Just lovely, as always. Thank you for saying what needs to be said!! Thank you for being honest and brave…. I read this as I have my five year old pressed up against my back and my 1 year old attached to my breast. Cosleep for life! ????????

  6. Tara says:

    Thank you. I needed to read this tonight.

  7. Art says:

    Beautiful article!
    New mothers need to be prepared to reject ideas that only suit the fast money-making lifestyle created by greedy people. Babies cannot follow it, at least without suffering.
    It is our duty as mothers to analyze and challenge a few new ideas that are actually harming our children.
    Thank you for your article!????

  8. Katie says:

    I love this post. I’ve never really cared what other people thought and thankfully didn’t feel the pressure to stop cosleeping or breastfeeding before we were ready but I know many do so I’ll share this lovely article in the hope it gives some of them the strength to do what nature intended <3

  9. Teresa says:

    Oh my gosh this article came at a moment I needed it so much!!!
    Thankyou for putting into words what’s in my heart and mind always.
    Question for you…..at what age do you think we start encouraging our kids to sleep on their own?
    I’m a single mum and my 8yr old son still loves to cosleep when he’s feeling bit down etc

    • Asia says:

      My son will become three years old at June, last week I redecorate his room -until now his bedroom was his playground, we sleep together from the berthday ????- and he loved so much…. he now sleeping in his bed and I’m crying everynight, at 5pm he cames for breastfeed im our bed and my pain goes ???? ????????So my opinion is, you don’t need to encourage your child for this, he/she will tell you when it’s time, the question is: are YOU ready for this? Because I wasn’t!

  10. Rina says:

    Thank you, just what I needed to read while helping my baby go back to sleep this early morning.

  11. Thank you for writing this and putting it out there! We need more stories out there about families trusting their babies and going with the flow rather than trying to control everything… thank you!

  12. Elise says:

    I love this approach, but struggle with a few things. My husband works late. I really do want to have “adult time” with him. We’ve been trying to get our 8mo to sleep with his help, then when I go to bed I grab her to cosleep. She screams when I leave the room and I hate that, but otherwise I’d be in there so long nursing her to sleep, which used to be fine, but more recently she wakes up if I put her down.

    Im struggling to find our solution…

    • Abby says:

      My baby girl sleeps with us. If we put us all to bed, she usually falls asleep. Then we can sneak away for a few minutes before she wakes up. If I let her take her 2 naps too early, she needs a third nap around 6. Then she won’t go to bed until 10-11. I have to be proactive about not letting her sleep in late, and delaying her second nap until 3-4. Evening naps must be avoided, whatever toys, playtime, walks or baths may be needed to distract the lovey.

  13. Kari says:

    I wholeheartedly believe in this approach. However, how do you find a balance when you’re a working parent and your relationship with your partner needs time and attention too? It doesnt happen until after our son is asleep. And that can take hours of laying with him. How can you have both and find a balance? I’d love some solid advice on this because we have baby number 2 on the way! 🙂 Thanks!

    • Abby says:

      It seems like it shouldn’t take hours. Maybe he isn’t very tired. Or maybe he misses you because of the time spent apart, and so resists sleep. I don’t know. What I do know is that my baby girl hardly gives me any alone time with her dad. We’re starting to put us all to bed, then get up after she’s asleep. Mostly, our alone time isn’t planned, but snatched in the available moment. Most of the time, we are reconciled to having her with us.

  14. Erin says:

    Thank you so much for this story. My mom has noticed many new parents not holding or rocking their babies to sleep anymore. There are so many gadgets out there that allow us the least amount of contact with our baby. I’ve learnt from my mom and my daughter has thrived. She is also very independent besides what the critics say.

  15. Hollie says:

    Thank you for your blogs. It has served as a pick me up and a reminder that I am doing the right thing by bedsharing and breastfeeding my beautiful daughter. After weeks of hourly wake ups throughout the night I’m feeling so exhausted, and hearing friends discuss how they have started sleep training shakes my confidence in my decisions. But reading this reminds me that it is so right and natural to be there for my baby throughout the night no matter how difficult it is. She is 9 months old, almost walking and so happy and full of energy every day.

  16. Kyan Howland says:

    Abby thank you for brilliant wisdom on this. 22 yrs ago I birthed my first child and my world turned inside out. I’m glad I searched beyond the fear of the medical world I worked in as a Nurse and discovered healthier traditions across time and culture that said yes, breastfeed, co-sleep, and be there. For a thousand reasons this is true if we are to be humans that live from love, in connection to our breath, the depth of those we love, and the incredible relationship we have with the planet. These are all rooted to this primary connection we have parent child and if we can give ourselves over to it, trusting, sensing the wonder, we can be a different human, one who remembers we’re part of the whole planetary family. To anyone scared into sleep training I say trust your heart. By holding my children close, responding, breastfeeding till our relationship naturally said it was time, I’ve watched two amazing child grow into being adults that are strong, independent, heart-based, creative, and great commuuicators who take on the world, secure in who they are!

  17. Mel says:

    Excellent article, but just an addition. You did not stress enough the demand for breastfeeding by babies which sometimes could be a daunting task.

  18. Courtney says:

    Thank you for this piece. So true, and so needed right now. ????

  19. M Brown says:

    Love this article. We are retired, in our 60’s and 70’s and are raising two grandsons. One, who is 7, has some issues stemming from being addicted to heroin in the womb. To be short, he and his brother are traumatized little guys. Anyway, we sleep with the younger one on a foam pad on the floor next to his bed every single night until he goes to sleep. The fear he experiences I cannot comprehend but I feel that this is the right thing to do for him at this time. Thank you for confirming what my mother heart already knows. I don’t know how long this will last but I will do whatever it takes to help this little guy feel safe.

    • Agnès says:

      Wow. What an amazing grandmother you are. Those children are so lucky to have you.

  20. Katie Chabriere says:

    I resonate with many things in this article…..but what do you do if you don’t have someone to:” to care for our baby while we take a shower. Someone to make us breakfast, to fill our water bottles, to run our errands, to fold the washing, to make our bed, to help us feel human. Someone to remind us that the sacrifices we are making are monumentally worthwhile. Someone to help us establish rhythms and sleep practices that care for parents without compromising the valid needs of babies.”
    As someone who lost her mum when her baby was 5 months old (dad already dead) and mother in law in another country, no siblings and all friends with kids of their own and a husband who had to sleep at night to get through his day at work, and as someone who also had to sleep at night so she could care for her baby during the day……There is so much that is good in this article, but a lot of it is just impossible for many people because we no longer live in extended families and communities (sadly)!

    • Tracy Gillett says:

      Oh I am so sorry to hear that you lost your mum Katie. Sending you big hugs. I live in Canada and have no family here – they’re all in Australia and my in laws are in NZ, so I’m not even talking about myself in this article as I don’t have anyone to help either. The point I was making is that if people want to help, then do it in the way that actually helps mothers instead of just telling her to sleep train.

  21. Ana says:

    Thank you for writing this! I completly agree with you. I believe babies come with their own sleeping pattern and we parents need to respect that, and them, any alteration to it for our convenience already sends the wrong message to the child specially the crying out method.

  22. Virginia says:

    Cannot love this enough. Had my 6th baby 2.5 yrs. ago. Have been nursing him some still to bed, nursed the longest by far. He also slept in our bed the longest. My husband admits it seems to have created a bond especially with him, more than any other baby before. My perspective is just so different now, I remember with my 18 yr. old, I felt pressured to wean him at 15 months. He was so not ready. I see now I should have followed my gut.

  23. Agnès says:

    Thank you for this article. I have co slept with my 1 year old since the beginning. But recently, after a year of loving co sleeping and all night feeds, I am feeling exhausted and burnt out and I really need more sleep. It’s affecting my mental health and I am wracked with pre emptive guilt at the idea of moving my daughter out of my bed. I think it’s wonderful when co sleeping works, but I’m not sure what to do now that I really am desperately in need of some more sleep…

  24. Leah says:

    I so wish anyone had given me this kind of advice before my son was born so I wouldn’t have spent the first 5 months of his life fighting against what was biological normal for him. Everyone said we held him too much and he was “a bad sleeper”. I followed “sleep experts” online and tried to implement any techniques that might fix my “broken” baby but nothing worked (luckily we never resorted to actual sleep training). A friend recently shared a similar sentiment – that once I accept his sleep for what it is, it will feel easier. So I did exactly that, and started learning about cosleeping and attachment parenting. My attitude has shifted and miraculously his sleep has even improved. I’ve been enjoying going to sleep at 8pm with him, soaking up all the snuggles and continuing our relationship through the night according to his needs. Thank you for this article!

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