Hoda Allam did not always know she wanted to specialize in baby sleep therapy. It came to her after struggling with her own baby’s sleep for four months and not being able to find help in Egypt. She was always sleep-deprived and thus she could not be as good of a wife, employee, and mother as she wanted to be. She was always angry. After solving her young baby’s sleep problems, she started to exercise and have time for herself, which positively impacted her whole family. Having time to work on herself, she decided to study the science of baby sleep in Switzerland, so that she could help Arab moms to enjoy their motherhood journeys. We speak with her to find out more about this interesting topic and her work.
What are the most common misconceptions about babies’ sleep patterns/cycles?
There are lots, but the most common are “make their bedtime late so they can be tired enough to sleep”; “babies naturally can’t sleep more than 5 hours”; and “let them take naps in the light so they can differentiate between day and nighttime.”
Give time for your baby’s body to adjust to their age-appropriate schedule after being overtired for a long time
What are the most common pieces of advice you give to your clients?
- Give time for your baby’s body to adjust to their age-appropriate schedule after being overtired for a long time.
- Give your baby some time to learn healthy sleep habits after getting used to unhealthy ones.
- Follow your baby’s pace, inner biological clock and needs.
How do cases differ from one another? Do babies’ unique personalities come to play?
Cases differ according to the baby’s age, temperament and the mom’s parenting styles. Also, there are different sleep associations, such as feeding to sleep, bottle-feeding, rocking to sleep or the parent’s presence.
Even twin babies are two different characters under one roof
Definitely yes, even twin babies are two different characters under one roof. Some babies have an independent character, so we tend to give them some space to self-sooth; if the mom interrupts them, they will fuss. Some other babies are more attached to one of the parents, or are going through a separation anxiety phase, so they need extra help from parents to sleep better.
What can mothers of young babies do to ensure their children are receiving the right amount of sleep?
First, they have to follow the age-appropriate awake time and sleep window to avoid the state of being overtired, in which the cortisol hormone level increases with almost no melatonin hormone in their body to help the baby sleep. Second, they must ensure the comfort of their babies by helping them wind, burb, have complete feeds before sleep or check their pediatrician in case of severe reflux or colic. Third, they need to offer the following five S’s for the newborn baby to provide the same environment inside the womb: Swaddle, Side/Stomach hold, Shushing sound, Swinging and Sucking.
The low level of activity and the lack of a good relationship with the mother, severe teething pain and separation anxiety can interrupt sleeping
What are the most common reasons for sleep problems in babies?
For young babies, reflux, colic, hunger, and silence. For older babies, introducing solids by six months can interrupt sleep. Also, at this age, babies become more attached to any sleep association like breast feeding. Moreover, they become more mobile at the age of eight to 12 months, and this is a significant reason for sleep disturbances. For toddlers, they might be awake out of behavioral waking, or because they still depend on any sleep association, or their nutrition is not going well so they replace the calories they need to gain during the day by demanding nighttime milk feeds. Also, potty training for two-year-old babies and up causes a lot of sleep disturbance. Sometimes, the low level of activity and the lack of a good relationship with the mother, severe teething pain and separation anxiety can interrupt sleeping.
Working with babies you must face some funny situations. Is there anything of that kind you’d like to share?
There are a lot of funny situations. I was trying to show a mom a settling technique on her two-month-old baby. Once the baby was settled and calm, I was dancing inside myself that I succeeded and once I picked up the baby with a big smile, he vomited some milk on me like a big thank you.
What are your future plans for Baby Sleep?
To launch the first Baby Sleep Consultancy school in Egypt, aiming to educate and qualify many Baby Sleep Consultants to help more Arab families.
Don’t take random advice as it may not suit your child
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Yes, I just want each mom to focus on her own family needs and not to compare her child with others. If your child is having a problem, visit your pediatrician or someone who can give you the right guidance based on your baby’s case, such as a lactation, parenting, nutrition, or sleep coach. Don’t take random advice as it may not suit your child.