If you, like many of us at the Danrie office, have spent hours upon hours furiously scanning Google for a magic trick to help your little one sleep through the night, then you’ve likely come across the work of Ann Marks, single mom of 3 and founder of the Full Feedings Method®. In fact, our founder, Julia, turned to Ann after another sleep consultant told her that she’d never seen as “bad of a sleeper” as her son, Jordan. Surprise to no one who’s familiar with her method, Ann managed to work her magic, and Jordan turned out to be a happy sleeper. Ann’s method is a total gamechanger and a gift for exhausted, frustrated, desperate-for-sleep parents, so we’re grateful to have had the chance to chat with her about the origins of her method, misconceptions about sleep training, and, best of all, her golden naptime tips.
Hi, Ann! Can you share a bit about your background and how Full Feedings came to life?
Yes!!!! I love sleep. When I had my first baby, Frankie, I knew I needed to get sleep, and I set out to figure out how to get her to sleep through the night. I thought I would have been a cry-it-out mom, but once she arrived, I couldn’t fathom letting her cry and not supporting her through everything, including sleep. I had a wonderful doula, Jen, who helped me transition into new motherhood, and she is the one who realized my gift for infant sleep and encouraged me to share it with the world. I spent a lot of time helping friends and family with their babies, and then once my twin sons were born, I knew I wanted to do more to help other parents sleep and Full Feedings® was born.
Can you give us a little 101 intro to The Full Feedings Method?
The Full Feedings Method® focuses on a few main things - full feedings, limiting daytime sleep, and getting baby to sleep by their optimal wake time so they don't become overtired in any period. I use flexible monthly guides to age-appropriately manage these three ingredients daily, so 12-hours of nighttime sleep is consistently possible, without having to “sleep train” or “cry it out”.
When we align our babies with biology/nature from birth, and work to meet their needs fully and age-appropriately, the sleep naturally follows…as nature intended! It’s beautiful to watch, and while 8 - 12 weeks old is typical for a baby to sleep through the night, I have babies as young as 5 weeks old who naturally sleep [through the night].
What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions around developing healthy, sustainable sleep patterns?
I think parents think you have to be rigid with a baby to get them to sleep. I think parents think you have to “wait” to begin working towards sleep. I think parents think you cannot support your babies. I think parents think sleep means leaving your baby in a dark room alone and not being responsive to them.
All of these things are NOT true.
We encourage parents to be flexible (within an age-appropriate routine) and to begin from birth to adopt a simple way of life that helps support biology and sleep.
We encourage parents to hold their babies, rock their babies, support their babies, and always be responsive to their babies. We can do these things because the reasons babies wake at night are biological and not emotional, as many parents are falsely led to believe.
When babies' needs are fully and age-appropriately met during the daytime hours, they sleep through the night, and there is no “habit” to break (like rocking or holding or being responsive). They sleep naturally, and therefore doing all the loving, natural things to support babies is highly encouraged!
Naps are a huge pain point for a lot of parents. Do you have any golden naptime tips?
Yes! Have a simple nap routine (changing baby into pajamas is a great one) that helps signify sleep. And don’t wait until your baby is tired to put them to sleep. Following age-appropriate Optimal Wake Times (OWTs) is the key to great naps. I recommend much shorter wake windows than most other infant & toddler sleep specialists, and this is because A: my OWTs work for most and B: a shorter wake time prevents over tiredness. Over tiredness is one of the biggest sleep disruptors in infants and toddlers, and the difference of 5 minutes can disrupt sleep more than you could imagine.
A lot of the popular wisdom and advice in the parenting world feels so rigid and unforgiving. Why is flexibility important to you and such a central part of your method?
Listen, I am as A-type as it gets and would LOVE if my children were more consistent with clock times from day to day. It would make my ability to plan much easier…BUT, it’s not realistic. We are dealing with humans and not robots, and we MUST incorporate flexibility into our age-appropriate routines, because rigidity often disrupts nighttime sleep. For example, if we have a 9AM nap (based on 7AM start of day), and baby wakes one morning at 6AM…we encourage you to temporarily use 6AM as the start of day time. If we are rigid and hold the nap time at 9AM, baby will be staying awake an hour longer than they should, and this can lead to overtiredness, which can disrupt daytime and nighttime sleep. If we are flexible with start-of-day time, we want to be flexible with nap time, too! So we’d move the nap earlier, based on the baby’s age-appropriate Optimal Wake Time, and then manage the rest of the day (following wake windows) to get baby to bedtime without becoming overtired. This often means adding an extra nap to the end of the day, which is great as long as we maintain wake windows and don’t exceed total daytime sleep needs (based on age). This flexibility allows us to keep our routine and our sleep!
Another area where flexibility is great is feed times. We want to feed our babies fully every 2-3 hours during the daytime. Do not be afraid to offer a feed early. Most of the time we are talking about eating 30 minutes earlier than normal and this is not a problem, as long as we have the same number of feeds each day.
As a single mom of 3 and a business owner, you’ve got a lot going on—what are your favorite ways to take a moment for yourself?
I use timers, a lot, for myself and my kids. I try to keep a healthy balance between work and personal life, and timing things can help me stay on task, which helps make time for all the other things I love to do. I prioritize working out and meditating every day but am flexible with how that looks. Sometimes it’s just taking 5 deep breaths to reset and sometimes I get to dance and do hot yoga. It all depends on the day, and I just try to meet myself where I am and do my best.
Any words of encouragement for parents who feel that they’ve tried everything and just can’t seem to win when it comes to getting quality sleep for their babies and themselves?
Believe it’s possible. That sounds so cliche, but I think when we are in the thick of it (sleepless nights and new parenthood), it can start to feel hopeless and believing it is possible is the first step. From there, I would recommend committing to a method (hopefully mine😊) for at least a month before changing and trying something else. I see parents give up after a few days of trying something, and while I want things to change overnight for every parent I meet, that isn’t always the case. Since I approach sleep from a biological standpoint, it can take time to shift baby’s biology to consolidate sleep to night (think how it takes time to adjust to a new time zone) so being patient and sticking with the same thing is very helpful to see sleep shift! And, get support! This is one of the main reasons I offer email support to parents (for a very low cost) because sometimes you just need someone to encourage you to keep going, and we love being that support system for thousands of parents.