Friday, May 28, 2010

the most asked question....

Whether I teach prenatal classes or I have been walking about the world with a new baby, the question I always get asked is either "Is she sleeping through the night?" or "when will she sleep through the night?"

I'm sure I've said this before, but because it is so important, I'll say it again. Babies don't know, neither do they care that it is 2010. For all they know it could be 340 BC. Their needs are basic and they have not changed. They want to be close to their mother or father, they want to be breastfed, they want to be comforted and they are not developmentally equipped to sleep through the night. Because of all of these factors, it is not only normal for them to wake frequently, it is essential to their health and survival.

What has changed is not the needs or behaviors of babies, it is our needs as adults. Most of us no longer live in a tribal culture where we have aunties, sisters, mothers and friends to help us when we have a child. Heck, most of us don't even live in the same city as our families. Not only are we responsible for caring for the child, the home, the cooking, the cleaning, the banking, the car repairs... the list goes on, many of us are also returning to work. It is no wonder that sleep deprivation and naps during the day are not conducive to this lifestyle.

I had a very brave mum call me a couple of weeks ago who was at her wits end. Her baby slept well for the first 3 months and then it all changed. Now her baby was waking every hour and a half and making her crazy. My daughter did the same thing and I used to say that it was like being in Gitmo. That's what they do to torture their prisoners, let them fall asleep and then wake them up. I used to physically hurt from the sleep deprivation. So this mum feeling like she was going to loose it, was also torn about what to do an not a little desperate. She didn't want to let her baby cry it out, which I applauded, but full Continuum Concept wasn't working for her either.

This is one of the biggest lessons in the parenting journey. First, learning to be gentle with yourself and ask for help. Second, find something that works for you and that feels right for your baby. There are so many books out there on how to be a good parent, because there is no one right way. Some will tell you how to be BabyWise (actually not so wise, babies have died) or that The Baby Whisperer will solve all your problems or that you can have The Happiest Baby on the Block. These author's don't understand infant neuroscience. They just want you to buy their book. You had to listen to your instinct in labour to birth your baby, the same goes for being a parent. It can be helpful to know that you are not alone, it can also be helpful to know that just as it has changed, your baby's sleep pattern will change again, and then again.

There is no right answer, no quick fix, there are some good books , but at the end of the day you can remind yourself, this is just a moment in time and it will pass. My daughter sleeps through the night now ( except for the last few nights when she has been crawling into our bed at 4 in the morning), in her own bed, in her own room. I never thought I would see the day, but I did and so will you. Now, go take a nap with your baby.


Anonymous said...

I love this post. My husband and I made the decision to have a baby now because we are able to both be home fulltime. I don't think we would have made the choice if one or both of us had to work outside the home and had to be on a set schedule. I don't know how moms who work outside the home manage it! I am actually looking forward to caring for my baby overnight. After having him inside me for so long, I think I would miss him if I had him away from me all night.

Anonymous said...

I remember asking that question to my sister "how old were they when they started sleeping through the night" Her answer "five".