"I'm afraid I'm causing bad habits!" - Every mom filled with guilt + concern over their child's sleep.
Macall is here to make you feel a whole lot better about how you’ve handled all things sleep - no matter how you’ve handled them!
Macall Gordon is a Senior Lecturer in the graduate Counseling Psychology program at Antioch University, Seattle. She's conducted and presented research on temperament, sleep, and parenting advice at conferences around the world. She is also a certified Gentle Sleep Coach in private practice and as a Featured Provider with the women’s telehealth platform, Maven Clinic, a mom to 2 twenty-somethings, and didn't sleep for 18 years :)
Together we shed light on common myths + misconceptions about sleep habits and sleep training, including Cry It Out, and how to find what will work for YOU and YOUR child.
IN THIS EPISODE, WE COVERED...
// MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE //
Book: Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History of Psychotherapy by Philip Cushman
Article: Low Ferritin: The little-known reason for chronic sleep issues
// CONNECT WITH MACALL GORDON //
Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok: @littlelivewires
Upcoming book (targeted for publication in late 2024) for parents about working on sleep with temperament in mind.
I believe in you & I'm cheering you on.
Come say hi! I'm @parent_wholeheartedly on Insta.
Book your FREE Consultation: wholeheartedly.as.me/call
Macall Gordon 0:00
I just got a, like a Tik Tok message from somebody who said, "Yeah, my pediatrician said to start crying it out at four months, which there's no research on using it at four months, by the way, four months, and he said he would cry for 15 minutes the first night. And after an hour and a half, I finally stopped and said, I can't do this. So what they find is that it is nowhere as easy or simple or as fast as any of the books will say. And so not only do they feel exhausted, because these are the kids that are waking up every hour or two. But nothing they have tried works. And none of the books talk about temperament. So they don't say, "hey, if your baby's crying for an hour, try this." Or, you know, maybe don't do it this way. If you have a more intense alert kid, it's not even on it's not part of the books at all. And so parents are left to go, "wow, why was that such a dumpster fire for me? I must really suck." And they put the blame on themselves.
Danielle Bettmann 1:08
Ever feel like you suck at this job, Motherhood I mean? Have too much anxiety... and not enough patience. Too much yelling, not enough play. There's no manual, no village, no guarantees. The stakes are high. We want so badly to get it right. This is survival mode. We're just trying to make it to bedtime. So if you're full of mom guilt, your temper scares you. You feel like you're screwing everything up. And you're afraid to admit any of those things out loud. This podcast is for you.
This is Failing Motherhood. I'm Danielle Bettmann. And each week we'll chat with a mom ready to be real. Sharing her insecurities, her fears, your failures and her wins. We do not have it all figured out. That's not the goal. The goal is to remind you, you are the mom your kids need. They need what you have. You are good enough and you're not alone. I hope you pop in earbuds somehow sneak away and get ready to hear some hope from the trenches. You belong here, friend. We're so glad you're here.
Hey, it's Danielle. I would venture to say that struggling with sleep and early parenting is about as universal as loving the show Bluey. But unfortunately, you still was feeling like you're failing your child in this department. With over 20 years of research in the field of studying sleep and infant mental health. Macall is here today to make you feel a whole lot better about how you've handled things, no matter how you handled them. So my guest today, Macall Gordon has a master's degree in Applied Psychology from Antioch University Seattle, where she is a senior lecturer in the graduate Counseling Psychology program. She also has a bachelor's in human biology from Stanford. She has conducted and presented research on temperament, sleep and parenting advice at conferences all around the world. She is a Certified Dental Sleep coach in private practice, as well as a featured provider on the women's telehealth platform Maven clinic and has been featured most recently on parents.com. She comes to this work because she had two sensitive, alert, intense children and didn't sleep for 18 years. On today's episode, we talked about it all starting of course, with all the ways she felt like she was failing her kids. After we dissect all the reasons why you're likely feeling like you're failing with sleep. We deconstruct the entire sleep industry as a whole, especially within the pillars of American culture. Macall shares her thoughts on how temperament, consumerism, and behaviorism contribute to misinformation and myths citing research, which is really important to understand as a parent. And while I had her, I also got her thoughts about sleep apnea, restless legs, and even melatonin. And of course, we talk about cry it out. But it's hope giving. I promise. You're going to leave this episode knowing what you no longer need to worry about what you do, and how good of a job you're actually doing. I can't wait for you to hear it. So let's dive in.
Welcome to Failing Motherhood. My name is Danielle Bettmann. And on today's episode, I'm joined by Macall Gordon. Welcome Macall. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Macall Gordon 4:33
I'm so excited. Thank you.
Danielle Bettmann 4:35
Course. So we just talked about how hard we have to focus on making this less than an hour of conversation. Because we were networking and we were just talking about all the things and geeking out about research and oh man, we could talk for hours. So I want to make sure that we use our time wisely. And I'm so excited number one to have you on because you know sleep is one of probably one of the big if there's a top five qualifier for feeling like you're failing at parenting. Sleep has got to be at the top of that list.
Macall Gordon 5:03
Yes. So true. And it doesn't have to be.
Danielle Bettmann 5:07
Oh, yes, yeah. So I think my qualifier for this episode is if your kid doesn't sleep, Macall probably knows why.
Macall Gordon 5:15
And it's not your fault, probably. There we go. Yes. Yeah.
Danielle Bettmann 5:19
So I already, you know, shared your bio in the intro, but go ahead and just introduce yourself, who are you? And who's in your family?
Macall Gordon 5:26
Oh, who's in my family? Oh, my goodness. Well, that's a whole different question. So I am Macall Gordon. I have a research based master's degree in infant mental health, but I focused on the research on infant sleep. So that was my whole focus for my master's degree. And then I taught research at a local university for years. But for the past seven years now, I've been a certified gentle sleep coach, specializing and working with kids who are just a little more intense and sensitive and alert, and I find are almost 100% of the kids who do not respond to the regular approaches to sleep. And so these parents really think they suck. They really think they've got it all wrong, and their sleep problems are way bigger. So I'm sure there's probably a ton of people listening who fit that bill 100%. My family I live in work in Woodinville, Washington outside of Seattle. And I have two grown live wires myself. Two grown alert sensitive kids. Yeah. So that's yeah, and two doggies. Also live wires, I would probably.
Danielle Bettmann 6:41
And I always have to prequalify every guest. Have you ever felt like you were failing motherhood? Constantly. I don't think I ever felt like I wasn't honestly, this is this is a fact of life of having these kids. Because nothing you read. And certainly none of your friends have the same problem. And then you literally are like, What is the matter with me? And I don't know that there's a great way of doing it. Without feeling that way. I'm not kidding. I still lay awake nights with a little litany of, you know, those things we do as moms going, Oh, why did I do that? That was a mistake. You know, constantly.
Macall Gordon 7:24
Yeah, no, I live in that world. Yes, totally. I'd like to be out of that world. Right.
Danielle Bettmann 7:32
There's a ticket out, let us know. I really want you to share the analogy. You wrote in about being in a batting cage.
Macall Gordon 7:39
Oh, god, yes. Okay, so I've never been in a batting cage. Just full disclosure, I really I write about it, but it's in my head. So I felt like when I was gonna become a mom, I really wanted to know and do it. Right. I really wanted to be intentional and have the information and really do it the best way I could. So I had this idea that it was like going into a batting cage, or maybe like one of those tennis courts where they shoot the balls at you. And I had read up on form, I had the right equipment, I had all the intention to do it to really swing that bat and hit that ball in the best way possible. And the machine started up started loving balls at me at a pace and at a speed that it was impossible for me to even get the bat up. I mean, it couldn't even get the bat up. All I could do was keep it from hitting me beating me in the head with a ball. Like there was no form. There was no hitting the ball there was just trying to stay alive. And I'm not kidding. That really was what it was like. And we all know that kids grow and change so I maybe get the bat up. And then my kids will be in the next phase and you are back to square one again. Just trying to stand upright. That pretty apt I think for me. Yeah. Yeah. getting pummeled with baseballs. Yeah, I'm 100% behind that. Yeah. Yeah, baseball, or tennis. Tennis balls are a little softer. Maybe that's why I don't use tennis. But yeah, just so fast and so hard and so much bigger than I ever felt prepared for we're able to process through. It was just all there was one other analogy there was a movie was with McNulty and Tracy Ullman. And he's an actor who had a daughter who didn't know about he has to go get this little girl and take her back to New York with him. And she's like five and curly headed and darling. And they're sitting in the airplane. And she says, I want my dolly and he's like, Oh, honey, she's in the bottom of the plane. We can't get her. He's been very cool, chill. I like my dolly. More explanation. Finally she starts screaming and then she goes "don't hit me!". And he's like I do. And she gets up and runs around the plane and runs into first class. And this flight attendant closes the curtain. And he just looks at the flight attendant and goes, I don't know what to do. And I was like, That was also iconic of my feeling of parenting. Like, I knew I was supposed to know what to do. And I did not know, I literally didn't know what I was supposed to do in that moment. That was also pretty constant.
Danielle Bettmann 10:33
Yeah, yeah. So fun. Yeah. More normal, then, you know, we expect that feeling to be when we talk about it. Let's we're just normalizing that right off the bat.
Macall Gordon 10:47
Yeah. And most parents, I mean, this segues into that parenting advice and information idea. Parents think the solution is Google, right or whatever. Thank goodness, thank the stars my kids are old enough that the internet was barely a thing when my first child was born, like not even a useful thing. And I'm really grateful, because I would have been one of those parents constantly looking for the new idea, the north star to guide me through these really bad feelings of I don't know what I'm doing. And I can say, I think more information is not for sure. It's not a solution. Because we all know, there's 8 million voices out there. And none of them particularly necessarily coherent in terms of like, oh, this is my source for everything. I mean, maybe you can find an expert you like there are a few that really talk about the breadth of parenting. But besides that, like parents are getting their stuff off of Instagram and Tik Tok and these little tiny snippets of information, and I do not know how parents put that all together in any kind of coherent form. Yeah,
Danielle Bettmann 12:05
Yeah, they might not is the problem.
Macall Gordon 12:07
Yeah. And then you don't know which end is up. And really, I would say a lot of my work as a sleep coach is saying, let's just shut all that down. You know, it's not as dire it's not as hard. It's not as cut and dry. It's not as black and white is all these sources are making it sound. And it's important to remember that advice and research, they're talking about a certain slice of children, usually right down the center of that bell curve. If your kid is on one side or the other on whatever it is, you're thinking of, that advice is not talking about you anymore. It's just not. And parents do not get that message, we all get that message of like, oh, at eight months, babies should or babies are really its babies are, are crawling, babies can sleep through the night or whatever. And parents, I think, hear that and say, well, that's the benchmark. That's not a slice of children. And then the variation is huge, which is the reality. They see it as the benchmark to reach. And I really think that's where we get into trouble is that then there's tons and tons of people who feel like they're not measuring up.
Danielle Bettmann 13:29
Macall Gordon 13:30
It's not the case that babies should be crawling by eight months has a massive window of still normal, faster and slower than eight months. And parents, I don't think get that message. And so they're, you know, running and running and struggling and struggling when they don't have to be. I mean, really, I tell so many parents constantly. That's normal. That's normal. Yeah, that's really normal. Yeah. Did you know Most babies are doing it that way right now.
Danielle Bettmann 14:01
Macall Gordon 14:02
Yeah, yeah. But it's also just true. And it's funny. It's too bad. That it has to be a shock or a surprise or an unusual thing to tell parents. On the flip side of that. I also hear parents with babies with identifiable problems. And the pediatrician is the one going that's normal. That's normal. No, no, that's not normal. That's actually something.
Danielle Bettmann 14:27
And that's what makes us feel like we can't trust her gut, because then we have these conflicting messages from professionals.
Macall Gordon 14:33
Yeah. Right. Yeah, that's an excellent point. You they've got you're coming and going, right, like parents will take a three mental baby and say, the book says, I have to let him start crying. That doesn't feel right. But the experts say I need to, okay, dang, number one. Then they go, you know, my baby's really screaming. I think he's got like, reflux or something going on. So they go to their pediatrician and the pediatrician says, Know that crying is normal. You just need to do more crying it out. Yeah, you're right. It's discounting gut feelings on both sides. Yeah. It's awful.
Danielle Bettmann 15:12
So before we dive into really just, you know, a whole bunch of controversial things, what specifically felt really hard about your early years of motherhood? If you could just give us a glimpse a window into those years of yours?
Macall Gordon 15:28
Oh, well, it wasn't hard. I had a really long labor. So right in it, and you hear this right from the get go was like, wow, this is so much harder than I thought. My daughter had colic, screaming, crying for eight hours a day. And I was, I don't wanna say I was by myself. I mean, I had my husband, but he was at work. And I didn't have family around. So I was on my own kind of with this screaming child, nothing worked. The staff would all say, Oh, well, you'll do this, you know, X, Y, or Z, and your baby will sue them, then you'll get the feeling of I know what I'm doing. I never got that ever. Not once. And so she was just outside the box from the get go. And that was pretty constant. I mean, that she's 28 is still like me, she's still outside the box. Really? Yeah, that was that tract. So it was just a lot of work and a lot of worry. And a lot of just hoping that I was doing it as best I could, right? Because nothing we were even doing all the attachment parenting stuff, because that was going to be supposedly some kind of cure all. It was not, it was not. So I've got a really good picture of both ends of the spectrum that neither end works for everybody. It really nothing is a magical cure. And then I had my son till they were 20 months apart, which I have to say is too close. I went 15 months. And I agree.
Too close. Yeah. So it was just busy. It was just busy. And they were great and wonderful. But I just never I don't feel like I ever got my feet underneath me to feel like okay, I got the hang of this. Never not once.
Danielle Bettmann 17:13
And one of the things you said that struck me the first time we talked was you said if I had given myself a break, she could have had one too.
Macall Gordon 17:21
Oh, yeah. During labor. Yeah. So that was another thing that happened that set sort of a template, which is that I vowed, again, batting cage, I was not going to do any kind of pain relief. I was like, No, I can do it wrong. Or, you know, oh, I can do it. Because I also wanted it to be okay for her. So I didn't want to do anything that was potentially, you know, going to harm her. But it was a long, long labor from moment one, it was hard. And I see the template. And I remember at one point, you know, my labor had started at like, 11 at night. So I went a number of hours without sleep. And I was like, Okay, I asked the nurse, it was like, what would it take for me to just get a little bit of sleep? And she was like, well, you can have some morphine. I was like, Wow, I can't take aspirin but morphine, okay. And I said, Well, that's will the labor keep going while I'm sleeping? She said, Oh, no, no, it won't. It'll stop as hell no, no, like, we're going to keep going. And now I look back on that. And I thought, you know, I bet that was a hard process for the baby as well. And if I had said, Okay, I'm gonna do something so that I have more stamina, might have given her a break as well. And I mean, I'll never know the answer to that. But it was something that played out. And that I often tell moms now, which is that, you know, I tried to tough it out so many times. And I know that I wasn't a good mom on many days, because I was just exhausted. And if I had prioritized getting a little teeny break every day, yeah, it wouldn't have solved anything, it wouldn't have solved the problem. But it might have given me a tiny little bit of gas in my tank. So I could think more clearly on some days. That was a big, you know, mistake in a way that or a blind spot in me that I really am quite vocal about with new moms. Yeah, you gotta get little teeny breaks and know that you might not feel like it's doing anything in the moment, but it totally is. Totally as Yeah,
Danielle Bettmann 19:40
The compound interest just either builds up or erodes away either one.
Macall Gordon 19:43
Right! Yeah, I remember just being frustrated. I remember one day my husband goes, just please just go take a walk. And I was you know, I was like, cry. I was a bad day. And I said, but I'm just gonna have to come back. Oh, like I was that tired? But in my mind, a walk wasn't going to solve my problem. So therefore, I wasn't going to do it. And that was really dumb. dumb, dumb, dumb. Yeah, looking back.
Danielle Bettmann 20:11
But I mean, you're speaking to the people who need to hear it likely because
Macall Gordon 20:15
I know right? Yeah. Don't do what I did. Yeah. Yeah, don't be me.
Danielle Bettmann 20:21
That's the value of hindsight. And we'll all have things to turn around and say I should have done that differently. So there's no getting out of motherhood, regret free.
Macall Gordon 20:29
Yes, yes. I'd like to talk to that person. I sometimes, no, but I sometimes wonder. And I've maybe it's not possible now. But I sometimes wonder if parents who are doing their parenting in a very congruent way with the way they were raised? Right there like, because I think there is some parenting that becomes hardwired based on your own experience as a child and the stuff that you saw. And that stuff is easy to recreate. And I sometimes wonder if there are parents who are parenting, similarly from their own parents, and maybe they're in a community they have, there's lots of support, and very easy children. Maybe if you can get out of this going, yeah. Iraq, I feel great. I don't know maybe now with all the information, you can't escape that anymore. I'm not sure. write into us and tell us.
Danielle Bettmann 21:27
Tell us the secret if you're there or a lot of times it's I feel like I'm doing really great, batting 1000 with my you know, the first child and then that gives you the too much confidence going into the second and then you have to forget everything you learned doesn't work.
Macall Gordon 21:43
Yeah, that's the other thing is I think that parents don't know until it happens is that you don't just roll out the second one, right? Like you're like, Oh, I've got the whole thing done. Now I just roll it out. Either you get kid amnesia, which I've seen parents have a lot if there's a gap, right? They're like, I've totally forgot what we did. The first one, or the second one is so totally different from the first that it's like having a new kid. I've seen that frequently. Yeah, definitely.
Danielle Bettmann 22:34
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So you specialize in live wires. Go ahead and just define what that is and kind of how you came to that realization.
Macall Gordon 25:12
Yeah. So there's lots of terms for different kind of constellations of temperament in the ballpark of what I'm talking about. So spiritedness. Dr. Sears talks about high needs kids. There's highly sensitive kids. That's all in a similar zone, as a Livewire Livewire. I like the term just because it sort of speaks to kids who have just a little more current running through their wiring. So these kids can be not all of these things, but they're just a notch or four above other kids on things like alertness in social like engagement. People will say it's like he has FOMO if you've said that about your kid you totally have a Livewire, just don't even question it. FOMO kind of intense, meaning everything's a big deal doesn't have to be negative. It's everything's a big deal. Persistent as all get out, perceptive, doesn't miss a thing hates transitions. Often sensory sensitive, these kids hate the swaddle, they may hate the car seat. They're the ones that you try to transfer them to the crib, and it's like, you've got a stick of dynamite, right? Like the minute they hit the crib, their eyes pop open enough to start all over again, these are the kids that like to be bounced on yoga balls versus a rocking chair. There are certain characteristics that seem to be really consistent across many, many, many, many kids. So you're like, well, this seems like a thing. And it certainly was for my daughter, you know, the minute I met her, when they took her away for a while, and they brought her back in and when was little glass bassinet. And she it was not like that fuzzy newborn kind of thing. It was like laser beams. Like she was looking at me straight as an arrow. And I thought is that normal? Newborns do weird. And that's what a lot of parents will say. So I came to it. Because this was my experience, like my child was just not like the other ones I was seeing or reading about. And what that does to you as a parent is again, it puts you farther outside that parenting circle, where you feel like, this is not what I signed up for this is so much harder, nothing is working the way they say it's going to and sleep is 1,000%. On that list. Yeah, these kids sleep. It's just way harder, right? From usually right from the start, like from birth, they just don't really sleep.
Danielle Bettmann 27:53
And what do parents come to you believing? That is like a myth or that is like way off base? Or, you know, is it just all self blame? Like where, you know, how do they come to you?
Macall Gordon 28:07
Well, they're often extremely exhausted, because and I did some research on the effect of temperament on sleep and sleep training. And these parents have usually gone through all the methods. They're like, Oh, I just got a, like a Tik Tok message from somebody who said, Yeah, my pediatrician said, to start crying it out at four months, which there's no research on using it at four months, by the way, four months, and he said he would cry for 15 minutes the first night. And after an hour and a half, I finally stopped and said, I can't do this. So what they find is that it is nowhere as easy or simple or as fast as any of the books will say. And so not only do they feel exhausted, because these are the kids that are waking up every hour or two. But nothing they have tried works. And none of the books talk about temperament. So they don't say, hey, if your baby's crying for an hour, try this. Or, you know, maybe don't do it this way. If you have a more intense alert kid, it's not even on it's not part of the books at all. And so parents are left to go, wow, why was that such a dumpster fire for me? I must really sock and they put the blame on themselves. Because the sleep advice never says, Hey, this isn't going to work for every kid. Most of them say if you do it right, this will work for every child at every age, in every family context, and that it cannot be farther from the truth. I mean, that's honestly just can I say it's a lie. It's just a lie.
Danielle Bettmann 29:49
Yeah, because it's either got to be if it fails, it's either got to be, you know, my fault as the person doing the intervention or it's got to be something else and if they're not giving me any other reason Gotta be that I did it wrong.
Macall Gordon 30:01
Yeah, exactly. Which is bizarre. I mean, we get a whole conversation about kind of the bonkers assumptions and meta messages in sleep research and advice, because a lot of it is just darn crazy making.
Danielle Bettmann 30:16
But yeah, I kind of wanted to get into that next Yeah.
Macall Gordon 30:20
They'll say start early because babies are malleable. But oh, by the way, don't start a bad habit, because babies will never change. What's that? You can't be both of those things. You can't have both of those things. You know, you better start early, or you're going to develop bad habits. Well, we don't tell parents not to carry their children, because they'll have a bad carrying habit that the baby will never learn to walk. We know babies will walk when they're old enough, and they have the infrastructure to do it. But for some reason, we have gotten crazy about sleep skills and sleep habits. And we're telling parents to do things at Crazy early ages, where babies have almost nothing going for them. And we're worried about habits. We're worried about sleep crutches and all this negative shame-y stuff. That's just not necessary. And I think it's on every parent, not just parents of live wires. They're particularly struggling. But all parents because I talk to hundreds of parents a month in my telehealth work, parents of three week old babies who are like, Well, I've been told, don't hold this baby too much, or they'll get used to it. Three weeks, like that baby's just barely figuring out gravity and air. Like, let's give them a break, shall we? Yeah. You know, and so parents are all, you know, I've gotten people who are pregnant, wanting to know all about sleep so that they do it right. Again, that batting cage thing, I really want to do it right. And, you know, I have to say, look, you can breathe, you have time, you have time to try things out, you have time to figure out who this baby is who you are, you literally cannot make a mistake. You can't that you can't just recover from or make a different choice, this idea of bad habits, if I could erase it from parents consciousness, and from every source of parenting advice, I totally would. Because that's the one that's the piece that's awful. Parents will go, Well, I'm sorry. I mean, they think that they know what I want to hear. And so there, they tell me like, Okay, I'm your sleep coach. So I know, I know, I'm doing all the bad things. I'm holding my one month old while they sleep. It really works. But I really I know, it's a bad habit. My heart absolutely breaks for them. Because not only is it not a bad thing, it's actually a good thing for little babies, for them to be near you and on you on listening to your heartbeat listening to your breathing, it actually is tuning their system. So being on you is where a brand new baby needs to be. And so parents have that instinct, that it's the right thing to do. But they're made to feel guilty and worried about it. And I really think that that's a bad thing that we're doing to parents. I think it's bad.
Danielle Bettmann 33:30
Oh, so agree. And, like, it's so much bigger than even just that. So in our conversation before we kind of zoomed out to like the sleep industry as a whole. And, you know, kind of just looking at that from your angle, which remind the people your credibility factors, because, you know, it's not just like, you know, mom that didn't get it right the first time and as angry, right, like, remind them of your credibility in the research field so that they can really take you seriously.
Macall Gordon 34:01
Yes, so I got into graduate school because I was reading magazines at the time that said, Oh, it's really important to be responsive in the first few years, you know, when the brain is critical periods, all that. But by the way, start earlier and earlier to start letting babies cry it out at night. And I thought that I don't get that that there must be research, there must be research, it must be really proven that that's okay to do. And so I started looking and I wasn't finding anything. But when I finally decided to go to graduate school, that was the focus of my whole field. So literally for more than 20 years now, I've looked at all the research that goes underneath all that sleep advice. So when advice says cry it out is fast. I'm looking at the research well, how fast actually was it in the research? It totally works well. How well did it work in the studies that they're citing? For example, in studies across studies, the extinction they call it did not work for between 25 and 50% of the sample in the studies 25 and 50%. Parents do not get that message from the research. So I really know that work backwards and forwards. And I know, the shenanigans, honestly, that have happened in translating that research to parents in books and sleep books and articles and things like that, because it's really easy to go, research says with this big broad brush, and then to say something that is totally wrong. Here's a great example. Sleep Problems cause ADHD, okay, first of all, research will never say cause, number one, to they're correlated. That means big sleep problems in if they're unaddressed, if you just let them go, those kids were more likely to ultimately be diagnosed with ADHD. My perspective on that is that there's something that underlies both which is sensory sensitivity. kid who has sensory processing difficulties, will have problems sleeping, and they may get diagnosed, potentially incorrectly, but diagnosed with ADHD, did the sleep cause ADHD? Not in any stretch of the imagination, but that's in many sleep books. You better get that baby sleeping, or they'll get ADHD. Like, that's not a thing. It's not a thing drives me bonkers.
Danielle Bettmann 36:40
So what is the in your opinion, the underlying motivation of a lot of the myths citing of research or the kind of fear based marketing or you know, a lot of the things that come across as, you know, the things to buy, or the things to watch out for, where's that all coming from?
Macall Gordon 37:02
It's things to buy. We cannot discount this wonderful man. Phillip Cushman wrote a great book on this called Becoming America becoming the self I think, and it's all about sort of our American culture and psychology. And he identifies three cultural values: self reliance, autonomy, or independence and consumerism. And if you think about sleep advice, very, very, those are very strong, right? Autonomy and self reliance, a baby has to be in charge of their own sleep, and and consumerism, a baby needs to be in their own room, okay, then they're going to need a crib and a monitor and a, you know, all the stuff all the gadgets, we have to remember, they say that the parenting consumers is a recycling market, meaning you get people who go out of having a baby, but new people come in, and they're brand new, and then they go out of being babies, and then a new crop comes in. So it's this very specific kind of regenerating market who's very vulnerable to wanting to do the best for their baby. And now we just have a million different, you know, swaddles and a million different gadgets that you can put on your baby to monitor them while they sleep and cameras, and I mean, it's a huge thing. So we can't doesn't mean that's all bad. It's just we have to acknowledge that there can be an underlying motivation. I would say that people who write sleep books truly want people to get better sleep, I really I do, I think they do. But they're not, they're only serving a small subset of the population. And that means there's a big swath of parents who are not served by that information. Because their baby is not that baby or their child is not that child. You know, you take a mellow child, and they're having a little bit of a meltdown. And you can go, Hey, buddy, how's it going? You know, you do the most minor thing, and that kid looks up at you and goes, thanks, Mom. You know, like, I was thought of TV parents right? after school special, that never happened for me, right? You know, and then like I said, you try what the books say, and it blows up in your face. And then they don't give you a plan B. They don't say hey, if this doesn't work, try this other thing. They just say, Oh, you just have to try harder. Or by this new book, no. New Book.
Danielle Bettmann 39:35
So it sounds like they're like temperament is a huge thing that affects sleep. Yeah. And you know, the way that you need to view the sleep industry consumerism as another one because of course, there's going to be another new product around the corner for the next season of parents to buy into, right like the Merlin's Magic sleepsuit. I mean, yep, we definitely had one of those. Yeah, so we are I was right there with you.
Macall Gordon 39:59
Yeah, those are good. Until me pediatric said, Oh, no can't use those anymore. Like great.
Danielle Bettmann 40:06
Of course, of course. Another reason to feel like I did something to harm my baby. And then like the other one we talked about was behaviorism. Yeah. So like, how does that play into some of these plans that are created?
Macall Gordon 40:21
Oh my god. Yeah, that's another bonkers thing. So all of sleep, search and advice, all of it, the whole cried out thing is based in behaviorism. Behaviorism means it was kind of came into being in the 1920s. And it was the idea that babies are a blank slate, and literally, the only thing they become is based on whatever happens to them in the environment. So they are 100% a product of experience, which we absolutely know is not true. If someone said that about babies, right now, they would be laughed out of the room, right? Like, we don't believe that. But that's what sleep is all about is that babies only will respond to what we do and what we reinforce. So it's all about reinforcement for certain behaviors. So the behavior is waking and crying. And we when we go in and try to help the baby that's reinforcing the waking and cry. So it from that perspective, the crying has a no meaning at all. Crying is totally meaningless, benign, and the baby brings nothing to the table. No biology, no temperament, no nothing. It's all behavior. It's all boiled down to behavior. And that's why they also say, if it doesn't work, you did it wrong, because there are no other factors, according to behaviorism behaviorism zeroes out every other variable besides what they call the operant behavior. So waking and crying, and whatever the parent does. Now, again, we don't use behaviorism. In any other aspects of child development. We don't I mean, we used to say with temper tantrums, right, that you just have to put them in a timeout and leave the room, because if you give it attention, it'll keep happening. I don't think we say that to people anymore. I mean, you'd know better than me, but I don't think that's a thing anymore.
Danielle Bettmann 42:25
It's still out there. A lot of in-laws will chime in and say that.
Macall Gordon 42:29
Professionals aren't endorsing it? Hopefully not. Because we understand yes, we understand that there are lots of reasons for meltdowns and you know, different strategies. We don't just look at it as a meaningless behavior. But waking and crying is somewhat meaningless, whatever. They also see crying is a totally benign activity with zero impact on the child or on the parent, really. I mean, they acknowledge the impact on the parent, but they do it in a very shame-y way. They always go well, the biggest obstacle to the true implementation of extinction is parents lack of ability to withstand crying. So number one, it's looked at as weak and misinformed, they'll say, Well, parents just don't understand. They just don't, you know, it's so gross. So what we have to do, rather than giving them an alternative approach, we just have to talk them into being better at waiting out the crying. So there's a lot of work on what they call cognitive restructuring, talking parents into it, telling parents that it's okay to do all kinds of this work, rather than saying, hey, hmm, this crying thing's not working for everybody. Maybe we should come up with a different idea. They don't they just double down on the behaviorism.
Danielle Bettmann 43:52
Is that similar to the limit setting disorder? You mentioned?
Macall Gordon 43:56
Yes. Oh, my God. So research gets done, right. And researchers like to jump on a train that's already running. They don't want to start a new train. So the train got running on extinction on behaviorism, people started jumping on and then suddenly you have more studies, then someone says, oh, great, let's do a review of all these studies. And then you get a lit review. And then you get somebody else doing something called a meta analysis. Now they look at this train, and they go look at what do we know, across all these studies? And then someone says how we should write this up for pediatricians. And suddenly, it's the thing to be done. And then people go, Well, extinction really does have the most research as like, yeah, because no one is doing other work. They're not starting new trains. They're just jumping on the one that already exists. And so yes, it's become this field called behavioral sleep medicine. And they actually have diagnoses of disorders and one of them is called sleep onset disorder, proto disomnia, or some big fancy word. And that just means a baby who are child who can't fall asleep. And then there's another one called limit setting disorder. And they're not talking about the baby. They're talking about the parent not being able to set a limit, meaning let the baby cry it out. It's bananas. It's really like this structure that's been built. And what I'm trying to do is critique the foundation of it. And people are like, Yeah, but look at this big tall building. And it's like, yeah, but the whole premise needs to be rethought. Right? Yeah, we need a new premise, we need a whole new idea. Which is, you know, it's just a little thing I'm trying to,
Danielle Bettmann 45:50
Like you do. No big deal. Just a little thing.
Macall Gordon 45:55
I know, I'm finding honestly, there's moments where I'm scared to death because people have very strong feelings, I'm sure. And again, this is kind of a bastion of research. Like, it's a whole big field with very smart people. And I'm sort of sitting here going. I mean, it's like I say, it's like Emperor's New Clothes on like, something's not working here. We'll see.
Danielle Bettmann 46:20
So to not have listeners, walk away even more confused, and overthinking, and you know, just lost. What hope can you give? And what things can they take away that are tangible, that you know, do matter, and that they can focus on and maybe reframe in a healthy way?
Macall Gordon 46:41
Right, perfect. I'll do it fast. Pre- 6 months, really, you can do whatever works. Honestly, there is nothing wrong. If sleep is okay and manageable. You do you. It's all good. You can do whatever works right up until the moment you decide to change. There's also no "too late" for working on sleep. Any moment that you decide things are not working for you, you can change them. There is no such thing as too late. I don't get that idea. I just have not seen it happen. If you have a live wire, bless your heart, you do not suck as a parent, you just have a harder kid who's worse at sleep. But I promise you they're incredibly smart and incredibly sensitive. And movers and shakers. Yay.
Danielle Bettmann 47:27
Yes, we love them over here.
Macall Gordon 47:29
Tired parents are going yay. Yes. The last piece is that there are alternatives to the regular crying it out. So sleep training is synonymous with crying it out, you do not have to leave the room, you do not have to let them scream their head off. I'm trained in the Sleep Lady Approach, which is allows you to stay with them. And then gradually wean down what you do. But listen, honestly, parents can make their own method. It's not rocket science. Whatever you're doing to help your baby go to sleep or your child do less. If you've got a toddler and you're fully lined with them for an hour and a half, sit up in the bed and then sit on the floor and then start moving. They're not going to love it, you're not going to do something that the child goes, hey, no big deal. They're gonna hate it. But that's okay. That's okay. It's okay that they'll hate it. Because you're right there, you're supporting them, you're encouraging them, you're just not going to do the work. So there are alternatives. They're just they don't get as much press as again, the train leaving the station, there are other trains that you can get on, I promise.
Danielle Bettmann 48:39
And for the parents that years ago now did do some sort of cry it out. I don't also want them to hear that they did it wrong. And they're bad and you know, they should know sit with that regret for 20 more years. No,
Macall Gordon 48:51
listen, no 1,000% Bless their hearts because people you know, a lot of people use it and it is truly no big deal. Honestly, I always tell people if you did it and it was easy and quick and not a lot of drama. There are plenty of people that that's true for good for you. If you did it and it was a lot of drama, but you made it through listen that for years and years that was literally the only option and if you were losing your mind with sleep and that was the only option 1,000% I'm so glad that you got through it. My big message is from now forward, you shouldn't feel bullied into using it you don't have to use it. But if you do or you want to or some babies that's your literally your only choice because staying with them doesn't really work. That's okay we just don't want it to be the only choice that's my only you know, big soapbox message.
Danielle Bettmann 49:54
You're gonna bring somebody to tears just that that message alone. I know it. Yeah,
Macall Gordon 49:59
yeah. I know I feel bad for people, my mom still, you know, how old am I? And she was pregnant. They were losing their mind. I kept losing my pacifier. I was like 18 months old. And they let me cry one night. And I think to this day, my mom still feels bad. I've said, Mom, it's okay. I think I'm fine. Let it go. Let it go.
Danielle Bettmann 50:23
Yes. Oh, but it's so hard. It just eats away at you. You want to get it right. You want to get it right. Oh, just Yeah. But you don't even have the capacity.
Macall Gordon 50:32
You don't have the capacity. And really, I also tell parents, give yourself lots of grace. Give yourself lots of be really gentle with yourself. Because I remember that feeling that I don't know what to do. But feeling of like, I know I need to know what to do. I'm so upset. I'm so frayed, I'm so at a loss. And your kids still need to there's no moment to hit pause. There's no morphine to take a break, and come back to it. It just keeps coming at you. And that's what parenting is like. So no, that's going to happen. No, it happens to all of us. And just give yourself a huge, you know, big pat on the back for working as hard as you are. I'm going to do that myself. I'm going to do that myself today.
Danielle Bettmann 51:20
Yes, me to me, too. That is the heart behind this whole podcast. So we can't go on episode without mentioning that for sure. And while I have your time, we will throw out that aspect too that there may be other things going on, like sleep apnea, or terrors or restless legs. So what you want to throw out as a caveat about that.
Macall Gordon 51:43
Yeah, real fast, just really, really fast. If your child's snores outside of a cold, you know, or breathe through their mouth more chronically, no kid should really snore, if they don't have a cold. So get that checked. Kids' bad sleep, it can be related to obstructed breathing. So just get it checked. In littler kids lip and tongue tie huge wasn't a thing when I was a mom, but it can impact feeding that therefore it can impact their breathing. Even older kids who might have not gotten that diagnosed, it can impact their breathing because it impacts how their mouth is oriented. If you've had really bad sleep problems, and this means it takes your child an hour or more to fall asleep and or they're awake for an hour or two every night. Restless, kicking, standing, can't get comfortable.... Little kids can have restless legs syndrome, believe it or not, or if they complain, and you think it's just growing pains, almost 100%, low ferritin. I would tell people contact me or on my website, there is an article called, you know, the low ferritin the cause of chronic sleep problems, it's more common than you think. If you have a really big bad sleep problem that has not moved. I see it more frequently than you would expect. And pediatricians are not looking for it. So I do know lots of people who are really it's bad. It's bad, bad bad. One of my first moms that I found this in had to stand with her 15 month old from 12 to five in the morning. Oh no, she had to stand with him. Other parents had to get their three year old and drive him in the car every time he woke up, because that's the only way he go back to sleep. So if you have big like the problem is huge. Contact me or read this article. And I'm happy to talk to people about that if they think it sounds like them.
Danielle Bettmann 53:39
Yeah, I think it's important to balance out what we don't need to worry about and what is worth worrying about. That way we know where we're at on the spectrum. You know what I mean?
Macall Gordon 53:49
Totally, totally. I often tell parents like, look, there's normal waking there is like slightly higher waking due to a sensitive kid. And then there's like, my baby's waking up every 45 minutes or an hour, then we go Hmm, that's a little more than we'd expect. Let's just rule some stuff out. Right, let's rule out feeding issues, reflux, all the things so 100% There's, if you're up in that zone of like, okay, this is even more than we'd expect for a sensitive kid. It's time to really push to get it checked out. Yeah,
Danielle Bettmann 54:26
yeah. And do you have, you know, you might not want to know the record, but do you have an opinion on melatonin?
Macall Gordon 54:32
I don't because it's a hormone, right? It's a hormone. People need to though also remember that melatonin is only for sleep onset. It is not a sleeping supplement. It will not keep your child asleep if all it does is technically help them go to sleep. But you always have to check with your pediatrician for dosage and safety and all of that. So I just I defer that one. But as long as people know, like I said it's not a panacea. Yeah, it's not going to all of a sudden make your kid sleep through the night. That won't happen.
Danielle Bettmann 55:05
And okay, that's super good to just throw out there because yeah, I think it's still really unregulated and unresearched from overall, right?
Macall Gordon 55:15
Yeah, and also just important to know that there's lots of parents, especially with live wires who have in I think, tucked away in their head, a little magical wish that there is something they could do that's not sleep training, that will fix sleep, or that something they can do that their child won't notice that they can just slide in there, and suddenly their child is going to go to sleep. And I get the magical thinking I really do. Or the wishful thinking but chances are that there's not a thing that's going to suddenly you know, there's no suit, there's no supplement that's just automatically going to make your child a great sleeper. It's gonna take some work, though. Tough Love.
Danielle Bettmann 56:03
So is there anything else that you feel like moms or listeners need to hear? Overall, that it's it's always on your heart, you want to share?
Macall Gordon 56:12
Yeah, sleep is not the most important thing you will ever do for your child. Right? It's one battle, it's one battle that you're going to fight because eventually that child will sleep. And then the next battles are coming down the pike. So, you know, that's a good part of kind of having a longer view is like, I wish sleep were the only frontier. I wish, I wish it was smooth sailing after that, but they come fast and furious. And so just know that your child is not going to be it's not make or break that you've got to get sleep handled right now. And then your kid will have this smooth, perfect. Future. Sleep is great. We need it. They need it. It's great, but it's not the be all and end all of your parenting journey. It's just one small bump in a very long I say the parenting road is long pace yourself. Pace yourself.
Danielle Bettmann 57:07
X max. Pace yourself and pack snacks. I love that.
Macall Gordon 57:14
Yeah, yeah. Wearing good shoes. Long Road. Yeah,
Danielle Bettmann 57:19
it's so true. And then yet, all of a sudden, it'll be like a blink of the eye. And like that was the longest shortest years. Yep.
Macall Gordon 57:26
Yeah. No, I love that. I love that. That phrase. So true. So true. I remember people would go, Oh, this time, it goes so fast. And I'd be like, does it sort of feels like a glacier. It's like, no, it's forever. And I can tell you, it's when they hit middle school that all of a sudden someone hits the fast forward button. And I know for people with babies, it sounds like a million years. And it kind of is but boy Oh, boy, that last part is fast. It's fast. Yeah. Yeah. It speeds up. I think every year kind of speeds up on the last. It does. It speeds up. Yeah, for sure. Cool.
Danielle Bettmann 58:02
So how can listeners connect with you?
Macall Gordon 58:05
Yeah, all of my website and socials are all under @littlelivewires, all, you know, kind of smushed together one word. So Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, website, @littlelivewires. And eventually I do have a contract for a book, but it's going to be out like end of 2024. So I'll let people know. But it's gonna be a very short book, very easy to read.
Danielle Bettmann 58:29
Nice, that's important. Well, whenever it's out, I will tag it to the show notes. Because you know, people listen to episodes forever into the future. So that will be an awesome resource. And thank you for taking the time to put that all into development. So the last question that I ask every guest that comes on, is how are you the mom that your kids need?
Macall Gordon 58:50
Oh, my goodness. Wow. That's a great question. Am I? I guess I am, I would never have. I mean, I thought there I was just the mom that they got. Well, I learned that I'm a sensitive, intense, engaged, alert adult, and who wanted them to be fully in their own power. Right. I didn't ever want to diminish the I wanted to be able to hold both the upsides and challenges of their temperament. Right. So knowing that if they were putting up a fight, I thought, yeah, I want them to be persistent, ultimately. So I really felt like I held all of it, the good and the bad and the dark and the light for them and tried to see their sort of better angels, even in those horrible moments. Now I just have to do that for myself. Eight. Yeah, weird. Yeah, introspection.
Danielle Bettmann 59:54
I'll let you chew on that. All right, thank you. Oh, that's so perfect. because it fits with everything you shared already. And it sounds like they are really lucky to have you taking this whole thing on from where it started to where it is now. And you know, you can only do that when it's that personal passion project that comes from, you know, this desire inside you to want to do well for your kids first, and then you know, it flows from there, so you can totally see it's so evident. Yeah,
Macall Gordon 1:00:25
yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I tell people, it's like, I don't come to this work because I nailed sleep at all. Like, I know what you are feeling. I know what that fatigue is. I know what that feeling of desperation and helplessness and hopelessness is. So I think that's sort of the some of the secret sauce because you have to understand that with parents. Yep. That they're not coming to this just Oh, because I didn't think of doing it a different way. It's like, no, no, no. They're at a low ebb and we have to build them up.
Danielle Bettmann 1:00:56
Yes, yeah. Yep. Meaning them exactly where they're at. And you can do that really well. Yeah.
Macall Gordon 1:01:01
Thank you so much. Thank you.
Danielle Bettmann 1:01:03
This is great. I feel like we did it. We got to all the things and I cannot wait to share this episode. I feel like every parent needs to hear it. So great. Thanks again for taking the time.
Macall Gordon 1:01:13
Danielle Bettmann 1:01:19
Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of Failing Motherhood. Your kids are so lucky to have you. If you loved this episode, take a screenshot right now and share it in your Instagram stories and tag me.
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