Tracy Gillett, founder of Raised Good, asserts that social sleep is the norm for mammals like us. She shares how our biology put her on the “natural” path as a new mum.
Listen to our 9-minute conversation on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have gotten to know Tracy Gillett this year. She’s the founder of Raised Good, and you’ve probably landed on her beautiful, award-winning blog if you’ve ever done a Google search for natural parenting, conscious parenting, or the like.
I have been on her mailing list forever, since I stumbled upon her blog as a weary new mom with a baby glued to my chest. Back then, I couldn’t even get him to sleep beside me in bed — he had to be on me. And even though Tracy’s blog wasn’t specifically about bedsharing, I kept going back to it and diving deeper into conscious parenting.
In those early days of motherhood, it felt like the warm hug that I desperately needed.
I’m a speaker in the free Raised Good online summit this year, and it’s such a surreal, full-circle moment for me. Because I know that without Tracy’s blog fortifying and inspiring me five years ago, there would be no Cosleepy today. You wouldn’t be reading my words right now… you wouldn’t know I exist.
And I wouldn’t be able to give you the warm hug that maybe you desperately need.
So I think it’s fair to say that we’re all just a little bit indebted to Tracy Gillett, this wonderful, rare gem from Down Under.
How Would You Parent If You Connected to Your Instincts?
Tracy grew up in a big family, with lots and lots of animals, on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. Her grandparents were a farmers, and she spent so much of her childhood out in nature. Even now, if it’s a sunny morning, she can still hear her dad saying, “It’s 10 o’clock — half the day’s gone! Time to get outside!”
Tracy’s love for animals inspired her to become a vegetarian when she was 13 years old, and it later led her to become a veterinarian. She thinks that seeing how animals do things naturally in the wild had a huge impact on her parenting.
How were humans naturally designed to parent? If we weren’t living inside our houses, how would we have raised our babies? If we were living in a cave, or were dropped on a desert island and there weren’t any baby stores, what would that look like?
So that really sparked an interest for Tracy in considering what life would look like if we weren’t listening to all of these external influences, like the commercialization of new motherhood and babyhood.
“It’s very different looking at how an orca behaves in an aquarium, or how an elephant behaves in a zoo, compared to how they behave on the plains of Africa. And to say that their behavior in a zoo is “normal” is just wrong. We need to look at how they behave in the wild.“
So what about us, humans? How would we parent our babies if tuned everything else out and connected to our instincts and intuition?
Cosleeping in Theory Versus Real Life
Tracy had three years of fertility struggles before she got pregnant. She remarked that as a veterinarian, she was aware of the amazing things that conventional medicine can do, but also of its limitations. She noticed that Western medical profession was telling her something completely different than Chinese medicine. It instilled within her a drive to figure out the truth.
And as she and her husband went further and further down the natural path, that’s what ultimately led them to get pregnant naturally. “I had so many truths shattered as I was going through that fertility journey.”
And after she got pregnant, she worked with a doula and midwife. They were the first people to hint that Tracy would likely be cosleeping with her baby.
As Tracy explains in a popular blog post, she told her midwife that she just bought a non-toxic crib.
“I got a crib with non-toxic paint and forest-certified wood. And a mattress that’s not gonna off-gas. And bamboo sheets! All of that stuff!”
She said, “He’s not gonna spend the night in there. He will be sleeping in your bed.”
Tracy just laughed and thought she was crazy. Her baby would be sleeping in his crib!
But by the time Tracy and her husband went on their babymoon, she felt differently. She read The Other Baby Book and thought it was just fantastic! The authors go into cosleeping, elimination communication, and other “natural” parenting topics that are very rarely discussed in this modern culture.
By the end of the trip, Tracy was sure that she was going to try bedsharing with the new baby.
Social mammals are meant to sleep next to their mothers, so we’re going to give it a go!
Tracy jumped into Dr. James McKenna’s work and got a good sense of the safety guidelines. But she didn’t feel completely confident about the practical applications.
For instance, she wondered if she’d need to put her baby in some sort of container in the middle of the bed, as she bedshared. She knows now that this isn’t safe, but at the time she didn’t have anybody in real life to ask.
Like so many of us, she didn’t know one person in her life who bedshared.
But Tracy distinctly remembers that when her son arrived, she got into bed and unconsciously curled into the cuddle curl position.
She thought, James McKenna was right!
Your body knows how to parent your baby, even if you don’t consciously know how to do it.Tracy Gillett
If you’re also feeling unsure about the practical ways to bedshare in real life, the Bedsharing Beginner’s Guide walks you from the late afternoon through the middle of the night. It’s formatted as a “night in the life” to show you safety and logistics in real time, as the evening goes on.
And it gives you your options, depending on what you want to do!
Do you want to have baby sleep separately in a safe place while you eat dinner? Or do you not mind lying down with them around 7pm and streaming Netflix until you’re sleepy?
Not every night has to look the same. But once you get confident about safety and have devised a smooth routine, you’ll all enjoy bedsharing much more!
Tap here to see what’s included in the Bedsharing Beginner’s Guide!