Holistic Sleep Coaching is something I’m passionate about. Infants and small children are vulnerable and deserve our best. Parents are also vulnerable and deserve respect, truth and choices. I’m going to attempt to summarise what I think holistic sleep coaching is all about….

The dilemma

Infants are probably sleeping no differently now than they were 100 or 1000 years ago. However, parenting has changed. We are dealing with the paradox of information overload, coupled with time-poverty. Parents know more than ever about the importance of love, attachment, bonding and security to young children. We have heard and read about good nutrition, stress management, toxins, skin to skin, breastfeeding, one-to-one time, emotion coaching and organic food. Parents are bombarded with appliances that are suppose to make our lives easier, and yet end up confusing us further. At the same time, we are leading busy, expensive lives, have jobs that we love and finance childcare that we feel guilty for. We are trying to extract as much productivity out of our day, micromanaging even the most basic of tasks, while delegating the crap out of everything else.

And within all this, babies are sleeping no differently now than they were 1000 years ago.

The quick fix?

Some sleep experts are quick to suggest quick fixes. Controlled crying is quick, effective and harmless, they say. Anyone who challenges this is scaremongering and making parents feel guilty…

But does this miss the point? I promote holistic sleep coaching – a multi-dimensional approach that looks at the big picture. Holistic sleep coaching recognises that babies are usually completely normal, that their needs are not just physical but psychological, emotional and relational as well. Leaving them to cry does nothing for these needs. It also stresses parents out!

I love a quick fix as much as anyone else, but only if there are no losers.

What is holistic sleep coaching?

I have been working with families for almost 20 years. I’m passionate about family centred care, evidence-based healthcare, holistic wellness, nutrition, gentle parenting, breastfeeding and sleep. Holistic Sleep Coaching is the culmination of everything that I’m interested in and geeky about.

When I look at an infant or child’s sleep, I consider:

  • Their age, developmental stage and what is considered normal according to evidence
  • The family context, including siblings, wider family, parental health, environment and community
  • Emotional and mental health, anxiety and stress
  • Nutrition, allergy, intolerances, feeding problems and nutritional deficit
  • Health, including the interplay between stress, immune problems, nutrition and sleep
  • Exercise, sleep hygiene, and everyday activities
  • Sleep biology, cycles and circadian rhythms

I have found over and over again, that when the contextual factors are explored, sleep can be improved gently, quickly and without any actual ‘sleep training’ at all.

What difference does holistic sleep coaching make?

I love supporting families. I love meeting lots of new people and helping them feel better. But while that often involves people getting some more sleep, that’s not what motivates me. What I enjoy most of all is seeing parents feel calm and confident in their parenting, because they understand their child, the needs of their child, and themselves.

My book: Holistic Sleep Coaching: gentle alternatives to sleep training for health and childcare professionals has a hefty whack of sleep biology and sleep solutions. However, most of the book delves deep into the holistic and contextual factors around sleep: including allergy, sensory needs, intellect, nutrition, feeding, health and anxiety, among others.

When I first trained as a sleep consultant, there were hundreds of books on sleep. They broadly fitted into these categories:

  • Parenting books
  • Books for sleep laboratory technicians
  • Sleep pathology books

The parenting books don’t contain enough evidence. The big textbooks don’t contain enough practical solutions for ‘normal’ problems. There were no books aimed at health and childcare professionals to support them with children’s sleep. Now, there are more books than ever, plus one more! Holistic Sleep Coaching is out soon, and the course that accompanies it launches imminently. If you’re interested in supporting families gently, holistically, and with scientific backing, then I’d love to hear from you!

Lyndsey Hookway is a paediatric nurse, health visitor, IBCLC, holistic sleep coach, PhD researcher, international speaker and author of 3 books. Lyndsey is also the Co-founder and Clinical Director of the Holistic Sleep Coaching Program, co-founder of the Thought Rebellion, and founder of the Breastfeeding the Brave project. Check Lyndsey’s speaker bio and talk brochure, as well as book her to speak at your event by visiting this page. All Lyndsey’s books, digital guides, courses and webinars can be purchased here, and you can also sign up for her free monthly newsletter here.