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Episode 30: The Sleep Episode! with Rachel Mitchell

October 15, 2020

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Jacqueline Kincer

Welcome back to The Breastfeeding Talk Podcast. I’m your host, Jacqueline Kincer. And I’m super excited to bring our special guest on today, we have Rachel Mitchell, and she is the founder of my sweet sleeper. And she’s a certified pediatric and maternity sleep consultants, a former night nanny and a mom of six. And my sweet sleeper was born shortly after she had her first child 10 years ago. So when Rachel was a young mother, she actually struggled to juggle working and taking care of her new baby while running on very little sleep. Even though her son was generally a good sleeper, I’m sure there’s lots of you that can relate. She realized at that time that there was so little information out there about sleep and how valuable it would have been for her going home with her brand new baby. So since she started her company, she’s worked with 1000s of families all over the world, and has had the rewarding experience of helping their children get sleep, which means she also was able to get sleep for her clients. And it’s truly an amazing profession, just like it is for me to be a lactation consultants. So I’m really excited to bring her on for this incredible conversation. And what I love most about Rachel’s approach is that it’s so breastfeeding friendly. And I find so often that there are sleep consultants out there who have little to no education on any type of infant feeding practices, and what’s normal. And what’s optimal about Rachel has really taken it upon herself and been in the field longer than pretty much anybody I know. And I just wanted to add this little tidbit because Rachel and I have connected on a personal level as well. And I just love her and her philosophy of life. And when she’s not saving families from sleep deprivation, you can also find her sipping some hot coffee, just like me running on the beach.


Jacqueline Kincer  1:57

Unfortunately, I don’t have one of those near me and working in her yard and hanging out with her husband and kiddos. They live just outside of Boston and are pretty much a modern day Brady family, Brady Bunch family with six kids between them. So without further ado, here is Rachel to talk to you about sleep.


Welcome to the podcast. Rachel, I’m so excited to have you with us today. And I know that one thing I want to share because this is audio, but just so our listeners know, we’re actually both recording from our bedrooms because this is where it’s nice and quiet. And I just wanted to share that. So no one thinks that like we have this all perfectly scripted out or whatever. We’re moms, this is real life just like the rest of you who are listening. And you’re probably listening while you’re nursing a baby or cooking or going to the bathroom. I don’t know where you are right now. But I just wanted to give a warm welcome to Rachel because she’s got some incredible information to share about sleep today.


Rachel Mitchell  3:34

Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here. And yes, very true. I find myself hiding in my bedroom more these days than usual. Just to get some some quiet space.


Jacqueline Kincer  3:46

It’s what we have to do sometimes. Right? So. And I wanted to have you on this episode because I love your philosophy and the way you teach parents about sleep. But also because you know, I get a lot of direct messages from people on Instagram or emails or comments and things. And sometimes I’ll ask just, you know, what do you want to hear as a listener of the podcast, and no one has really mentioned sleep. And I thought that’s funny, because I’m pretty sure everybody would love to have an episode about infant sleep and breastfeeding. And so, you know, I hope I’m reading people’s minds with this. But I Rachel and I were talking about that that, you know, there may be a reason why people aren’t necessarily asking for more information on sleep. And if you could talk about that, Rachel, I think you’re spot on.


Rachel Mitchell  4:35

Yeah, absolutely. I do think they’re, you know, obviously when people come to our community or they’re following us on Instagram and reading our information, articles and such they openly are saying, you know, my baby is not sleeping, please help me or I am not sleeping. But I do think there can be sort of a stigma and other you know, just generally that people don’t know Please come out and say I’m really having trouble sleeping, or they almost feel shame or guilt around hiring someone or, or talking about it. And to be honest, I also feel that we’ve had to do a lot of work, to sort of untrained our minds to think that it is this, you know, acceptable thing to run on, you know, five or six hours of sleep or to think that we are superhuman and only need to operate on a certain amount of sleep when the reality reality is most of us are not getting the sleep that we need. So there’s also an education piece to that, that I hope that we all can sort of take away from this as well.


Rachel Mitchell  5:42

Yeah, you know, I wish that I had known about you when I had my first baby, because I was so sleep deprived, I thought I was gonna die. I mean, I remember just being awake with my son in the morning, and he is just happily playing, you know, on his little play mat, or whatever. And he’s probably just, you know, a few months old, you know, starting to roll over or whatever. And I was falling asleep. And, you know, and then my brain was like, Well, you got to watch him What if, you know, he starts rolling away, or whatever.


Jacqueline Kincer  6:13

And I just, I couldn’t stay awake. And I just remember thinking that my body just felt like, it felt like a strain on my heart, and just all my organs. And I felt so out of it. And I just powered through like, well, this is what it’s like to be a mom of a baby. And, you know, I just have to respond to his every need, otherwise, I will corrupt him or something. I don’t know what I had in my head. I don’t really remember because I think I actually don’t have a lot of memories of that time, because I was so sleep deprived. And yeah, I really just thought I have, this is the way I have to do it, and I can do anything, and it will be fine. And obviously today, I’m fine. But I took a totally different approach with my daughter where I was like, there is no way that I could repeat that that is just not good for me. And so I guess I’m, I’m curious, you know, my, my journey of not only the sleep deprivation, obviously. But I had such a hard time breastfeeding him that led me to become a lactation consultant. What led you to become a sleep consultant?


Rachel Mitchell  7:17

Yeah, good question. So the path that I, where I really arrived at becoming a sleep consultant was sort of in many different ways, and in some ways, all at once, but in some ways, it was a path that took, you know, sort of a while. So I in college, I was studying simultaneously human and child development and marketing. And I really knew that I wanted to work with children in some capacity. But I also really had this business side that I wanted to exercise. And so I’m one of the few that actually like combined my two, you know, my two degrees or education. And so that was, you know, one of the things was my education school, when I learned more about it, I was really interested in sleep, I really had an interest in the way that the brain develops the way that children’s development progresses. And then I also was a night nanny. And I think that was really what catapulted me into this profession, is that I was, you know, so the difference with a night nanny is you’re going over to the the families home, you’re typically staying with them, you know, overnight, anywhere between three to five nights per week, they’re taking care of the babies, you know, days after they get home from the hospital until they’re usually about three months or so. And parents were sharing with me, you are literally saving us you’re saving our jobs, you’re saving our relationships, you’re you’re providing sanity, just the fact that you’re here. And you’re able to be here with the babies so that we can still go to work and that type of thing. And then they started asking me for a lot of advice that I was able to give based on experience, but really felt like I need to really become more knowledgeable in this area. And because then you’ll get certified and so that’s when I sort of looked into programs and really, you know, became a sleep consultant as a profession.


Rachel Mitchell  9:16

Yeah, that’s, that’s so exciting. And, you know, you are really in the thick of it if you were a night nanny, because while everyone else is sleeping, you’re the one that’s up with the baby. So, no, that’s, that’s such important information to share. And I would love for you to chat about, you know, I think there’s this this hesitation for moms who are breastfeeding where they think, oh, that’s only something that maybe a mom who exclusively pumps or formula feeds could ever do. But, you know, can you speak to how breastfeeding moms can also whether it’s if they want to hire a nanny or just to you know, facilitate certain sleep things, you know, wherever you want to go with the answer to that question. But I think there is definitely a hesitation from the breastfeeding mom community of like, Why can’t breast milk digest more quickly? And I’m the only one that can feed the baby. So so how do they start to approach a different, you know, way of encouraging their baby to sleep?


Rachel Mitchell  10:17

Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. You know, I would, I would say that a lot of women in particular, are usually quite surprised when we start bringing breastfeeding into the conversation, which is typically, you know, fairly early on, because that’s a really big part of motherhood, if, you know, if that’s on their journey, that I, I feel like sometimes it’s just permission that you absolutely can work on sleep, and still breastfeed, you know, I think a lot of parents have this idea in their mind that working on sleep, suddenly, you know, is going to mean 12 consecutive hours of sleep and uninterrupted. And that’s not possible if I’m breastfeeding. And so where I sort of try to bring this in the conversation is setting, setting realistic expectations that actually, many babies that are well, you know, past six, seven, even eight months are still taking a feed overnight, and that’s perfectly fine. If your baby is sleeping, you know, 1011 12 hours at night, waking up once to feed, and then going back to sleep, that’s still, you know, in my opinion, a very good sleeper, a baby that’s getting the sleep that they need, it’s maybe not ideal for mom to wake up and have to feed in the middle the night, if you know, especially if he if she has trouble falling back asleep. But for the most part, that’s normal. And I think a lot of parents are surprised to hear that. Because they think as soon as they start really working on sleep, that means they have to stop breastfeeding or that means they have to get up and pump. And while they can do those things, if that’s what they’re wanting to do, and baby is ready for that, then there are also ways that we can help them do that, or some like you can help them do that. But I’m very honest about the fact that our daughter held on to her 5am feet until she was a year.


Rachel Mitchell  12:18

And I never tried to take that from her because I knew she needed it. And she always went right back to sleep after I gave it to her. But she slept fabulously. And I wouldn’t consider that a major interruption. So I think it’s really important to understand that sleep, teaching or training or whatever you want to call, it does not mean that you have to stop breastfeeding, it doesn’t mean that you have to night lean all of a sudden. In fact, I always say that breastfeeding and sleep go hand in hand from the beginning. And when we talk about it in the newborn stage, for example, I absolutely encourage women to breastfeed their babies to sleep in the newborn stage, because that is completely natural and normal. And to not be worried about creating a habit because in the newborn stage, your babies really aren’t making those associations yet. So there’s just a lot of I think that information out there or approaches that say something different. And so the way that we approach it is just, you know, that we want to promote both of those relationships. And I love that


Rachel Mitchell  13:26

you brought that up because you I didn’t want it to just be me saying these things because I know the same things that you just said. But it’s so good for someone like you who’s certified as you know, a sleep consultant and and really has so much education and training experience around these topics to say that, you know, I have so many moms, they might have like a two week old baby and like why knowing not supposed to nurse and asleep or he falls asleep breastfeeding. And I’m like, yeah, they’re meant to do that. Like, it’s the best, easiest way to comfort them during that time. And, you know, they’re they’re seeing more than ever, usually at that stage. So I’m so glad that you’re just validating that. And, you know, I think one of the things I’d love for you to talk about is it sounds to me, like what you’re saying is that the expectations going into motherhood are really important. Like, like, I think I went into it with none and so I just was like, Okay, I’m sleep deprived, whatever, but I know many go into it going well at some, you know, that why is the baby waking up so often and I have a lot of moms who are often very surprised about even just the first few days week of life with their baby where they seem to be confused as to why their baby’s feeding so often and, but also sleeping a lot. And so there’s I know it’s a fine line, and sometimes it takes working with someone individually but there there seems to be this misconception where I’ll get someone who’s panicked and they’ll say, you know, my baby eats and then falls Sleep and they’re just sleeping all the time. And I’m like, Well, how often are they eating? And they’ll be like, every couple hours. And I’m like, Well, unless they’re going five, six hours, you know, you might want to wake them up more often and feed them. But there’s this misconception that newborns, especially, especially not first week, shouldn’t be sleeping as much or shouldn’t be eating as often. And I’d love for you to talk about that.


Rachel Mitchell  15:26

Yeah, absolutely. And to be honest, I think a lot of the reason why there are those questions, and I always call them that is, is this normal question, because I get so many of those questions Is this normal, is there really is not a lot of literature or information provided about sleep, when you are leaving the hospital or, you know, even birthing centers, or, you know, they’re in many places there is, you know, an ibclc, or someone, a nurse that’s coming in and speaking with you about breastfeeding, and typically a very quick conversation. But in my experience, really, the only thing that’s provided about sleep is safe sleep practices, which is obviously very important. But you’re sort of, you know, for a first time mom, when you’re going home, I remember, you know, my oldest is 10. And as a first time mom, I definitely had I mean, even as a previous night nanny or a night nanny at that time, I still was pretty clueless as to you know, quote, unquote, what is what was normal. And my baby, I just happen to have a baby that slept constantly. And I always had a hard time keeping him awake for feeds. And I really didn’t have a lot of knowledge as to how to do that. And so I remember calling, you know, the the pediatricians office and asking Is this normal. And I really think it goes back to just that, obviously, we I mean, we live in a different time period where you can go online, and you can pretty much find any information that you need. But there’s also a lot of conflicting information.


Rachel Mitchell  17:00

And there are methods that will tell, you know, get them on a schedule from the beginning, otherwise, they’ll never sleep well, and you’ll be up all night, and you’ll be feeding throughout the night. And so sometimes you’re having to re educate people about that, as well. So I think a lot of it comes down to the education. And, you know, in some ways, our technology driven culture is a good thing. And in some ways, it can, you know, we find that it can be sort of a challenge. But I think it’s so important, just in general, for every single parent to just understand that every baby is also so different. There are going to be babies who need to be fed more often in the newborn stage. And there are babies who sleep naturally more often. And they’re harder to wake up from sleep or they’re harder. They, you know, they don’t eat as you know, it seems like they don’t eat as well, because they eat slower they eat, you know, they fall asleep at the breast and things like that, which I’m sure you know. And so I think it’s all in you so much of it is managing expectations, and just giving them the accurate information that’s based on research that’s based on experience that’s not just anecdotal, like, Oh, this is what worked for my baby, but really is, you know, rooted in, in fact, and that can be hard to sift through, I think with with all the information out there. Hmm, yeah,


Rachel Mitchell  18:27

I agree. I think if you, you could replace the word sleep with breastfeeding. And I would totally agree with everything you’re saying. Because, you know, I think about, you know, so much of it is just that baby and their sort of disposition and personality. And then there’s definitely, you know, unsolicited or sometimes solicited, you know, mom, friends, Mom group advice that’s out there. Oh, well, you know, I know, there’s a woman I’m friends with, and she’s like, Oh, from day one, we get on the schedule, and we do this and that and whatever. But I also see how restricted her life is like she can’t, you know, the timer goes off. And she’s like, Okay, I have to go because it’s time for a nap or it’s bedtime. And I’m like, wow, you don’t have really any flexibility in your life. And I just, that’s not me as a person. So I think it’s, you know, one of those things you have to take into account when you’re wanting to plan this, but I, I hear you saying education is key. And it really sounds like parents could certainly use this education before the baby comes. Because once the baby comes, you’re trying to troubleshoot, right? But you probably want to be proactive with it.


Rachel Mitchell  19:37

Yeah, and you know, that’s why so we have a newborn class that we’ve created, which is not a sleep training class, we talk a lot about how it’s just setting the foundations of sleep. It really is the tools that you need in your toolbox to really help set your baby up for success from the beginning. And we go over a lot of those questions what is normal, you know, What should my baby what expectation should I have of my baby in this stage, but also how you really can, you know, lay those foundations so that your baby has a healthy sleep foundation to draw upon. Because don’t get me wrong there are, you know, once once the child gets older and sort of exits the newborn stage, we do want to get them on some, you know, we want them to follow patterns, we want there to be some structure, things can’t just operate in a chaotic way. Otherwise, sleep is always going to feel in spurts and dishevelled, and everyone’s going to be tired. So it’s important that we do lay those healthy foundations from the start. But at the same time, we have to manage those expectations. And so I always encourage pregnant women and and families to take our newborn class during pregnancy so that they can watch the information, especially if they’re a first time parent, and they have the time to do that, as opposed to when they’re taking care of a newborn. And they’re in that newborn fog. So like, like you said, and like I said, we you can really focus on the education piece, and you feel a little bit prepared. You feel like, just like with your birthing class, okay. I went over this, you know, in the class, I remember this part about sleep environment, and you can, you know, some prepare some things ahead of time.


Rachel Mitchell  21:22

Yeah, you don’t want to start taking the birthing class when your water breaks. So it’s kind of the same thing here. Yeah, people love to ask me when’s the best time to work with you? And I’m like, Well, now, you know, when you ask the question is the best time but one thing that came to mind was, I’m curious if you’ve noticed anything with the families you work with, in terms of like, you mentioned, you had a good word for it. Now I forget what it was, but basically, you know, setting up like a good sleep foundation and routine and and things like that. Do you find that there’s parents that really don’t have a good sleep foundation themselves? And then they’re struggling more with getting that going for their infants? Or do you not see any relation


Rachel Mitchell  22:09

to that at all? Yes, I’m glad you asked that question. Because 100% Yes. One of the things that the one of the questions I asked in the intake process, when I’m working with families is how you tell me about your routine, tell me about your sleep. And sometimes I’ll get the responsible, this is about my child’s sleep, not my sleep, and but when I understand the habits of the parents, I understand the priorities in the household. And so, you know, just for example, if parents are going to sleep at 11 o’clock at night, and getting up at, you know, 6am, and they’re feeling tired, because that sleep is also broken up, because they’re having to get up, you know, with the baby, and they’re not prioritizing bedtime, or they’re watching TV until late hours of the night, or they don’t have a routine, all of these things affect the way they’re able to interact with their child when it comes to sleep. So if they’re not making it a priority, it’s unlikely that they can do the same with their child effectively. So that is one thing you know, when I’m when I’m working with parents, we’re very much focused on the child. And that really is the focus. But at the same time, parents should take a zoomed out, look at their own sleep habits and see where they can make some changes as well, because most adults, they go to bed too late. They consume too many electronics close to bedtime. And they’re not getting their most restful sleep. And the thing I tell parents to, I relate it to like it when you have me when I’m here to support you, then this is the time that you want to be getting, you’re focusing on your own rescue. Because if I’m giving you all the tools to help your babies sleep, and your baby’s sleeping fabulously, but you’re not sleeping, what I mean, that’s great for your baby, but then like, what’s the point of having me, you know, because then you’re still not sleeping. So the goal is not just always for parents, the goal is for your entire family to get better sleep. So that’s you included, that’s not just your baby, because you’re the one taking care of this baby. So if you’re not your best as a parent, that is a that’s going to be a challenge long term. And so we were really working simultaneously on parents sleep as


Rachel Mitchell  24:34

well. Yeah, that’s so great.


Rachel Mitchell  24:37

In the same way that I say, you know, if you’re trying to help your children eat healthy, but you’re eating greasy, fast food every day. That’s not that’s not really setting the best example but it’s also not. It’s not putting everyone on the same page in terms of what your family priorities are. So it’s just important to be consistent even when you Have an itty bitty baby. When you think well, this newborn has no idea what I’m, you know what our sleep habits are? It’s, you know, it’s still important to be consistent. No, I


Rachel Mitchell  25:10

totally agree with that. And I, I really find this when you get into some of the just, you know, parenting literature and research for when you have a toddler and a preschooler and they get older, and you know, our kids learn more from us by observing us and seeing what we’re modeling for them. But it really does begin in infancy. And parents who are very high strung ice babies who are very high strung, and I don’t think it’s genetic, it’s just the baby can pick up on so much from its caregivers. And we don’t intentionally do it, and we think, Okay, well, I’ll sacrifice myself for the benefit of my child. But like you’re saying, If a baby sleeps well, that’s great. But if you’re still not sleeping, what’s the point? Right. So I love that you said that. And I wanted to ask this question, because I can think of a really good friend of mine right now who’s struggling actually referred her to work with you. So hopefully she has, but she has a toddler that is still nursing. And I have a lot of listeners of this podcast with older babies. And so either Well, pretty much they I don’t like to use this word, but I’ll just say they’ve probably failed to implement any sort of sleep routine. They’ve just breastfed on demand for the last year, year and a half. And now, they’re so beyond sleep deprived and their nursing toddler, they don’t want to wean. But they feel like, if I don’t night lean, or if I don’t lean completely, I’m just never, this isn’t ever going to end I’m going to be, you know, just woken up all the time, I’m not going to get enough sleep. And I’ve definitely worked with clients on this aspect of things and helped with night weaning, and I have a whole episode of the podcast on weaning. But what I think there’s a lot of parents that get to that stage, and they feel like, is it too late? Now, it’s just all or nothing. And, you know, they’re, you know, they’re just at their wit’s end, they’re shutting their toddler in a room and letting them scream and cry, and they just don’t know how to handle it. So is there hope for those parents? Does it mean they have to wean from breastfeeding completely?


Rachel Mitchell  27:26

This is this such a great question, because I do think we see people who think Well, I guess this is just my life, because it’s too late now. And the thing is, it’s never too late to work on healthy sleep habits, we just have to understand that the longer this child has had these habits, the longer it’s going to take to introduce new habits, it is easier to work with a five month old than it is to work with a three year olds, because of obvious reasons. They’ve had years of building up these habits, you know, with a toddler or a three year olds, as opposed to, you know, an infant. But there are so many things that you can do, you know, to promote healthy sleep at that age and the toddler stage, a lot of it parents have to remember has to do with boundaries, and how they can hold those firm boundaries and how they interact with their child in a way that is loving them by implementing those boundaries.


Rachel Mitchell  28:30

You know, what I usually see is that there are also challenges with boundaries outside of the sleep relationships. So there could also be issues with behavior, there could be some challenges when you really dig into the, to the relationship, that I notice that we have to really talk about those things too. Because otherwise, you know, sleep is not an exception. When we look at the child’s behavior. It’s really an extenuation of the child’s behavior throughout the day. So there are things like that, that we have to address. They’re obviously very different than an infant, but it’s definitely not too late. Parents just need to be willing to put in the work. And to answer your question about weaning in every every family is so different. If that was their goal, then that’s something we could certainly talk about. I always want to make sure we’re on the same page with goals. And that we’re not I’m not assuming they want to wean, if that’s not really what they’re wanting to do. But, you know, they if that’s not a goal of theirs, that that’s not something they have to do. Like I said before, you can you can address sleep habits and have a healthy sleeper without having to stop breastfeeding or without having to completely wean off of night feeds. But again, parents just need to understand that it’s going to take time, and there are going to have to be boundaries and it’s going to be hard. It’s not an easy process by any means. It takes commitment and It’s something that they have to really be committed to doing.


Jacqueline Kincer  30:02

I yeah, I love that you said it’s it’s definitely not too late, it may take longer for sure. I tell people that with breastfeeding, you know, if you wait until six months to get started with getting home, then you know, we can still turn things around. But it’s going to take more time, most of the time. And yeah, I love that, you know, you’re really working with parents on their goals, because that’s always what’s important is that, you know, Rachel and I think are very similar in the way we work with families where, you know, my, my goal isn’t for you to exclusively breastfeed, if you tell me you want to, you know, not pump when you’re at work and give formula, okay? Like, let’s work with that. So, I love that. And I like that you related sleep to not just being something isolated, I think so many people think, Oh, well sleep, the problem that everything else is going great. But when we really dig into it, and I could say this for myself to where, when you are tired, and when you get woken up in the middle of the night, and your cortisol searches or whatever, you don’t handle things the best, you don’t interpret things in the most calm, peaceful, loving way, if you’re in that state. So then you might see sleep as the only problem. But during the day, the other boundary issues or other things that are coming up, you don’t necessarily see us so problematic, or your or your more sort of primed to be able to work through those things. But there’s always some sort of a correlation for sure. And I also wanted to ask this question, maybe we can tease it out together. But there’s times when I get contacted by someone for a consultation. And it’s, it’s like I have to weed out like, what are the actual breastfeeding or feeding problems and what’s actually asleep problem. And sometimes I wouldn’t say anybody’s disappointed, I explained to them, Hey, you need to also work with someone else on this, because it’s not really my area. So I can help address the feeding things. But But I think sometimes breastfeeding gets blamed for a lot of things. And moms will sort of think, well, if I just give up breastfeeding, then you know, this issue will be fixed. And sometimes that asleep, sometimes it’s other things. But likewise, I wonder if you also see people reaching out to you for help with sleep, but you find out oh, it’s breastfeeding from a refeeding problem or something else?


Rachel Mitchell  32:23

Yeah, absolutely. And I do the same and, you know, refer them to you and to other providers. Because, you know, I think the the thing that every I’ve been in this field for 10 years, which this the world or sort of profession of sleep consulting is fairly new. So a lot of this new consultants that you speak with are five years and under and what I have seen in these 10 years is that parents tend to get very quick advice, that that isn’t necessarily rooted or isn’t unique to their situation. And so when I dig in, and I asked, I asked so many questions, I spend a very good deal of time asking parents questions to make sure that I’m getting to the root of the challenge. And I would say that most of the time, when I’m working with families, the initial issue that I thought was present is actually something else. And a lot of the time, it can be something like breastfeeding issues or weight gain issues or something that needs to be addressed by a medical provider, like an ibclc, or a pediatrician. And so I have had to refer people out and say, Listen, we do need to work on sleep, but at the same time, there’s this other thing going on. But that’s, you know, this part of sleep is never is always going to be an issue until this gets gets resolved. And sometimes, like I like I said, I see that with weight gain, or I see that with that baby is, you know, reflux is something that I deal with a lot when baby has reflux, and the sort of traditional sleep tips or guidance and such sort of look very different with a baby with reflux and that if that’s never addressed, sleep is always going to be a challenge. And so there are times and I know a decent amount about breastfeeding and formula feeding and, and that type of thing. But when it requires more intervention, then I do have to refer them out so that we can, and I’m happy to work with the provider in tandem as well. But it’s so important to be aware that, you know, they’re breastfeeding and sleep and other things like behavior and all those other things. Those are all affecting, you know, they really all go hand in hand and sort of if you have one area that’s really out of whack then it’s going to affect the other areas as well. So it’s really just like looking at our health holistically and under or standing that? Rarely is it just a diet problem or just a sleep problem or just, you know, X problem. So that’s just important for everyone, I think to understand as they’re looking at,


Rachel Mitchell  35:15

at these issues holistically. Yeah, I love that we really do have to look at everything holistically. And sometimes I’ll be giving parents advice about something that like, hey, you know, you can’t be nursing in the dark with your bright iPhone next to you and your baby’s face, and probably not kind of really fall asleep very well, you know, or they’re going to wake up in 20 minutes, or whatever. So I, you know, I love that. And actually, speaking of electronics, you had mentioned how, you know, sometimes parents are on way too many electronics before they go to bed. And there’s so many contraptions and devices and all these things for babies that parents can spend so much money on. And I’m sure it’s a balance. But do you find that there that technological innovation in the world of baby’s sleep has helped with baby’s sleep? Or do you think a more simplistic approach is more beneficial? Or combination?


Rachel Mitchell  36:19

That’s a great question. I do think it’s a combination, but I, I really promote, the simpler, the better. So especially when you’re setting up your child’s room, I see extravagant nurseries that have things hanging from the walls. And, you know, I walk in, and I’m like, Wow, this nursery is beautiful, but no person would ever be able to sleep in here, it’s so distracting. And so I think it’s important for parents to understand that, if the goal is for our baby to sleep in their room, or in our room, you know, for the first six months or so, then we need to walk into that space and really have it feel promoting of sleep. And if you have things that are lighting up and things that are making noise or things like I said that are distracting, that’s not going to help your baby, sleep well, and that environment. And so I think it’s a challenge, because there are more things constantly, there are just bigger and better. And, you know, I think a lot of the brands do well in their marketing campaigns have really, you know, convincing you why you need this product, when really, when we look at the history of, of babies and the history of parenting, we didn’t have any of these things, we did not have monitors, we did not have run rocking bassinet. And I’m not not to say that I wouldn’t recommend those things. Because you know, I use a monitor, there are things that can be helpful. And technology has has really helped us in so many ways. But we have to be really careful with how much of that we bring in and make sure that we’re only using technology when it’s necessary, and that we’re only using it in a way that’s going to promote sleep and not be distracting. And that’s I think the most important thing is making sure that we’re not distracting our babies. And I save this screen thing too. Because just like you mentioned that, you know, you have your bright iPhone, like a lot of parents don’t think that Well, I’m the one looking at my phone, or I’m the one watching TV. My baby, you know is not affected by that. But your baby is 100% affected by your, if they’re watching, if you’re sitting by a window and you’re watching TV, and you think your baby’s sleeping on your shoulder, but the reflection of the TV’s coming off the window. That’s not promoting a dark, healthy environment for your baby. So we have to think about those things too. And just understand that there has to be a balance. And, you know, it doesn’t mean you can’t own a TV or that you can’t ever look at devices and such but you just need to be careful that those types of things are not getting in the way of your baby’s sleep or you’re sleeping healthfully. Hmm, yeah, that’s


Rachel Mitchell  39:11

super important. I think I was that parent with my first that thought, you know, well, I’ll get him get my baby to sleep on my shoulder and the baby carrier and then I can watch Walking Dead with my husband. And you know, as long as I’m holding him, he’ll stay asleep and he did but then you would wake up and be up to like 11 or midnight and it was really bad you know, and so at that point, then I was tired and I wanted to go to sleep and I couldn’t so you know, I wish I had known that or you know, I wanted my time right I wanted the me time or the time with my husband but I definitely and then I think also to like you said I probably tried to make the the nursery more of a playroom than a sleeping area. Uh, and so you like you said, you can find these beautiful how look at this amazing nursery, except it’s totally not a place for your baby’s gonna sleep. So yeah, I so many good, just points that you’ve made. And I feel like, you know, I guess I would love to hear, you know, maybe just one thing, which is like when people come to you for help with sleep, what do you find is the biggest challenge that they’re facing? Oh, that’s a good question.


Rachel Mitchell  40:38

To be honest, I think the biggest challenge that they’re facing is just second guessing themselves. And they’re just so unsure of the next step. They’re really just, you know, I have a lot of moms in particular that say, I don’t know, if I’m doing the right thing, I think I’m messing up my baby, I think I’m, I’m the cause of their sleep issues, or I did this was that wrong? Should I not have done that. And to be honest, I joke sometimes with families that when I’m working with them, you didn’t even need me, you just needed me to provide you to be your cheerleader, and to support you and encourage you, but you really were doing all the things that helped your baby ultimately get the sleep and your end, what was different was, when you’re working with me, we’re consistent instead of second guessing everything you did. And I always say that my goal at the end of working with families is to for them not to need me anymore. And I find that in the beginning, I’m the one giving them guidance. And at the end, they’re the ones telling me what’s going to happen and just confirming with me. And I think that’s the thing with so many families. And it just really goes back to all the things we’ve talked about just the education piece, the sort of conflicting information you can find online, just really making sure that if your child is struggling with sleep, that the most important thing that you take into consideration is that you know, your baby best. And a book, or a article on the internet cannot tell you exactly what you should do for your baby, because your baby is not a robot. So you really need that’s why the one on one support is so valuable. Because it really it’s human interaction, and it’s myself or one of our other su consultants that can dig into this for you. And I feel like it’s very similar in your profession as well. Totally. Yeah,


Rachel Mitchell  42:42

it’s very much the same.


Rachel Mitchell  42:44

Yeah. So I would really say that’s, that’s really, the thing is to understand that, that piece to me is invaluable, because you can stop second guessing, and really just start to give your baby what they need. And a lot of parents are so surprised after just working together for a week. They’re like, Oh my gosh, I’m finally giving my baby what they actually needed, instead of trying to force this other thing on them. That wasn’t helpful at all, because I read it in a book. So I would say that’s really sort of my best advice, if


Rachel Mitchell  43:23

you will, that that I would give to new parents or just parents in general. Yeah, I love that. And I think we have similar goals when we work with people is exactly I don’t, I don’t want you to need me forever. No offense, but I really don’t want to work with you for a year. I shouldn’t have to but no, I love everything you do. And I wanted just for listeners to be able to know obviously, you’ve talked about this throughout the conversation, but you do work with people one on one, but you also have some online courses. So just tell our listeners a little bit about how you help families with sleep. Yeah, absolutely. So yes,


Rachel Mitchell  44:03

I have a newborn and a four to 12 month class. And then we are in the process of launching our toddler sleep class, which will probably be November. And really what these classes are meant to do are to give you really helpful guidelines to buy your baby’s age and help you set like I said those healthy foundations and also to understand and manage expectations when it comes to sleep. So these classes were really reviewing things like setting up a healthy sleep environment following a weak Windows what a schedule might look like how to incorporate breastfeeding and nutrition, how to follow a routine, things like that, that are you know, we do our best to give you guidance based on where your baby might be developmentally but it’s obviously not as unique as one on one. But those classes are really a nice button. It friendly option for parents who just need to know that you know more of The Basics, and they need to lay those healthy foundations, or if they’re like, I don’t even know where to start, because I haven’t done any, anything with my baby I’ve just been doing, you know, whatever they want to do, and I need to start somewhere than the classes are a great option. Our one on one support is really meant for families who they really need, you know, that one on one guidance, and it may be that the parent feels like that’s how they’re going to learn better, or they feel like they’re not really a do it yourself kind of person, but they need someone to sort of help them take that second guessing out of the picture and really guide them through the process. So and or our one on one options can be really great for very unique babies, like when you really feel like you’re dealing with a complex issue like trying to, to move from cosleeping. Or even like you mentioned earlier, like issues with a toddler, when your child is older, that type of thing. So and then we have many free resources on our website as well. And you can go to our blog search section and search almost any, you know, Article topic and find the topic that you’re looking for just understanding that again, it’s more general advice, as opposed to a one on one. You know, work that which I really do i That’s really where I feel like a lot of the deeper work happens. And that’s when families are like, wow, my baby is actually taking two hour naps and sleeping 10 to 12 hours at night because we really, we were able to work one on one to make that happen. Yeah, that’s, that’s


Rachel Mitchell  46:42

incredible. And, you know, I also, besides moms listening the podcast, I also get a lot of professionals listening, and I know you have some things you do for professionals out there, too. So if you could just chat about that quickly, because I think you just started a new round. If I’m correct, yeah. So


Rachel Mitchell  47:00

we we do several different things, I would say I mean, number one, we we also train sleep consultants. So we have a program where if any, you know, those that are interested in becoming certified, or even we have some that are already certified that want to deepen their practice, and understand more about the development piece, that’s an option. So we actually have we’re starting this week, another training, and we have a group of we have a great group of women that are going to be joining us. And I do trainings for I previous, you know, prior to COVID, I did trainings in daycare centers where I really helped daycare centers understand appropriate awake windows and sleep schedules and how to set up a healthy sleep environment. And I work with a lot of brands as well that, that have products that are related to sleep, because I think another part of it is, you know, parents think like, oh, if I just buy this product, then my, my child will just be this magical sleeper, but there’s no magic product that is going to fix deep rooted sleep challenges. So, um, you know, I work with a lot of products on education, and do takeovers and things like that. And then I would just say, lastly, I do work with a lot of local pediatricians offices and other medical providers that don’t specialize necessarily in sleep that I can sort of, you know, speak to in a bit more depth. So really, my goal is just to, to support families and to educate families as much as possible. And so any brands or any company or practice that can benefit from that I am, you know, happy to partner with.


Rachel Mitchell  48:45

I love that. And I just I you know, I can tell you have such a heart for for helping babies and families. And it just shows in everything that you do, because I see you just putting out so much amazing information and really trying to help a broad spectrum of people like me or like families. And so I just I like that you have a lot of different ways where people can work with you and get really solid advice. And I’m just so grateful that I was able to have you on the show today. Because I think you’ve I know that if I was listening to this show when I had a young baby first, I would probably definitely want to go with you. But second of all, it just feels so much better. Like you said about the biggest challenges a lot of parents just second guessing themselves. You know, and I think that’s so it’s such a gift that we have the access to information that we do these days. But I think it leads to so much overthinking and second guessing and it’s just nice to hear like, yeah, that’s pretty much what everyone’s doing, and you’re not alone. So thank you for that. I really appreciate everything you’ve shared with us.


Rachel Mitchell  49:50

Thank you. I appreciate those kind words. It’s really honestly my pleasure to be here and I share the same sentiment with with what you’re offering fam. Ladies, and I hope you’ve gotten some referrals because I send a lot of people your way as well. And the whole face, it’s just so important that we, I do I have such a heart for it. And I really just, I, there’s something so important about this work that just really fills my cup and fills my heart and just knowing that families are because sleep can really change so many areas of your life. And I know personally, I get like one bad night of sleep, and I’m just not really the person that I want to be, or the parent. And I’m sure my children can and my husband can attest to that. And so when you turn around and you see families thriving and marriages thriving and relationships thriving, it’s really just, it’s the reason that I do this. And so it’s, you know, any way that I can that people can have access to that, and I can provide that for them. I really am happy to do it.


Rachel Mitchell  50:54

Oh, that’s so awesome. Well, thank you for being on the show. Rachel, I have so enjoyed talking to you today. And I will link up Rachel’s information in the show notes. So if you want to follow her and get a hold of her take one of her courses, whatever it is, we’ll have all the information there. Thank you, Rachel.


Rachel Mitchell  51:13

Thank you so much.



In today’s episode, we have Rachel Mitchell, the founder of My Sweet Sleeper, talking to us about sleep. She’s a certified Pediatric & Maternity Sleep Consultant, former night nanny, and mom of six. Her breastfeeding-friendly approach to infant and parental is sleep is a refreshing break from all the books and articles out there that are full of conflicting information & advice.

Rachel and I discuss the important of setting the foundations for good sleep, as well as the major challenges new families face when it comes to this important topic.