Posted by Diane Gardner

For a parent with an infant, sleep is one of the most talked about, most frustrating, and possibly most elusive topics in our parent support groups. It makes sense. Babies aren't designed to sleep with any regularity for the first few months at least, but it is a biological necessity most adults have mastered. Yet many parents come home from the hospital already sleep deprived. They may have had a long labor, a middle of the night delivery, or even a stream of visitors eager to meet the baby that, in turn, prevents the parents from getting the much needed rest and recovery time. So what can a new parent do?

At the Center for Early Relationship Support® (CERS), we believe every family is different, and within each family, every person is different. As such, when a parent calls for a sleep consult or attends one of our Sleep Conversations, we don't tell them what to do. What we do say is that there are no magic answers; there are as many ways of helping a baby learn how to sleep for longer stretches as there are books professing the best (or surefire, or fill-in-the-blank) way to get one's baby to sleep through the night. We believe that whatever we suggest has to be a good fit for the parent(s), and however they decide to handle their baby's sleep is the "right way" for them in the moment. To that we add, regardless of what the approach looks like, it's important for both parents to be on board and to support each other when parenting together. We tell them that their baby won't go to college needing to be rocked to sleep but that we also believe in "gentle challenges;" that by providing a secure, loving environment, we offer our children opportunities to try things out for themselves.

And most of all, we tell them they're becoming incredible parents. Because more than anything, we believe that everyone needs support and encouragement to be the kind of parent they want to be.

Diane Gardner has been providing support to parents of young children through the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Supportfor several years. In addition to supervising and coordinating the Visiting Momsprogram on the North Shore, she provides support to parents around sleep and other challenges, runs new parent support groups, and provides transitional support to families in their homes. Her interests include helping mothers learn to trust their judgment and choices, as well as to help build communities of support. She holds a master's in social work from Boston University and a master's in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.