The Dreamers #90 - With Fiona Weaver From Mamma Matters
If the mere thought of sleep training feels soul-crushing, Fiona Weaver, the force behind Mama Matters, is your saviour. Challenging the confusing messages prevalent in the baby sleep industry, Fiona champions the empowerment of new mothers with her guidance and support.
WELCOME TO THE DREAMERS.
I was on maternity leave with my second, Zali, when I started to get a fire in my belly about the overwhelming and confusing sleep advice that new mothers are being dealt. I had a very challenging sleeper the first time around. He still doesn't need a lot of sleep and likes to stay close, even at eight. But having a second who naturally did not need as much support for sleep and having the wisdom not to worry about it made me see just how detrimental much of this mainstream sleep advice is, and I wanted to be another voice. I studied a biologically normal infant sleep certification and started my Instagram. From there, it has grown and grown!
Hands down, it is the community. It's the connections I get to make with other mothers and professionals in this space. I feel honoured to hear people's stories and to have deep conversations. Nothing lights me up more than when I receive messages to say thank you and how Mama Matters has impacted their motherhood experience. It sounds wanky, but it is seriously the most I could ever ask for.
I think we need to get to more mothers before they're sucked into the behavioural sleep training vortex if they don't want to be. I also struggled to work in institutions before, and I adore the creativity and flexibility I have in working for myself. It's absolutely not always easy, and I drop a lot of balls, but I feel really grateful that I can organise my work around my needs, my kids' etc. I can go to my kids' sports days and things that are important to them without asking my boss for time off.
Could you tell us about your career in social work? Did this inspire your current journey with Mama Matters?
I was a Social Worker in a hospital for many years, working in the antenatal clinic and postnatal ward and later in paediatrics. Looking back and knowing how I work now, I am surprised I lasted that long there. To be honest - it's hard! But again, I just really loved to connect with patients, hear their stories and support them through any adversities. It was in my work in the community sector as an Early Intervention Parenting Clinician that I was seeing mothers in their early postpartum stressing about their baby's sleep - and it was robbing them of joy and confidence. I saw so many mothers with symptoms of depression and anxiety, and when you got to the bottom of it, the underlying theme was unrealistic expectations and pressures of sleep and behaviour. They wanted to do everything right, but it was hard because what's 'right' in the mainstream often goes against maternal instinct - which can quickly crush a mother's confidence. I felt like we needed to advocate for an alternative.
What are your top tips for new mothers when it comes to sleep for baby and mama?
1. Educate yourself:
Find out what's biologically normal from a trusted source (like me!) so that you know what to expect. You can download the first chapter of my sleep guide for free, which goes into what's normal, or I have a blog post on the same topic. I believe this honest information should be freely available to everyone.
2. Refrain from tracking:
You don't need to know how long your baby has slept. You don't need to count the number of wakes in the night. This can be a slippery slope, and at the end of the day, it's out of your control anyway - it's up to them how much sleep they take.
3. Align with your baby's rhythm:
The best thing you can do to help align your baby's rhythm with yours is to let light in first thing in the morning, get outside as much as possible, and then keep it dark and quiet during the night. This will help to set your baby's circadian rhythm nice and early. You don't need to nap in a dark room during the day - napping can be flexible and meet both your needs.
4. Keep them close:
Get a good carrier (wrap or clip carrier) and sleep with them close to you.
5. Prepare to bed share:
Even if you don't plan to, prepare to bed share because it's likely at some stage you will need to bring them to bed with you to get rest, and it's important you have a safe sleeping space. You can see my blog on bed sharing, too.
Any exciting plans for this year?
Hopefully, there will be more family adventures in the caravan, but Mama Matters-wise - we are trying to get my husband more involved (he's an operations and finance kinda guy) to grow the business. My membership is my greatest achievement, so I want to put more love and time into that. I am also creating something for other professionals who work with mothers. There's lots of good stuff coming, and I feel totally excited and energised by it!
Fav Banabae pieces?
I can't go past the rad mama and rad dad t-shirts for me and my husband!
I'm here to empower you to shift from the traditional sleep training culture and honour your baby as a little individual.
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