Sleep and rest are extremely important cornerstones of Waldorf parenting and education, Today we are looking at the areas of sleep and rest. Waldorf Education is the only educational method I know that takes that old adage, “Sleep on it, “ and moves it into the realm of learning as a true aid and help. But outside of its educational value, sleep and rest seems to be one area that many parents seem to struggle with, especially attachment parents. If one goes to any of the attachment parenting groups and forums on the web, inevitably sleep disturbances come up as topics. I do think that parents who have young children, especially those children under the age of six, are often just tired no matter what way they parent! So, 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, what a very Waldorf perspective gives us (and I think reading biological studies of sleep in infants, children and those in primitive societies back this up as well!) is that a small child may be born without much rhythm to their sleep and wake cycles. We have to remember first of all, that there is a certain amount of wisdom of nature seen in the wakefulness of the small infant up through a year. Studies have shown that breastfeeding babies at 10 months are receiving ONE-QUARTER of their calories at night! Many people say their babies who were less than a year old “self-weaned” in many cases did not truly self-wean, but were more at a developmental stage of being 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, 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! Rhythm and routine can be such a strong aid in sleep and rest. Even after a nap is “gone” (and I daresay in the olden days children did nap for longer than they seem to today!), we can and should replace this 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:
And about quiet time: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/23/more-about-quiet-time/ (lots of comments here to read!)
This is my personal favorite post about sleep: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/05/29/struggling-at-bedtime/
I would love to see a lot of dialogue on this topic; sleep becomes a crucial part of teaching with the Waldorf educational process within the two or three-day rhythm, it is important for homeschooling mothers and mothers of small children to have rest times….so these are important issues to think about early on!