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If you follow me on Facebook, this won’t really be news to you, but we’ve had a lot of chatter this week around infant sleep. It all started with an article from the Australian Telepgraph, from back in March, Forget the cot, sleep with your baby according to SIDS researcher Doctor James McKenna.

Of course, I agree whole heartedly with this article. Sleeping with your baby in the bed, in my experience, means better sleep, better breastfeeding, and an all-round better transition into motherhood.
I particularly loved two statements made in the article.

“The question is not whether babies as young as three or four months can sleep through the night, but whether they should be forced to” and “The push in the western world to get babies to sleep through the night on their own as young as possible is doing more harm than good.”

I’ve said so often that it must be horrible for a new baby, freshly out the warmth and comfort of its mother’s body to be separated by the long, dark night, with strange sounds and foreign sensations against its skin. Added to which it’s left on its back, flailing it’s still bent body like a dehoused turtle, unable to rest in the foetal position it knows and loves.

Of course, this quote refers to a three and four month old, but still, the idea of ‘sleeping through the night’ is a western concept, aimed at forcing children into our own conveniences, rather than listening to and tending their base needs. (We wouldn’t want to spoil them, after all, and independence and individuality [me, me, me] are western milestones for success.)

Anyway, back to my story.

In the ensuing comment-chat, Kelly from Becoming Crunchy shared about how she was dealing with sleep frustrations. Jennifer from Hybrid Rasta Mama commented on Kelly’s post, with something I thought really hit the nail on the head:

Depriving myself of sleep was no big deal because it was on my terms and I had no one else to blame it I was miserable or could not function at school/work. It seems like when someone or something else is the source of sleep deprivation, it makes it that much worse.

While it’s difficult to deal with a child that’s just not sleeping, when we look at the bigger picture, the true frustration – given how many years of our lives we’ve given up on not sleeping when we didn’t want to – is that now, it’s not on our terms. [me, me, me, anyone?]

And then, to finish off a post on sleep in a week of very little sleep for me, Steph from Real Mum’s Guide writes:

It’s a big milestone every parent thinks they are supposed to achieve earlier than later- starting at just a few weeks old people ask “is she sleeping through the night yet?” A question I think should be banned from ever being asked again.

early days cosleepingAnd I tend to agree. I’ve known mothers to smugly smirk at around 11 days post-partum that their child is finally or already sleeping through. And I’ve seen those same mothers look shell-shocked and dishevelled at four months when crawling or teething or growing has thrown that full night’s sleep right out the window.
And it’s true. The question sets an unrealistic expectation, and an unhealthy milestone that everyone thinks they should achieve. And feels hard done by when they don’t. Like we’ve been robbed of something, or don’t have a ‘good’ baby.
So my two cents? Remember this:

 

  • A ‘full night’s sleep’ is considered 5 – 6 hours. That’s why they say sleep when the baby sleeps. (But who listens?!)
  • Babies need to feed frequently to supply nutrients to a brain that is growing and expanding at a speed greater than at any other time in their lives.
  • The imagination is developing rapidly and anything they see or experience during the day can become part of their dreams, so nightmares can disturb toddler sleep – in which case they need the same thing they do as an infant: you.
  • Growing hurts. I remember growing pains, and lying on my bed moaning and groaning as I felt my legs being stretched (but then, I’m rather tall.)

No one ever said parenting was easy, but good parenting is even harder. Especially when everything in our culture tells us to look out for ourselves, and make our lives as comfortable as we can. I’m not saying you have to be a slave to or martyr for your child, but for this period in time –these desperately short years – when they need you, being there for them will reap long term benefits for you both later on.

Categories: Friday Features

12 Comments

Friday Favourites – Dealing With Sleep Issues

  1. great post, I always say that by nature our children will take everything they need from us the question is, are we going to give it to them willingly or will it be a warzone….basically as long as we put them first all will be well

  2. Excellent post as usual, I also agree totally with the comments above… my two cents, I slept with both of my kids either in bed with me or in a camp cot next to my bed. For me it was about accepting that they were too young to sleep through and would only do so when they were ready. Having accepted that I needed to make it as easy, convenient and stress free as possible for us both in the meantime. Having them right there allowed me to get the maximum amount of sleep possible as I didn’t even need to get out of bed and also because I reacted faster they didn’t have a chance to wake up properly as I was settling them back to sleep almost immediately. Yes there were sleepless nights, but those were due to sickness, teething etc. and would have happened anyway. I know some people think this is for stay at home mums, but as a working mum it worked just fine for me with my son, lots of nights I didn’t even remember waking up at all but I must of as he started off in his cot and ended up in the bed with me sometime through the night.

    1. @NickyJ, thanks Nicky. Yeah, I think you make very good points here – especially about the stay at home/work at home mum thing. I must say, since having Kyra in her own bed this week, I don’t know HOW mums do it. I’m even more tired now having to go fetch her when she wakes up sobbing in the middle of the night 🙁 That seems way more exhausting to me!

      Thanks as always for commenting 🙂

  3. I love this post (and hate society that this post is something that needed to be written) and am sharing it in my fave links this Sunday as a must-read. I am so glad that my mother encouraged me to bring my baby into bed with me. We already had the co-sleeper but I was nervous all the same and she touted bedsharing for its convenience and that’s only one reason I love it. The bit about babies being alone and unable to get into the comfortable fetal position hurts my heart and makes me want a bed full of babies.

    1. @Janine @ Alternative Housewife, thanks so much for sharing the post Janine.

      I must admit, I have a vague memory of my mom taking my 1 hour old baby and fluffing her in the crook of my arm and asuring me that I won’t roll onto her. It was incredible waking up like that four or five hours later. I’ll never forget those first days.

      Yes – the fetal position thing really grabbed me too. 🙁 poor babies.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Thank you. This is sucha great post. These first years are intense. I don’t think many of us are prepared for the amount of raw need directed at us. I thought I understood before my first was born, but I really didn’t understand. Instead of hiding or turning away from it, I chose to dive in even though I was terrified of that much intensity. Even though I’m years down the road, that intensity still holds me, the only difference is that I’m more comfortable being in this partially overwhelmed state. I’ve grown to love it because I adore these little beings even when they don’t let me sleep as I want. I’m okay with it because I can see through this intense need that if they find support there instead of a turning away from them, that they will know they’re okay and they will be able to love and be loved. What more could I ask for a human’s experience on this earth than this simple thing?

    1. @Zoie @ TouchstoneZ, Thanks for the comment! I love the way you said that – ‘the amount of raw need directed at us’ – that’s so true and such a powerful statement.

      Yes. I could write books on your comment, so I’ll suffice to say ‘yes. that’s why i am okay with lack of sleep too’.

  5. Excellent post – this is the message that needs to be shared!

    I hate how we’re taught so extensively to go against instinct and nature with our little ones…

    And of course, ever grateful for the conversation you sparked! 😀

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