Kudos to Mom: Ann Marks

This week we are shining the Kudos to Mom spotlight on Ann Marks. Why she inspires us? She's founder of the popular Full Feedings ® Method approach to infant and toddler sleep, which is all about helping babies -- and parents! -- get the rest that they need. Yes, please! She's also a single mother of three. Read on below to learn more about her story and the motivation behind Full Feedings. Plus, Kudos customers can get a special 10% off an annual online Full Feedings program with code KUDOS10.
What motivated you to start Full Feedings®?

I love sleep, and when I had my babies, I found a passion for getting my children to sleep, without sleep training. After I had my twins, my marriage was slowly falling apart, and I knew I would need to find some way to support myself and my children financially.  I knew I had to work from home while taking care of three kids on my own, so I started building my method and began to teach it via 1:1 consulting, webinars, and, eventually, my Online Programs. My doula encouraged me to share my gift of sleep with the world, and full feedings was born.

How does The Full Feedings Method® work?

The Full Feedings Method is a needs-based approach to infant and toddler sleep. From birth, I encourage parents to age-appropriately meet their child's food and sleep needs fully via flexible daily routines. These routines allow for the day-to-day variations that come along with raising children. The Full Feedings Method focuses on keeping consistent the things we can (e.g., start of day time, bedtime, wake windows, full feeds, etc.) and building a flexible "routine" with the things that are out of our control. Once a baby is old enough (typically 8 - 12 weeks), and their needs are consistently and fully met, nighttime sleep typically follows, which ultimately alleviates the need to "sleep train" or let them "cry it out." The beauty of a needs-based approach is that we can safely adopt this "way of life" from birth, and there is no need to wait to work towards meeting a basic human need - sleep.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions that you think exist out there regarding infant sleep?

1. That the only way to get a baby to sleep is to let them cry.
This is not true. When a child's needs are fully met, they sleep. No parent has to let their baby cry. Ever.

2. That holding/touching your baby creates a "bad habit" that prevents sleep.
Many people believe that by picking their baby up, the child will grow used to it and, in turn, won't be able to connect sleep cycles on their own. This is NOT true. I believe a baby's inability to consistently connect sleep cycles (i.e., why they wake at night) is due to three things: hunger, over tiredness and too much daytime sleep. These three "ingredients," as I call them, need to be consistently and age-appropriately managed. When they are, children are able to consistently connect sleep cycles, and they stop waking. I think helping/holding them is the best thing we can do to help our babies into their age-appropriate routine. "Relying" on our children to fall asleep "on time" can prove challenging and often cause them to stay awake longer than they should, which can cause continued night wakings.

Once they sleep through the night, teaching them to fall asleep independently is much easier because their hormones are regulated and they are biologically aligned with the circadian rhythm. Maintaining this biological balance is what keeps them sleeping and able to sleep independently. So, it follows that helping/holding our baby when they need it to maintain an age-appropriate daytime routine is an essential ingredient in consistent nighttime sleep. So, hold those babies!! And enjoy it!

3. That sleep deprivation is "normal" in parenthood. 
Sleep is a basic human need, and telling anyone that it's normal to be sleep deprived beyond the child being 8 - 12 weeks old seems dangerous. Sleep deprivation severely impairs and limits a person's ability to function normally, make smart decisions and thrive in their lives. Parents are not living and working as well as they could be because they aren't getting enough sleep. New parents are falsely led to believe sleep deprivation in parenthood is normal. It's almost glorified as a "rite of passage" into parenthood by some. The ONLY reason I believe babies wake at night between birth - 12 weeks old is to consume the calories they need to grow and develop. Their stomach physically can't hold more at each feed and during, so we must feed them around the clock to meet their need. But, by 8 - 12 weeks old, an average size baby can consume enough during the daytime hours (including dreamfeed) to meet their caloric need, and thus, there is no other biological reason to be up all night.

What role can diapers play in infant sleep?

Some babies are bothered by a wet/soiled diaper, and I do believe it can disrupt sleep. Having a quality diaper that has great absorption and natural ingredients can be a game changer in parenthood. This allows parents to get the most wear out of each diaper and choose products that won't irritate their little one's skin. Skin irritations can lead to discomfort that can cause mild sleep disruptions, so we want to be choosing a diaper that is made to prevent that.

You've built a business while also being a single mom of 3. We are in awe. How do you manage it all?

First of all, thank you. I take tremendous pride in what I have been able to accomplish while being a single mama of three. When I first started, I had no help, and I really just worked in between feeds and naps - doing whatever I could. I always joke that I built full feedings in 20 minute increments because that was about all the time I had when my kids were little to get anything done. Every parent of little children knows exactly what I'm talking about. However, I am a super focused, Type A person, and I knew I had this passion for sleep and wanted to share it with other parents. I also needed to figure out how to put food on the table for my children, and I couldn't think of a better motivation to keep going than to make sure my children had a roof over their heads and warm food in their bellies. I am busier now than I was when I started, but I have a lot of help. I have wonderful people in my life who love my children and me, and I have built a village to help me keep all of the plates spinning. I try to do my best every single day without overwhelming myself and take things one day at a time. When I get overwhelmed, I take breaks and try to remind myself it's a marathon and not a sprint. I make sure to carve out time to be with my children ( I'm currently coaching my son's Little League baseball team) and make time for myself, too (time with friends, self-care). It goes without saying, but prioritizing my sleep is a crucial ingredient for me being able to manage everything I do. I give myself a non-negotiable 8-hour period of "rest" each night, and I think that's a game changer for me to be able to focus and do all of the things.

Whether it's a professional feat or the first "no tears at the doctor's office visit", at Kudos we love to celebrate the wins - no matter how big or small! What recent milestone are you most proud of?

My littlest can now buckle and unbuckle their car seats, which feels like a HUGE milestone for me!  No more crawling in the back of my car to get everyone in and out! I forget what it was like to just get in my car! HA!

About the author

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