S3E10: 'Being Maman' with Alexia Maman, MSW | Baby's Best Sleep

Voice Over: (00:00)
You’re listening to the slumber party podcast with your host, Amanda Jewson, a mom of two girls, a child and infant sleep expert and general sleep lover. If you’re a tired parent who is desperate for answers or just someone who loves sleep, this podcast was created just for you. Each episode is packed full of tips and tricks to help you maintain your sanity as well as your social life during the early stages of Parenthood. So grab your headphones, it’s time to get comfy!

Amanda: (00:35)
Okay. Hi everyone. In today’s episode I’m speaking with Alexia Maman. That’s no joke. Her name is actually Maman, which means mom in French. She is a former client, so we speak a little bit about her personal experience, but most of all she’s a registered social worker. She has her Master’s in social work and we talk a lot about her work previously with pregnant moms, postpartum moms, and some of the work she’s done. We ended the episode with an awesome, little reminder of some of the things that you can do if you are struggling postpartum. She was so great to talk to you and I think you’re going to love the episode. Enjoy!

Amanda: (01:18)
Hello, Alexia.

Alexia: (01:19)
Hi.

Amanda: (01:21)
How are you?

Alexia: (01:22)
I’m great, thank you. I’m so glad to be here.

Amanda: (01:25)
I’m so glad to have you on. I’m so glad that you, you know, filled out the application and contacted me because sometimes I don’t have good ideas, which is why, and then people are like, “Hey, I think I should come on and talk about this.” And I’m like, that’s an amazing idea. Yes, so why don’t you tell everybody what you do, what your profession is and all that good stuff.

Alexia: (01:52)
Okay. So I am a social worker. I have a master’s in social work. I actually started my social work practice working in hospital, in the maternal mental health setting. So I was working, yeah, it was amazing. I was in the postpartum/antepartum, which is basically like during pregnancy, anyone who’s on bedrest, the birthing center, and then anyone who had a baby in the NICU. So working with all those families and those moms and cute babies, it was really amazing. But I wasn’t a mom yet. So I think that once I had my own baby a few months ago, I was like, oh my god, I just like, there’s so many things about my practice, like two years ago that just like clicked into place and I was like, I wish I had like had a personal experience before, being there cause, it makes a huge difference. I mean it’s one thing to kind of like imagine what it’s like to have a baby and it’s a whole other thing to actually be in it. So, yeah. So that’s what I did. And then I moved on to, child protective services in Montreal with a… That’s kind of where I left off before I went on mat leave and now I’m on mat leave. Yeah.

Amanda: (03:09)
Wow. So a lot of your experiences with children with moms, that’s, that’s, well and good for you for having a baby after all of that. I remember when my daughter was in daycare and I was speaking to one of her teachers who hadn’t had a child yet. And I was like, “after doing this work, do you want to have a child?” And she’s like, “I’m not eager. That’s what I’ll say.”

Alexia: (03:39)
Well, when I was applying for my first job at the hospital, I remember the supervisor that was interviewing me. , she was telling me like, “I know you just got married and this might make it hard for you to want a family. Are you sure you want to work here?” but yeah, it was fine.

Amanda: (03:54)
Yeah, exactly. So tell me, you know, in your experience, so what, what we haven’t mentioned yet, um, is that you’re actually a former client of mine. So we worked together about, what was it, three months ago. It always feels like yesterday.

Alexia: (04:11)
He was five months. Yeah, exactly three months ago.

Amanda: (04:15)
Yeah. So, and, and I would love, I guess your perspective on that as a social worker, as someone who has worked with some, well, a lot of postpartum moms, what have you seen? What is your most common, I guess, concern with new moms? Like what are they dealing with the most?

Alexia: (04:40)
Oh wow. That’s a big question. There’s so much. I mean, so, a lot of them I think are dealing with a huge amount of guilt for a million different reasons, and that applies to everything, to taking care of a baby, to sleep, to taking care of themselves. A lot of the things that moms, new moms experience will, be accompanied with some sort of guilt. So I guess that’s one of the really common things. Obviously one of the hardest things to do as soon as you have a baby is like, obviously the whole sleep deprivation thing, which is your entire job. But, just dealing with everything, that’s another one of the things that accompanies everything because dealing with all these changes when you’re sleep deprived makes everything like a million times worse. Because you don’t even have your full, you don’t have your full like abilities and, and, self, I guess to deal with anything that comes your way. So yeah, those two things are huge. In general, having a baby is the biggest change and biggest adjustment any human being will go through in their lives. It’s your whole, every aspect of your life just changes completely.

Amanda: (06:03)
Yeah. Yeah. And so when you jumped into it, yeah, I think you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. And I think that what’s a funny part about postpartum is that you’re just, it’s your existence, right? You’re, you’re, you just had a baby. You’re living your existence. And so if you’re sleep deprived, you’re, you’re not firing on all cylinders, you know, and we don’t necessarily know that at the time because the sleep deprivation part is so normalised that we think that we should be, that we ‘should’ be firing on all cylinders, that this thing that we’ve done for millions of years. So why can’t I do it? And I’m so tired and why isn’t this easier? I, you know, your comment on guilt rings so true for me and my clients, just the amount of guilt in, in setting up a call, the amount of guilt in wanting their child to sleep, they think it’s very selfish.

Alexia: (07:03)
Yeah. And even in wanting to sleep for yourself, like, like you said, it’s so normalised, not sleeping as so normalised that they’re like, why should I get to sleep? No one, no one does. So why am I looking for something that, you know, that doesn’t exist in this period of life? And that’s the thing I encountered myself too when I was looking into working with you, and I was talking about it to some friends and family and people just laughed me off. Like, “honey, this is a part of motherhood. Like, why are you trying to go find sleep? This isn’t meant to be right now,” you know?

Amanda: (07:36)
Yeah, exactly. And I think that, I think that I encounter that a lot. It’s, it’s, you know, our own personal guilt for sure. And I think, you know, moms of our generation are getting better at, at really relieving that. But then there’s like generational guilt and societal guilt where, you know, maybe well-meaning family members will be like, “well, I didn’t sleep. Why should you? This is not something that you, you need”. And I think that for sure it does. You know, I would love, I guess what I’m looking for too is, you know, your perspective on, you know, given your client’s, you know, anxieties and distress and guilt and then given your own experience going through this, what are some of the takeaways and big learnings for you?

Alexia: (08:35)
Going through the sleep training or in general?

Speaker 3: (08:39)
Oh, I mean, Oh yeah. I mean, I’m talking about sleep training. I would love to know your kind of like before and after, because I think you just have a unique perspective of working with moms prior to, right? So I think that, you know, I guess what I would love to know is what are some of those things that you learned that you wish you could tell like your former sleep deprive self or your even your former clients?

Alexia: (09:06)
Right! So, um, I want to start off by saying, I guess that we seem to think that being a great mom has to do with just being able to manage everything without needing help or, help with making changes in the way things are going right now, such as seeking help for sleep training. We want to be supermom. We want to, you know, we, we think that there is strength in not asking for these things and not needing these things, but in fact, it’s actually completely the opposite. So, moms who do ask for help, always tend to, um, to do much better and to have way healthier mental health because they’re the ones who are seeking support, which is a sign of strength and they’re receiving support, which is helping them on a day to day basis. And we’re meant to have that support! We, years and years ago, parents weren’t raising their children on their own. They were raising them with their entire families. Everyone was living more together. So as human beings, we’re really meant to have that kind of help. And we really, although a lot of us do have support and we have people helping us, it’s way different. We don’t have it 24/7 most of us. So we think we should be able to do it all alone, but we, we really, we really shouldn’t. It’s not, it’s not even human. I don’t think. So, so my personal experience first with the sleep training was, was exactly that. I was telling myself I could do this. You know, the sleep will be fine and, and I was kind of on some adrenaline where this, the sleep deprivation was not getting to me for the first few months. I was totally fine. I loved being awake at night and breastfeeding him and things like that. But then when it came to the daytime and the naps and he was just like impossible to put down and then putting him to bed at night, that became a huge struggle for me. He would just cry so much and not, I don’t know, it would just take forever of rocking and singing and it wasn’t even working. And at some point I just felt myself slowly but surely day by day going down into this deep dark hole, and I didn’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel for me was like, this is what life is right now, you know? And so I guess one of the things I would have loved to tell myself back then is that first of all, no matter what, things get better with time. And second of all, like there is help out there and there are other options. You know, you don’t have to do this all by yourself. You don’t have to do it the traditional way. Like, if your parents didn’t sleep and they didn’t, , teach their child to sleep, that doesn’t mean that you have to go that same route as well so.

Amanda: (11:54)
Exactly. Yeah. And I would love, I mean, he, I mean, yes, a hundred percent. I think in the moment it’s always funny because when I’m on my initial discovery call with clients and I’m like, “well, we’re probably going to see pretty significant improvement in three days.” And everyone is like, no. I’m just like, YES! They just don’t believe it. And they’re like, well, you don’t have to say that. Like, I know, I’ll just settle for like better. And I’m like, yeah, but you can even get the best in three days. It’s pretty crazy.

Alexia: (12:32)
I don’t think I believed that either. I was like, okay, we’ll see. I’m not sure it’s gonna work. My baby’s really hard headed,

Amanda: (12:38)
Exactly! Everyone thinks their baby is the worst. Your baby is not the worst. But I think that, you know, I guess there are, there are a lot of moms who come to me, um, with, , postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression. I don’t think that, I don’t think you have to be, like, for example, if you’re sleeping, you can still have postpartum depression and anxiety. If you are not sleeping, it just exacerbates it. I just know for myself, especially after my second, I suffered pretty badly with some, just generalised anxiety for a little while. And then I realised that after my second on the days that I wasn’t sleeping, which were actually a lot more with two kids because you don’t have the opportunity to kind of like nap during the day, and get better rest. I found that my anxiety was a lot worse when I wasn’t sleeping. And science is confirming that, like, I, I mean I get Google alerts every day about science, postpartum depression studies because it’s something I do, and it’s just like the outcomes of parents sleeping, are better for both parent and child. Right? Because the other part of this, that, and we’ve talked about this in my podcast before, but the other part of this is, you know, when we think of being this supermom that you talk about, right? And I don’t need help and I can do this on my own. We have to ask ourselves sometimes, am I my best self doing all this? Right? And honestly, for some people, they are up all night, they’re co-sleeping and they love it and it brings them joy and they’re not tired. And I am like, go on with your bad self. That’s great! But if you are, you know, awake during the day and resenting your child or depressed or anxious and not connecting with your child, or having a harder time doing that because you’re tired, because you kind of can’t get past that wall, it be worth looking at some help. Right? It’s not, you’re not, you’re not doing your child any favors. And I think that’s the, the missing piece is that we think it’s really selfish and I mean, we can look at this, I mean to take sleep and postpartum out of the whole equation, you know, when my children were a little bit older and sleeping really well, I was going through some hard times and I remember my therapist telling me, your child feels your anxiety and that is, is significant. And that was my ‘aha’ moment. It’s like your anxiety is not a personal issue. It’s a family issue. So if you are having anxiety, if you are experiencing depression, you’re not experiencing it in isolation, your whole family is there, right with you. And I, I mean, have you seen that in your practice as well?

Alexia: (15:49)
Right. So, yes, I have, I mean both personally and in my practice, and just, even now as a, as a mom with a bunch of mom friends, I see it as well around me. So like you’re saying that and that’s one of the main things that I will say when anyone asks me about sleep training and about my experience. One of the biggest things I hear is, “Oh, but you know, I, why would I make my baby suffer for a selfish thing for myself? Like I’m just gonna power through this.” But really like you’re saying, it’s something that affects everybody. So by if you’re in a space that’s not a healthy, either because you’re not sleeping because your baby’s not sleeping, then you’re not being the best, your best self and you’re not being the best mom either to your child. So that’s what personally, that’s what I felt too. I felt like I was so, like physically exhausted but also mentally exhausted of this whole, like you said, it was like a wall that I was not getting past, that even during the day and during the hours I was spending with my son, I wasn’t really there. I was just thinking of when is he going to sleep? At what point in the day will I have five minutes to just sit down and stare at the wall? Like, you know, so I wasn’t a hundred percent there. I wasn’t giving him my all, and that added a huge, another layer of guilt and of, you know, it, it just piles on, so…

Amanda: (17:15)
Yeah, it really does! I was actually, I was having a moment of, , empathy last night because my, my daughter’s been sick, my youngest daughter with a pretty bad strep throat infection and um, she is really, really chill. So we didn’t really understand that anything was wrong because she’s fine until she’s not. And then you would just ask for like ice water one day and we’re like, “okay, that’s fine.” But then it just, by the time we realised how bad it was, it was bad. Anyway, all this to say she’s been waking up in pain, which is sad. And what is so funny is a lot of my clients talk about this. Before I went to bed, I was starting to feel really anxious about what the night was going to be and then, you know, how many times am I going to be up? What is tomorrow going to look like? You know, how am I going to get through my day because I basically spent the weekend, you know, providing medication, comfort, and then by Monday I still had my life to do, but everything felt harder. Like I have a big day today and I was like, what am I going to wear? How am I going to get dressed tomorrow? Like these are questions I literally wrote in my calendar today, get dressed at this time in case. Like I can’t, that’s not a normal way to go through life. and that, you know, the nighttime scaries before you go to bed, can result in some lack of sleep for moms, right? Like trouble falling asleep at the time she should fall asleep. Like when people tell you sleep, when the baby sleeps, it’s like, “thank you so much for that information, but my baby sleeps for 20 minutes at a time. I’m not getting any sleep that way.”

Alexia: (19:09)
Yeah that was the worst possible thing that I just kept hearing and I couldn’t hear it one more time.

Amanda: (19:15)
I know, and I mean, there is truth to it. Like I think in the early days you can probably get away with that, but then like, past maybe one or two months, it’s really hard to sleep when the baby sleeps unless you have full time help. Right? And like you said, we don’t live in our, in our communal societies anymore. It’s like we have this maternity leave and this maternity leave has somehow, I think, transformed from you have this time to take care of your baby and yourself to, while you’re home, so here’s all the things that you do, right. You know, starting your business, renovate your home, do all these things cause now you have “time off”. But I use air quotes. There’s no time off. There’s zero time off.

Alexia: (20:04)
Sorry go ahead.

Amanda: (20:09)
No, no, no, go. You go ahead!

Alexia: (20:11)
I funny story about that, when I was pregnant. I was like, “so I’m going to have all these months off and I’m super excited about all this time I’m going to have and baby sleep most of the time, so what are these, what kind of hobbies can I start?” You know, and I was thinking maybe I’ll learn guitar maybe. And I was literally like a hundred percent thinking about all these things I’m going to be able to do. And then I actually had the baby and I laughed so hard at myself because there was no time and my baby was not sleeping. I mean, when he did start sleeping, I do have to say I started to sleep when the baby sleeps because by that point I was so exhausted that I just let go of everything else I had to do all of the responsibilities. And I took the opportunity to, to sleep. But once I kind of got that sleep debt back and, and I felt better, I was able to do a lot more with my time. But yeah, before that point, it was just so funny how I thought I would be able to accomplish all these new things. But no..

Amanda: (21:10)
I was talking about this with a friend of ours who just had a baby and they’re first time parents and she was just telling me “I feel really guilty because I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to get out and walk the dog.” And I was like, uh! And it was just, it was such a memory trigger for me because I remember, we canceled our dog-walking cause I was like, “Oh, I’ll be home. I’ll just walk the dog every day.” And then my husband would come home and be like, has the dog had to walk today? And I’m like, “I have, I can’t get out of the house”. Well then, what are, what are you doing? It’s like, I don’t know, but I can’t get out of that. I’m still not out of state. I’m doing things, I’m, I’m breastfeeding, I’m, you know, making sure the baby falls asleep. I’m making food for me. It’s just, you can’t quite put your finger on what it is, but there is something going on and it doesn’t…

Alexia: (22:07)
And it’s so hard to describe.

Amanda: (22:10)
Exactly. So you know, given your experience, you know, working with postpartum women, I would love if you have a few tips or strategies like real like do this, you know, two or three things that moms can do just to kind of change. And you know, in my personal experience and what I’ve read, these don’t have to be huge changes to make a big difference. Like small little changes can be pretty significant in, in changing a lot for you. So what are some of the things that work for your clients in the past?

Alexia: (22:50)
Okay, so, one of the things that I always tell, cause you were talking before about nighttime coming and then there’s all this anxiety about how the night is going to go and how the next day is going to go if the night doesn’t go well. And this whole anxiety prevents sleep. Even if your baby will end up sleeping at the end of the day because you were stressing so much about how the night will go, that might ruin your own sleep as well. So one of the things I always like to tell clients who have babies and who are, well this wasn’t in my experience at the hospital because that was really immediate, you know, right. As soon as they gave birth for a few days, I didn’t have the chance to work with them after. But any clients I worked with in a while, I was with child protective services, any moms who had young children or babies and were stressed out about how they’re going to accomplish all the things they had to do the next day. I would just tell to first of all, just try and be positive about your, how your night will go, which is super hard to do. But to try and have a positive outlook and to tell yourself that even if you don’t sleep, as long as you’re lying down, resting yourself and your bones and just let go of your hands, your arms and your heaviness and just lie there, you’re still resting. And hopefully, you know, even if you don’t end up actually sleeping, that’s still gonna help restore you in some way. And so your, your next day will be okay and you’ll be fine and things will get better with time. So that’s one thing I like to do because I feel, I find that when you’re in bed and you’re not able to sleep and you’re just obsessing over, you know, “when is the baby gonna wake up? Should I even sleep now? I’m only gonna have 20 minutes.” And it just hypes you up so much more that you don’t end up resting at all. So just to kind of have that relaxing thought that, you know what, I’m mind down and I’m relaxing right now, so that’s, that’s fine for now. So that’s one thing.

Amanda: (24:49)
I love that, it’s so true.

Alexia: (24:52)
Yeah, no, no, go ahead.

Amanda: (24:57)
Oh, I was just, I was just going to say, I found myself telling myself that this morning because I was up with my daughter, she was up a little bit early and I was like, “Oh, it’s five o’clock. And I know I’m not going to be able to fall asleep, but I know lying here is doing something.” I’m not.

Alexia: (25:16)
Yeah. Good for you. So, yeah. the second thing is also to remind yourself that every, every challenge in life, every obstacle, every… anything that you’re going to go through that’s just, that seems just an or is so terrible, has kind of like the tippy top of how terrible it can be, you know? And so you could always tell yourself, right now, I’m in the acute stage of what I’m going through, but nothing stays acute forever, so I’m not going to stay at the tippy top of horribleness forever and ever. You know, there is, it is going to just slowly but surely go, back to, I’m not gonna say normal, but just slowly but surely get better and better with time. And that really also relieves so much of the, so much of those stress about the future and just fear because you just are able to imagine a future where things are better and where you’re not just going to be stuck where you are right now forever. It’s a really, really common thing.

Amanda: (26:36)
Yeah, that’s a really great comment. And I, I love that. Like this is, this is just what it right now, this, it, it is what it is right now and it will always get better. I really, really, love that. And nothing is exactly like nothing is that painful for that long? They’re there. The good doesn’t last forever and neither does the bad!

Alexia: (27:00)
That’s exactly it. Yeah.

Amanda: (27:04)
Well Alexia, where can people find you? I, you have a pretty awesome Instagram account kind of giving this information and support to moms every day. Do you mind sharing that with everyone? I’m going to share that as well in my liner notes!

Alexia: (27:16)
Yeah. Thank you. So, my Instagram account is @beingmaman. My last name is actually Maman, which is the same spelling as my mom, which is mom and French, so I was kind of teased about that my entire life and now I was like, you know what, I’m going to use this for good! Yeah, I remember telling my parents, could we add an E at the end of our names so people know. My last name isn’t mom? So my account is just about, I just wanted to, after, I had my son a few months after was even right away, I was telling myself there was so much that I’m going through right now and I was doing so much research about what’s normal, what’s not normal during my pregnancy as well. And I wanted to be able to share that with people so much because I know that I had a lot to talk about and I know that everyone else has a lot to talk about too. I was reaching out to friends and everyone has things to, advice to, to share and just, just being there with other moms is without saying anything at all. It’s also so supportive. So I started this account in, in that, like mindset, I guess. And so, I reach out to, to my followers for advice and they reach out to me and I love that system, because I feel like we all have something to give one another. And, yeah, so I, I actually get a lot of questions about, about the sleep training and about my experience. and I always share that, you know, call Baby’s Best Sleep. Call it Amanda!

Amanda: (28:56)
Well, thank you for that. Thank you. And I think you’re doing a great job. I love watching your stories. You’re, you’re an open book and you’re really supportive and nonjudgmental and, that’s, that’s just my style. Yeah.

Amanda: (29:12)
Oh yeah. Sorry, go ahead.

Alexia: (29:14)
Yeah, no, I was just going to say, I find that there’s so much out there that adds to the pressure of being a mom. we see all these things and people doing all these activities with their kids and all these, specialised things. I don’t know how to, I anyways, I’m like using weird words, but you know what I mean? You see all these perfect lives and all the people have time to do so much, so many things. But I don’t believe that that’s a portrayal, really a reality unless you said you have full time help. So that’s just a, a shout out to all the moms out there and, and as an advice also to everyone to just be real with other mom friends so that they don’t feel alone cause we’re all going through the same thing at the end of the day. And definitely, you had asked me for three recommendations I would have given my last one is to please get help. Please call Amanda if you feel like you need sleep. And I always tell, people as well as they asked me about it, that the discovery call is, is you’re not committing to anything. You’re just calling to find out and you never know. You’ll, you’ll talk about it if it’s not for you, it’s not for you, but at least you took a little step towards, getting the help that you need!

Amanda: (30:27)
Yeah. And I’m not really a pushy or salesy person and especially for something as sensitive as this, I don’t really, I don’t really love convincing people that they need to do it. You need to call me and be 100% on board. So if you book a call with me, it’s just about literally discovering what it is, answering some questions, and then you take the lead. You take the reigns from there

Alexia: (30:54)
Exactly. My life has changed so much for the better since then. It’s, it’s just wow. So thank you. So glad!

Amanda: (31:04)
Thank you. Well, thank you Alexia. You have been a pleasure to speak with and we will talk soon!

Alexia: (31:11)
Thank you so much for having me.

Amanda: (31:12)
No problem. Bye!

Voice Over: (31:15)
Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Slumber Party. If you’re ready to help your little one get the sleep that they need and get your nights back while you’re at it, make sure to check out Amanda’s signature DIY sleep training courses or work with her directly. For more details, head over to BabysBestSleep.com. Don’t forget to hit subscribe, like, and review! Happy sleeping everyone.