in conversation with: erika lamour
Erika Lamour is widely celebrated as one of the best in the business when it comes to children and sleep —The Sleep Dept, based in Sydney, has supported families across the globe with great success, thanks to their unique approach and expertise. Here, Erika explains the importance of setting sleep routines, reveals her tips for getting a good night’s sleep, and shares her personal experience of raising a young child with a disability. You can find out more about erika and her wonderful work on her Instagram thesleepdept.
Tell us about sleep dept and its key ethos.
"One of our instagram followers summed it up best - traditionally, sleep training is black & white and we are all about the grey areas!!! The Sleep Dept has evolved in the 5 years it has been established. Of course, our main focus is to help guide and support parents in bettering their little ones' sleep but we also believe it’s important to break down the stigmas around sleep training (and anything related to infant sleep) and help to re-educate parents when it comes to sleep expectations (FYI - there is no wrong way!)"
what motivated you to start your business?
"Initially, a love of babies! Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am baby obsessed. My first memory is of holding a baby (I often wonder if that has anything to do with my career choice). As the years went by, I found myself learning more and more about infant behaviours which ultimately led me to the world of infant sleep".
what is different about your approach to sleep routines and training?
"As I mentioned previously, our approach is not black and white. I don’t believe that a stock standard guide is going to work for the millions of babies out there, which is why we don’t offer stand alone guides, it’s always with the support of a sleep consultant so that they can be there every step of the way as you and your baby adapt to all of the big changes in their sleep. One of the most important things for us is to ensure that the parents are as comfortable as can be during the whole process."
aside from the obvious (getting a quality rest for baby, parents and family), why is creating good sleeping patters so essential for childrens' development?
"Sleep is essential for all stages of development. Most of our baby’s development happens while they sleep. Their memories are stored - your baby’s brain literally stores what they have learnt that day!"
are there any particular sleep stages or behaviours that may present during a child's development that are not well understood or discussed as much as you think they should be? if so, what are they?
"I really believe all of them are pretty misunderstood! Before we become parents, we have a basic understanding that we won’t be sleeping that great, but there is so much more to it! As an example, our babies will go through FIVE regressions between 4 months and 2 years. Typically, this is met with fear BUT it’s such an incredible leap in development for our child, that even though it may affect sleep, we should be looking at it as a progression. A HUGE positive, rather than a negative".
what are your top tips for ensuring good sleeping habits?
"In those first few weeks, try not to think too much about what you feel like you should be doing. Up until the 5-6 month mark, things are constantly changing, sometimes every day. Try and enjoy the moment with your new baby. In saying that, you don’t want an overtired baby on your hands all day (and night), so if I was to give one piece of advice for a new mum, it would be to be mindful of your little ones' awake times."
you yourself are a mother. what has the parenthood journey been like so far?
"I am. I have a nearly 2 year old son named Jay. Being Jay’s mum is my absolute favourite thing to be. It’s not been without challenges, but overall, I can understand why women say they were born to be mothers. I know this is true in our experience!"
you recently shared that your two-year-old son, Jay, was diagnosed with a disability just before his 1st birthday. how, if at all, did this change your outlook or approach to parenting, and your worldview in general?
"It changes absolutely everything. It changed our parenting style, it changed our approach to the world, it changed us as humans, it changed how my partner and I were as a couple, it changed how I approach my business. It changed everything. We are nearly a year since we found out and even though I know we have challenges ahead of us, it has opened up this whole new world for our family and I truly wouldn’t change that for the world. You have such an appreciation for every single tiny achievement your child makes, you make new friends who get you, you feel grateful that future children you may have will grow up with such an incredible sibling, you become a hard core advocate for your child and beyond that for disability in general. You have no choice but to fight and it creates this balance in you where you wont accept any BS but you also become so much more empathetic!"
receiving a disability diagnosis can be uncertain and unknown territory for parents. considering your own personal journey, what advice would you give to parents who are going through this experience?
"I can only go by our own experience, but for us it was all about communicating. My partner and I made it a priority to be open and honest with each other. That meant talking about our fears, decisions on whether we would have future children, asking for help when we need it, allowing our true emotions to come out (lots of crying in the first few months!). We also had to communicate openly with our friends and family. We had to make sure that outside of ourselves, we had people we could lean on and we were open about what we needed from these people from the start and it’s amazing to know that when it comes down to it, those people show up for you. For us, it was also important to dive straight into the disability world - that meant that we had to accept our new normal, find our A-Team of therapists, work out the NDIS (this is still a work in progress!), learn as much as we could about disability, connect with other families from our area - the list goes on! As hard as this has been, I also see it as a complete rebirth for me as a mother. Everything I thought I knew about being a mum went out the window and I am so grateful for that (now), because I can’t imagine being any other version of the mum I am now."
what wisdom or life advice would you like to pass on to your children?
Overall, I want my son (and any future children!) to be happy. We really can’t ask for more than that when it comes to our kids!
by Hannah Paul
To further explore and celebrate neurodiversity, we have included some brains, a book on neurodiveristy, to our curated selection of picture books. The heartwarming and funny book encourages us all to look for our strengths and to understand that brains are like fingerprints - uniquely, wonderfully ours.