Sleep and rest are extremely important cornerstones of Waldorf parenting and education, and one area that it seems many attachment parents struggle with. Let’s take a closer look at sleep today and see if we can improve things for all members of the household!
First of all, a Waldorf perspective is that a small child may be born without much rhythm to their sleep and wake cycles. I think that those of us with what the Attachment Parenting’s movement terms “higher needs” infants, toddlers and children can attest to that many times the lack of rhythm seems to almost carry on through past the point where it is biologically protective. For example, we don’t want a small baby, or even a baby up until 10 months or so sleeping through the night. You say, wow, 10 months, really? Why 10 months? Because studies have shown that breastfeeding babies at 10 months are receiving ONE-QUARTER of their calories at night! Many people say their babies “self-weaned” under a year and I think this is due to a highly distractible baby in many cases who is completely wrapped up in gross motor movement during the day and not as interested in nursing – and if they are sleeping through the night, that really cuts down on their calories! Remember, human milk is the number one source of calories throughout the entire first year if not LONGER! So I don’t want to shortchange that. I also don’t want to have a 2 to 5 month old baby who sleeps through the whole night when the risk of SIDS is highest. However, do remember that many in the medical community do regard “sleeping through the night” as a five-hour stretch, not the seven to nine hour stretch many of us regard as a full night’s sleep!
However, there is something to be said regarding gently helping your child to establish sleep and wake cycles. A child who is very irregular and has no rhythm may really need your help in this area! For those of us attachment parenting with multiple older children along with babies, many of us have found it easier to have a napping child in a sling while we do things with older children as opposed to “getting the baby” to bed multiple times a day and then work toward that as the number of naps decreases. Even after a nap is “gone” (and I daresay in the olden days children did nap for longer than they seem to today!), we replace it with quiet time for the children and ourselves. Especially with homeschooling, one needs this break! And children need to learn the value of being quiet without someone or something electronic entertaining them!
Here are some posts regarding sleep from an attachment parenting perspective: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/16/co-sleeping-and-nighttime-parenting/ including parameters for safe co-sleeping and includes an interesting dialogue about what happens if co-sleeping doesn’t work for you!
And here are some posts from a Waldorf perspective:
I would love to see a lot of dialogue on this topic; sleep becomes a crucial part of teaching with the Waldorf educational process with the three-day rhythm, so these are important issues to think about early on!