The Juna Women podcast is a weekly discussion where Juna Founder, Sarah Kuhn, talks to Moms about their health, work, parenting, and all the different ways they’re keeping it together. This is Episode 009, All Things Sleep with Rachel Gorton Mitchell.

In this episode of the Juna Women Podcast, Sarah talks to Sleep Expert, Rachel Gorton Mitchell.

Rachel Gorton is the Motherly ( Sleep Expert, a certified infant and Toddler Sleep Specialist and Motherly’s Sales Partnerships Manager.

She is passionate about educating families on the importance of rest and providing the encouragement to overcome sleep challenges. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and children. You can connect with Rachel on Instagram here.

The episode is chock full of incredible advice that will hopefully ease any anxiety you’re having around sleep with your baby. Rachel is also a huge advocate for Moms to get enough rest, too. When you google “Sleep and Moms”, here’s what comes up.

Notice how it’s all about sleep deprivation. Yeah, we need to change that mamas.

10:35 – Becoming A Sleep Specialist

Rachel was working in the hospitality industry and traveling, working 60 hours a week when she had a newborn son.

The industry and hours was kind of at odds with what she wanted in life. She had some experience as a night nanny and when she decided not to return to the hospitality industry, she wound up helping a couple who just had twins – taking care of the babies overnight.

The parents told her that she was saving their relationship. That’s when she realized this was something not a lot of parents have resources for and something that was really needed.

That was the blossom of a new career for Rachel.

14:48 – What are the Safe Sleep Guidelines?

Rachel recommends the American Pediatrics of Safe Sleep Guidelines. They are:

  1. Place baby on back to sleep with firm mattress and only fitted sheets.
  2. No stuffed animals or blankets
  3. Room sharing is great, but bed sharing can be controversial.
  4. Keep room temperatures 68-72.

Make sure the sleep space is meant for sleep (crib or bassinet). There are lots of areas when baby can fall asleep, but most are not designed or built from sleep. Think swings, rock and play, mamaRoo, etc. If they do fall asleep there, you should move them to their safe sleep space.

On Crib Bumpers – it used to be the recommendation to have crib bumpers, but now there’s no need for a crib bumper.

19:32 – How Sleep Changes As Baby Gets Bigger

You can swaddle your baby until they are starting to roll over on their own. Then you want to transition to a sleep sack or magic sleep suit. A lot of parents use sleep sacks up until their parents are two years old.

22:35 – Newborns and Sleep

The newborn stage is about setting the foundation. Introducing healthy sleep habits is really important. Some of the most important habits are:

  1. setting up a safe sleep space
  2. have room as dark as possible
  3. swaddle the baby
  4. add white noise

Your baby is going through a transitionary period where they’re going from the comfort of the womb to a flat mattress. So you want to optimize the transition for them.

The awake stage for newborns is 60-90 minutes. We often don’t realize our babies are tired because they sleep so much. Just really paying attention to the clock is important. Some times your baby might only sleep for 20-30 minutes and then stay awake for 45 minutes.

Rachel recommends swaddling your baby and practicing putting them down in the crib or bassinet as much as possible. That way it becomes the norm for their sleep space.

28:05 – Sleep Transitions

Lots of Moms call it a sleep regression, but it’s really a developmental leap.

Sleep transitions can be a little tricky and can feel like they are constantly happening. What it really means is that your baby is hitting a new phase.

As parents, the best thing we can do is to remain consistent in our approach to sleep.

Don’t panic! If you start trying all these new things it could only set you back even more.

30:00 – Dropping Naps

There are loose age ranges when naps start to transition.

• 7-9 months – 3 naps to 2 naps
• 14-18 months – 2 naps to 1 nap
• Dropping the nap altogether can range from 3-5 years old.

The last part is often dependent on the child’s routine or schedule. If they are in pre-school they may no longer have that option.

Even if they transition out of nap, it’s okay to give them quiet time during what used to be nap time.

38:00 – Moving From Crib To Bed

In Rachel’s opinion, this can be one of the more difficult transitions. Your child is now mobile. You’re no longer just trying to get a baby to sleep, you’re now dealing with a little negotiator.

A good guideline to know when to switch is if they are outgrowing the crib or physically jumping out of the crib.

They also might start asking you and showing signs of readiness. If they’re showing signs of wanting to transition – you should honor that. Have them help you pick out the bed, pick the sheets, set up the room, and make sure the room is toddler proof.

One thing to keep in mind when they move into a toddler bed is that they can now be mobile in the middle of the night. You may want to put up a gate or some boundary just in case.

44:48 – Having A Screen Free Family

Rachel and her family are not 100% screen free – they will watch a family move from time to time, or a TV show.

But they don’t do video games or phones for the kids. No iPads. That was a choice she made when she was a single Mom.

“I don’t really love TV,” she said. “It kind of feels like I can’t focus on other things. I also started to notice with my son at a young age that he wasn’t all that interested in it. He never really asked to watch TV and so I thought why would I have him do this if he wasn’t interested and it kind of went from there.”

I know it’s not for everybody, but I don’t see the need to bring it now.

49:00 – Rest for Parents Is Hugely Important, Too

This conversation needs to happen so much more than it really does. Rest can cause burnout for so many Moms. A lot of it has to do with the fact that they’re exhausted both physically and mentally.

Somehow sleep got put into this bucket of self-care — like sleep is a luxury. Sleep is as vital to our bodies as eating and drinking. It’s something we need to survive and can’t live without. Putting it on the bottom of our priority list is a huge issue.

We put a lot of emphasis on our kid’s bedtime and their routine, when it’s really lacking in our lives.

The first thing is prioritizing sleep and not feeling guilty about it. Talk to your partner about what you need and get to bed a reasonable hour.

Show Notes:

Rachel is currently reading two books:

The Power of A Positive Mom – it’s so important to have that reminder of patience, dealing with constant chaos. This book is my reminder and encouragement to help me help my kids become who they want to be. You can get it here.

The 7 Decisions – It’s a little business – a little life application. Highly recommended. You can get it here.

Rachel uses her Church community and community at Motherly to stay connected with other Moms.

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