AN URGENT NEED FOR SLEEP:
What if sleep for the family is really an emergency situation though? There can be a darker side to all of this if a mother is truly sleep deprived!
I just have to say a brief word about letting a baby “cry-it-out.” First of all, there are NO scientific studies that back up “crying it out”. I have a wonderful article written by Macall Gordon that was published in Attachment Parenting International’s newsletter some years ago called, “The Dark Side of Sleeping Through the Night: Four Big Reasons Why Crying-It-Out Doesn’t Make Sense.” This article is really fabulous, but I could not find it on-line at all, maybe someone else will be able to locate this article and post the link in the comment box. At any rate, the first reason in this article is that “crying-it-out” is that it is not supported by research at all. In fact, as a pediatric physical therapist, I know that crying causes immune function to go down and cortisol (a stress hormone) to rise. Why doesn’t anyone bother to mention that in connection with “crying-it-out”? The other issue I have with this, this time with my IBCLC hat on, is that mothers are biologically programmed through hormones and through lactation to pick their babies up! Why doesn’t anyone talk about that and the biological impulses we try to make mothers override by not validating their own biology? From an attachment stand-point, and for future psychological health, for the future of the entire process of discipline and guiding child, the entire first year is about an infant building up trust in a caregiver. How does “crying-it-out” not harm this? There are a multitude of other reasons that “crying-it-out” is just plain harmful!
People who talk about an infant “playing you” or “manipulating you” at an early age over sleep have absolutely NO understanding of the biological or emotional development of the child. It is unfortunate.
If you need someone to talk to, vent to, or ask about realistic sleep expectations, please, please pick up the phone and call your local La Leche League Leader or Attachment Parenting Leader. La Leche League even has a hotline now! Call and talk to someone!
If you have an urgent need for sleep, the families I have worked with in the past have treated this as REAL. It is urgent, it is as real as being sick! We cannot be the mother we want to be when we are completely sleep-deprived! Vacation time may need to be used so one can sleep and have another person at home to care for the infant. A family member may need to come visit, or friends may need to come and help. Our society can be such a disconnected one, and it can be so challenging to reach out to people and ask for help. Yet, people are typically so willing to help. Other mothers have been there, and they really do understand!
Make a plan for how you can figure this out. Can you sleep when the infant does? What are doing that is more important than sleep? Can someone help you with your other children so you can take your infant to bed and rest? Can you all lay down together and rest? Can you strip a room of dangerous-to-toddler items, lock the door with all of you in this room and rest?
What can you do to help your child enter sleep more easily and rhythmically? The first post in this two-part series had some suggestions for babies who really don’t sleep well, but I suppose the suggestions could be useful for anyone.
Children need a rhythm leading up to sleep or rest to help them wind-down. How you do this in your family is up to you. Some families have used a warm, calm bath. Some have used reading books in that special nighttime/resting reading voice (which is different than the dramatic daytime voice!!). Some families have used rocking, nursing, massage, foot massages, holding as parts of the bedtime routine. How about singing lullabies?
Infants and children DO need to be parented to sleep. Even an eight year old or nine year old likes being read to or to have a conversation before they go to sleep! So, how you parent your child to sleep in your family is up to you as you are the expert on your own family! All I would say is that if you are waiting to the point where your children fight through the bedtime routine or are completely wound-up, you may be starting too late. Try earlier and see if that makes a difference.
People ask me about co-sleeping and when their child will go into their own bed/sleeping surface. …. I remember one especially sweet nurse (an adult, obviously!) I worked with and we were talking about this subject years ago and she said, “You know what? When I go home and visit my mamma, I LOVE to jump into her bed. It smells like her, and I miss seeing her!” I loved that, the association of comfort and wanting to be near our mothers, even when we are adults. I have seen some children take happily to their own bedrooms around two and a half or three and I have seen others do it more around the seven-year-change…Some children will still want to co-sleep when they have a nightmare, when they are getting teeth, when they don’t feel well, on special nights when they are so excited for the next day. Warmth and love at its finest!
FROM A WALDORF POINT OF VIEW:
People ask me about sleep from an anthroposophic point of view, and the above posts are a great place to start. The one thing I would like to add is that from an anthroposophic viewpoint, the small child is developing a relationship to time. Modern medical studies confirm this in many regards; some studies I have read state that it can take up to 40 weeks in order to for an infant to have days/nights straightened out well.
Please do think of rhythm and routines leading up to nap/rest times and bedtimes as your friend. I think it is important to guide our children in this regard, and to just not wait until they fall over from sheer exhaustion after they have been completely wound up!
All food for thought; as usual take what resonates with you for you and your family!