Up all night!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 28, 2008. As parents, we engage in nighttime parenting because we know that our children don’t stop needing our care at sunset. The author does well to validate the challenge of meeting children’s needs when they happen at a time that is not so convenient for their parents.

starry-night-1443822-mExcuse me if this post is rambling, it’s written by a very tired mammy — one who only went to bed at half past 4:00 this morning and who got up again at 9:00 a.m. But it’s nowhere near the sheer exhaustion I remember from the first few weeks of my daughter’s life. This is just regular tiredness: I feel like I was out dancing all night!

Littlepixie has just cut her first molars, four or possibly five all at once. The poor pet! Understandably, her mouth is a little sore.

Last night, she nursed to sleep and I snuck downstairs to get some Internet time in. In retrospect I should have gone to sleep, too, because as it turned out it would be a good many hours before my little head hit the pillow!

Littlepixie woke around midnight and was clearly in pain: She was banging her mouth with her hand, crying and sobbing, “Teeth. Teeth.”

We gave her some medicine, but it didn’t seem to help much. Nursing was acceptable to her but only while sitting up with the light on.

Littlepixie and I retired downstairs to the living room.

We’ve been quite lucky recently with her night-wakings. Usually she nurses straight back to sleep. But not last night.

We snuggled on the couch under a big blanket, nursing and reading her bedtime book over and over again. We found every bear, rabbit, sock and red balloon in the book, chatted about them, laughed at them, counted them and then started all over again.

I got sleepier. Littlepixie did not!

It was really just a case of watching the clock tick by and waiting for her to get sleepy. The medicine finally seemed to take effect as she was no longer complaining about her teeth, so that was good.

But I was barely awake!

So, after a while of playing with Littlepixie’s dolls, I resorted to putting on a DVD for her to watch. I know the middle of the night is not usually prime TV time, but the show was nice and calm and of course had no advertisements.

We watched the DVD for about 15 minutes while nursing and reading more books. I then brought her into our office where she often nurses for her naps, in the hopes that she would think it was nap time.

No such luck!

At 4 a.m., we went back up to bed where my husband read her another story, and she finally nursed back to sleep, with her foot lodged firmly in his face.

We were able to sleep in to 9 a.m. We’re very tired, but Littlepixie is in top form. Her teeth don’t seem to be hurting her, and she’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Attachment Parenting can be hard work! But it’s worth it. Littlepixie clearly needed some extra care last night, and I’m glad we could help her out. Fingers crossed we all sleep well tonight!

What about all of you? Do you have any particular things you like to do when you’re passing the wee hours of the night awake with your child?

There is no night and day

API-Logo-20th-themeAttachment Parenting International is 20 years old. Twenty years of promoting connection and spreading reassuring support to parents across the globe!

When I first became a mother, I followed every instinct to connect with and nurture my baby. I held her, I nursed her, I gazed into her eyes…regardless of the time of day. Strangely though, I met a lot of resistance to my “alternative” approach to parenting.

“Nursing AGAIN?!” became a common greeting, and although I did not waver in my approach, my confidence took a big hit. I was exhausted, and I felt alone.

This is where I thank Attachment Parenting International for showing me that I am not alone. I am so grateful to have stumbled, completely by accident, upon this wonderful concept of Attachment Parenting. It turns out that I am not alone in my approach. In actual fact, there are many, many more mothers like me, feeling the same way and taking the same approach of connecting with our children.

So many of us feel this sense of loneliness, particularly in the darker hours when exhaustion sinks in and it feels like the rest of the world is soundly sleeping. So to the mama who is feeling isolated and exhausted right now, I offer you this…

There is no night and day.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was awake throughout the day and I slept during the night. I moved throughout the day and was still during the night. The two were totally separate, as stark a contrast as light and dark.

And then baby bean was born, and all at once, light was thrown into my world in more ways than one. The edges of day and night started to merge together into a blurry grey smudge. You see, I had birthed The Great Unsleeper.

I knew nothing of tiredness before motherhood. The kind of tiredness that saps your body of strength, that throws its arms around you and just keeps squeezing, where you feel like the air is running out of oxygen and you forget which way is up, the kind of tiredness which almost makes you lose yourself.

Almost.

unnamedAlmost, because you find yourself with every touch of baby’s soft skin, cheek to cheek. Almost, because you find yourself with every gaze held in those deep, pool-like eyes. You find yourself with every smile, every gurgle, every clap of the hands and sweet “mama!”

You find yourself when you need it most. You find yourself during darkness.

Because our darkest hours are actually scattered with stars, with gems of pure love. In this time that I once termed “night,” quietness rules. There is no sound in the world besides baby bean’s soft breath and my own steady heartbeat.

In honesty, there have been moments in which I felt isolated, scared and incapable during these dark hours. But these have been momentary flashes of doubt amid the darkness.

Because when I stop and look at my beautiful girl’s profile against the shadow-like beams of light lingering in our bedroom, I understand that I have all that she needs — that I am all that she needs. I understand that I am enough.

Nestled safely in my arms, she does not need light or direction to nurse. Resting her head on my shoulder as we sway forwards and backwards in our rocking chair, she does not need daylight to feel safe and content. Little bean and I do not race through this notion of “night,” because for us, there is just light and dark, and there is beauty and connection in each.

As we sit rocking, cuddling, nursing, I imagine the hundreds of hours that we must have spent in this peaceful state. I imagine us rocking across great distances, to other countries and cultures. I imagine us meeting versions of ourselves at each destination, all these miles from home.

A mother. A baby. Connected in darkness.

I imagine us rocking through time, backwards and forwards. I imagine us glimpsing versions of ourselves wherever we land, be it hundreds or even thousands of years away from here.

A mother. A baby. Connected in darkness.

You see, in truth, little bean and I are not alone once the moon rises. We are part of a bigger picture, a louder heartbeat, a stronger pulse. Mothers. Babies. Connected in darkness.

Because for us, there is no night.

Dear Health Visitor, I Must Confess I Lied …

Posted by Louise, a mother living the United Kingdom. She blogs at mamabeanblog.blogspot.co.uk. “Health Visitors” in the UK health system are community nurses who provide routine developmental checks, care and support to newborns and their parents, including advice on feeding, sleeping and all aspects of newborn care.

Dear Health Visitor,

I must confess, I lied. I didn’t set out to be untruthful, but I felt like I had no other option at the time. I should obviously take full responsibility for my untruth; after all, I had the audacity to be a first-time mum with the sheer cheek to want the very best for my baby girl. You see, I didn’t actually leave my angel to cry. I didn’t really look past her gaze at nighttime to avoid eye contact. I didn’t even offer her a sip of water instead of my breast. She didn’t, in truth, actually sleep for those 8 hours that I told you about.

In fact, she has never slept for 8 hours in a row…not when you take into account all of the snuggling, smiles, little kisses and breastfeeds that naturally occur throughout our night. Yes, Health Visitor, I did say “our night”; my little girl and I sleep side-by-side, drifting in and out of our own special sleep dance, perfectly in tune, feeling warm, safe and happy. I guess that’s something else that I wasn’t exactly truthful about at the time. You can find more info about desert mobile medical.

You see, Health Visitor, I led you to believe that your advice, excuse me, your instructions, were right for us. I led you to believe that your dated and unsafe methods actually “worked”… if “success” is determined by the behavior of a child instead of the feelings. If only I had been honest from the start, perhaps the footprints that you came to leave in the next unsuspecting mother’s life would have been softer. Perhaps, just perhaps, you might have questioned your own methods and goals, seeking evidence-based, research-led data that would broaden and accelerate your understanding of the subject matter you preach daily. Or perhaps not.

903529_65792420For you and your team, my innocent baby was simply a tick in a box, but I didn’t actually ask for “help” if you remember.

It was your colleague who rang me at 10 weeks postpartum, when my iron levels were still so low after I had nearly died of a postpartum hemorrhage that I could easily have been admitted to hospital. “Are you getting out much? I haven’t seen you at the drop-in weight clinic, and 10 weeks is by far enough time to be back to normal.”

It was your colleague who told me at a breastfeeding “support” group at 4 months that any more than one night feed was nothing more than “pure manipulation” on my baby’s part. Funnily enough, there was no mention of growth spurts, sleep regressions, or baby brain maturity rendering my daughter physiologically incapable of “manipulation.”

It was your colleague who told me repeatedly, again at the breastfeeding support group, that my baby fed too frequently and to offer her water instead of the breast. Funnily enough, there was no check for tongue-tie, which was totally missed until 18 months. Or allergy, which was missed until a major type 1 reaction occurred on the introduction of solids. It seems that the ‘Health’ in ‘Health Visitor’ is there for no more than decoration.

It was your colleague who told me at my daughter’s 9-month check that children who aren’t put in their cots at 7 p.m. and left there without contact for the proceeding 12 hours will turn into “teenagers who sleep with their parents.”

But it was you, dear Health Visitor, who quietly watched, gently checked-in and slowly nodded. It was you who chip, chip, chipped away at my motherly instincts and confidence. If only I hadn’t answered truthfully in the postnatal depression test; if only my results hadn’t flagged me as borderline so that I was placed on monthly drop-ins for an “innocent chat.”

I was honest here, Health Visitor. I was telling the truth when I said I was happy, that I had never felt more content and fulfilled than when my darling daughter gazed lovingly into my eyes at the breast. I was being honest when I said that the only reason I scored highly on the “anxiety” section was because I couldn’t shake the memory of crashing during childbirth–the memory of my wonderful husband holding our baby with nothing but terror in his eyes while a team of doctors worked on me, as all the while the world grew fuzzy-white and I fought to stay awake. You see, Health Visitor, my “problem” wasn’t with being a mother, it was with the memory of almost NOT being a mother…of almost missing out on every single second of pure joy that my child brings me. It was with a slow, unapologetic nod and change of subject that you met this truth.

You are the expert after all. You know sleep deprivation when you see it. In fairness, you were quite right; I was tired, but the difference between you and I is that I don’t see tiredness as a bad thing. Being tired was a crucial part of my new mum experience. It allowed me to switch off the world outside and focus on the only thing that mattered: my baby.

It was you, Health Visitor, who instructed me on every single drop-in visit to leave my daughter to cry in her cot, alone, “for as long as it takes, even if she is sick.” It was you who instructed me on every single visit, to “keep it up for as many days or weeks as is necessary, and if you need to change the sheets to remove the vomit, don’t look her in the eye.” It was you who told me that “every mum has a breaking point.” You were determined to reach mine, weren’t you, dear Health Visitor?

I simply must confess to you that I lied. I did not follow your orders. I did not leave my daughter alone in her cot to cry and puke and learn helplessness. Instead, I cuddled, cradled, snuggled and breastfed my baby girl so that she can learn what it is to be human. Because isn’t that what we are missing in all of this? Isn’t it eye contact, innate communication, respect, kindness and love that define us as human? It is with nothing but pure love that I treat my daughter.

I see your instructions as nothing more than neglect, and it is because of this that I am sorry. I am sorry that I led you to believe that I had taken your advice; in explanation, I simply wanted your visits to stop. I am truly sorry to all of the other mums who had to endure your mantra. I am so very sorry to all of the other babies that had to endure the consequences of your orders. I hope that now, with hindsight and with my admission, you will understand that your role is not just a day job. You are on the front line, so to speak. You have the access to truly make a difference in the lives of hundreds of families. Let’s turn away from learned helplessness and perhaps in so doing you will learn helpfulness … we can but hope.

Sincerely,

Mama Bean

Attachment, a Surprising Love Story

I called my friend, Javaughn in a panic on my way home from work (I started a part-time job as a teacher recently).  “I have a post due for APtly Said tomorrow and I have not written anything. What should I write about?”

Then she began talking about her own experience with co-sleeping and how it has made a positive impact on her family’s nighttime parenting routine. Javaughn Renee’s beautiful essay (she is such a gifted writer and artist) illustrates that Attachment Parenting can be adapted to meet individual families’ needs. Take what you like and leave the rest. There is not a checklist, only a core belief that connection and love works to build stronger relationships with children and their parents.

Without further ado — here is Javaughn Renee. She has three beautiful adopted daughters and a multi-racial family.

***

I let off a ‘holier than thou,’ sigh when I got off the phone with a tired friend  practicing Attachment Parenting principles.

“That’s crazy, “ I judged, and promptly placed my three year old in her crib and shut the door.  Two years and two more adopted children later, I hear myself saying, “…hold on Meg, I have to put the girls to bed, I’ll call you back.”

This time, “put to bed,” means co-sleep.  Co-sleeping became a solution to predictable, yet unpreventable, nighttime screaming matches. I got the idea not from a parent but from the last of a stream of behavior and adoption experts and my own desire to be a peaceful parent.

I never wanted screaming matches, sarcasm, or baths of tears to be part of my parental script. I wanted organic babies, who ate organic food and breastmilk, while I decorated their rooms with leaves, pinecones and non-violent paraphernalia. What I was blessed with, was three super strong-willed, attention-seeking, trauma survivors. These include a five-year-old who will eat a shoe if she believes it is made of sugar, a three-year-old who will sacrifice her body to concrete before she uses her words and a 15-year-old who will silently suffer an ingrown toenail for two weeks but cry buckets if she does not receive an Easter egg with the same amount of candy as her younger siblings.

And me? My locks evolved into a very chicken like hair-do, my natural deodorant left me smelling like an ape and instead of counting my (three) blessings, I fell asleep nightly wondering what did I do wrong.  Then I heard about oxytocin, the miracle hormone for my badass kids. A hormone their pre-adoption circumstances deprived them of and a substance I was not nurturing.  Though, I discovered, I could.

“When they [children with difficult behaviors] receive attuned and attentive care, children can begin to have a healthy oxytocin response and engage in healthy social and emotional relationships,” says author B. Byron Post.

The book applies what I recognized as (some) Attachment Parenting principles to adoptive parents who’ve turned into screaming zealots. Although, the book does not spell out API principles, Post’s (and others’) parental paradigm suggests that love, not fear will reduce stress and help children and parents regulate their emotions and behaviors.

So, “to hell with it,” I thought. “I’ll try  this love, thing. ” Every other expert trick or response was out and sleeping with my kids was in.

It was weird. Then it worked. So far, we’ve generally had months of nighttime peace. Even nights of, even-though-we’re-mad-we’re-still-sleeping-here kind of peace. Soon after, I was homeschooling the Sugarmonster and we became oddly calmer and happily closer. We snuggle for stories and even for discipline. Our three-year-old is trying to talk up a storm and we read devotionals and give kisses to our teen rugby player.

I can’t lie to the readers of this site and have you all believe I never resort to consequences or power struggles– because it happens. Yet, API and other new parenting paradigms will remain a part of my skill set as a parent.    All three of my children have to play catch up when it comes to love, nurture, and bonding, and Attachment Parenting will now play a part.

Javaughn Renee is a 43 year old writer and artist currently living in South Bend, Indiana but missing sunny California.  She is a nature loving, yoga teaching, parent, striving to live simply and with love.
In 2010, she completed a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Her research focuses on images of African Americans and nature and their effects on stereotypes. She has written for regional and national publications and blogs for other unique families at Mezclados.wordpress.com.   Javaughn continues to write, practice yoga and parent while watching her daughters grow to be sensitive and strong.

Are You Afraid to Admit the Challenges You Face As a Parent?

I often look into the eyes of my friends, or strangers in Target with toddlers and babies in their carts and ask, “How’s it going? Most of the time I get the big smile and the cheerful voice telling me, “Great!” I stare a little deeper and I ask again in case I might be the one person they want to tell the truth to. If I still don’t get the answer I’m looking for, I’ll ask again, “Do you ever find that it’s hard?” “Do you ever have really rough days?”

I have found that I desperately want to connect and relate with others in the reality of parenthood. I feel the magic, Love, gratitude and magnitude in each moment. This love overwhelms me in the most powerful ways. I am truly thankful for being given the greatest role of my lifetime. The gift of being the mother to my two sons. This said, I find that many people don’t want to admit how crazy hard it can be sometimes. Even when I am standing there giving them the space, or at least that’s what I’m attempting to do, to speak the truth. To let it out. To relate. To understand that you are not alone. I want you to help me realize I’m not alone just as badly.

I am a very positive person and I have so much love inside and so much love to give. I am an extremely patient person as well. Patience may be one of those things that comes easily for me or a choice I make in each moment, yet sometimes, even that doesn’t make certain situations any easier. Yesterday, I broke down a few times in tears and felt completely helpless. I knew why it was rough but that didn’t make the hours go by any quicker and it didn’t resolve the stress and sadness I felt.

I believe we all do our best to know ourselves. Know our limitations, our bodies when we are sick, and our instincts when something doesn’t feel right. I also believe we do our best to know and understand our children. For example, I have learned recently how important a solid twelve hour night sleep is for my boys. They wake up cheerful, enthusiastic and playful the following day. It’s so simple and yet, so true.

Well, my boys have had stuffy noses the past few days and this hasn’t allowed for much restful sleep. That is my excuse and justification for why the past 24 hours have been absolutely and beyond…challenging. I now understand the need to lock yourself in a closet for just a minute to cry and regroup. It is just necessary sometimes. The crankiness, the crying, the attitudes, the not listening to anything I say, the getting hit in the ear with a wooden plank (accidentally)…all of it. I am laughing now as I write this because the visual seems amusing in this moment, but trust me, there was nothing funny about my day yesterday.

At times like those, even with the excuse I tell myself about the lack of sleep, I look at myself and wonder what I am doing wrong. I wonder where I can improve. I wonder if anyone in the world experiences days like these. I just want to cry. I want to go to sleep and let a new day begin.

I got the boys to bed early last night and they slept a full and tranquil twelve hours. Like a scene out of the Sound of Music, a new day began this morning. Big smiles and hugs from everyone, birds chirping, a shower WITH my hair washed, a lovely and peaceful breakfast, boys playing together, a dentist appointment with no crying, and smiles, love, and fun this entire day. I am thankful, recharged and happy. We skipped and laughed and hugged and as I was walking through my day, I felt compelled to share my thoughts.

I believe we are all grateful for those enjoyable moments spent with our children. We are grateful when we get through a store or a day without any ‘episodes’. I just had to express to you how hard it can truly be sometimes. I am not afraid to tell you that. I would love to ask you to express the same when you need to. If it isn’t me you want to vent to, please tell someone. I see so many people in our society working so hard to pretend their lives are perfect. Facebook, a platform I adore for many reasons, is one of those places especially, where I witness the ‘My life is perfect’ syndrome. There is comfort in hiding behind the protection of a computer screen, and fabricating the life you want to present to the world. It is really comfortable though?

I also believe that many of you, including myself, truly are positive and happy and feel compelled to share wonderful moments or photos publicly. I get it. I also believe that when you are down, putting out positivity or even receiving positivity is helpful in beginning a day with a good attitude…even if you don’t have one in that moment.

I’m not telling you to spill all of your hardships onto the social media masses. All I am saying is, don’t be afraid to be who you are. Don’t be afraid of what people will think of you. Don’t be afraid when you divulge a certain truth, that people will discover you are not perfect. Guess what. None of us are. We are not. Our children are not. Our lives are not.

Whether we have kids or we don’t, we go through ups and downs. I believe it is our attitude and the way we approach and respond to those downs that will get us through. Dig deep for patience in those moments. I know sometimes it may seem impossible. Go cry in the closet. The moment will pass. The day will pass. A new day will begin with another chance to experience the miracle of being alive.

I also want to acknowledge those with newborns. I always think of you. Hang in there. While you are enjoying first smiles and precious glances, you are also experiencing sleepless nights, fatigue and responsibility for another like you’ve never known. Hold on to each moment. Enjoy it. Find the beauty. Find the patience and the Love. Be present. I promise you this. You WILL sleep again. You will have moments to yourself again and most importantly, I promise you this. It all goes by faster than you know. This is it. This is your chance to be the mother or father you never had or like the mother or father you did have and respect so much. This is your chance to be YOU. This is your chance to be the best Parent you can be. There isn’t a greater role or responsibility on Earth…in my opinion.

Much Love and Support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations in Attachment Parenting in Bangladesh – Guest Post by Annie Urban

Around the world, parents love their babies. They do what they think is best to keep them safe, to nurture them, and to help them grow into exceptional human beings. In many Western countries, attachment parenting is being celebrated as a positive choice that parents can make, while in may traditional cultures it is what they’ve been practicing all along.

In September, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Bangladesh with Save the Children Canada to visit their health and nutrition and education programs. While the main goal of the trip was to understand the needs of children in those countries and have the opportunity to observe the positive results that Save the Children’s programs are having, I found it fascinating to be able to observe similarities and differences in parenting styles and choices.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to spend enough time with families there to get an in-depth understanding of their parenting styles, there were some observations I was able to make as it relates to some of the principles of attachment parenting.

Prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting: A lot of remote communities in Bangladesh haven’t had access to health workers or authoritative health information to help women in the community to prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting. Women have given birth at home, on dirt floors, without a trained birth assistant present. Through Save the Children Canada’s programs, communities are able to found birth centres that act as a central point to care for midwives to care for mothers throughout their pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. The health workers there visit mothers at home during their pregnancies to check in on them and educate them. These communities have also established community action groups and engaged community volunteers to help identify health problems that mothers and babies are facing and to find ways to address those through education and care in their communities.

Feed with love and respect: According to the WHO Global Data Bank on Infant and Young Child Feeding, 98% of babies in Bangladesh are breastfed and the average age of weaning is 33 months. Dig even deeper and you’ll see that 95% of one year olds are still being breastfed as are 91% of two year olds. I was incredibly impressed with these statistics. The idea of a mother being unable to breastfeed is foreign to them because it is so rare that significant breastfeeding problems occur. Breastfeeding is a part of their culture and formula is something that is unnecessary and unaffordable for most. Breastfeeding on cue is the norm in Bangladesh and if anything mothers there need to be taught about the importance of introducing solids at the right time instead of relying on just breast milk to meet the baby’s nutritional needs for too long.

Use Nurturing Touch: One of the ways that women around the world keep their babies close to them is through babywearing. Many traditional cultures have types of wraps or carriers that they use and a lot of those have been adapted and adopted in Western cultures. I was curious to see how the moms carried their babies in Bangladesh and was surprised to find out that they don’t use carriers at all. It isn’t that they were using strollers (they weren’t) or that the babies weren’t being held (they were). But whenever I saw babies they were being carried on a mom’s hip or sitting on a mom’s lap. When I asked why no carriers, I was told that it just isn’t part of their culture and that there are always enough hands around (grandmothers, aunts, friends, etc.) that when the mother needs to put the baby down to do something, someone else can hold the baby. That made a lot of sense to me within a home or community environment, but I have to admit I was tired just watching some of these moms walk along long paths or roads with a large baby on their hip supported by their arm.

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally: Cribs? What cribs? In all of the homes that we visited in Bangladesh, it was a given that the mom would sleep with the baby. In fact, most homes had only one or two rooms and the whole family slept together in one bed. Educational materials around breastfeeding always picture the mom lying in bed with the baby to nurse at night.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care:  In most families and in the Bangladeshi culture, it seems as though consistent and loving care is the norm. Babies are kept close and as they get older, they are given more independence and responsibility, but families remain very close with everyone living in one small space and often working together in the family business. Unfortunately, for some families, that isn’t the reality. If they cannot afford to feed all of their children, they may send some of them away to work as servants (child domestic workers) in another family’s home, often far away. Those children may be sent away as young as six years old, will have no regular contact with their families back in their village, and are often mistreated and abused by the families they are working for.

Overall, from what I saw in Bangladesh, the principles of attachment parenting are very much a part of their culture. They are very community-minded and the village steps in to help raise children in a nurturing environment, helping them to overcome some of the challenges to attachment parenting that are created by the isolation of the nuclear family in Western cultures. The challenges they face are due to the dire economic circumstances that sometimes prevent them from being able to parent in the way that they would like, creating a lot of heartbreak for families and having dire consequences for children.

The good news though is that the work that non-profit organizations like Save the Children are doing in Bangladesh is having exceptional results. The programs are designed in a way that fits with the local culture and that is sustainable, so that communities can take control of their own health, education and destiny.

For more information

Save the Children Canada

Getting Results for Maternal and Child Health in Bangladesh Through Community Empowerment.

More on breastfeeding in Bangladesh

More on child domestic workers 

Save the Children Canada’s health and nutrition programs for mothers and children

 

Annie has been blogging about the art and science of parenting on the PhD in Parenting Blog since May 2008. She is a social, political and consumer advocate on issues of importance to parents, women and children. She uses her blog as a platform to create awareness and to advocate for change, calling out the government, corporations, media and sometimes other bloggers for positions, policies and actions that threaten the rights and well-being of parents and their children

Do You Have a Baby Sleep Problem?

We have all had questions about baby sleep habits at some point. Is this normal? Is this healthy? Should my baby be doing what her baby is doing? Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and seven other parenting books, shares her expertise on what “sleep problem” really means. 

Do You Have a Baby Sleep Problem?

by Elizabeth Pantley

I’m sure it’s happened to you. Once, twice, or more likely, a hundred times. You’re introducing someone to your new baby and inevitablly they have to ask, “Is he sleeping through the night?”

How on earth do you answer this question? If you say yes, you’re given a pat on the back and bestowed a smile that says, “Congratulations, you’ve done it right.” But if you are honest, and say no, you open the door to a barrage of unwanted advice, which most certainly includes step-by-step instructions on how to put your baby in a crib and let him cry until he falls asleep, so that you can win the My Baby Sleeps Through the Night Award.

If your baby is not sleeping through the night, you may eventually get the feeling that something is definitely wrong. Some of this onslaught of advice starts seeping into your psyche and poking you with the feeling that you do, indeed a problem, and you should definitely fix it.

If you find yourself in this place, the first and most important question to correctly answer is this: Do I truly have a problem? I would suggest getting a monitor to track your baby’s sleep, definitely  check out Baby Monitor Town. They’re the best bet for reviews on the best baby monitors, baby strollers, etc.

Let’s first identify what is NOT a baby sleep problem:

~ WHERE your baby sleeps.
Crib, cradle, swing, sling, or your bed. As long as the situation is safe for your baby, there are no absolute rules about where a baby must sleep.

~ HOW often baby wakes up.
Actually, all human beings wake up between their sleep cycles. We wake up as many as six times every night, as we shift through the stages of sleep. Babies do this too – but they have shorter sleep cycles, and more cycles than adults do. So, in reality – it’s impossible for your baby to sleep all night without waking up!

~ WHAT relatives, neighbors, or anyone else thinks.
Unless the person lives in your home and is involved in your baby’s daily care, their opinions about parenting are just that – their opinions.

None of these issues identify sleep problems . . . IF . . . (and this is a very big IF) mommy, daddy & Baby are all happy and sleeping well. If everyone in your home is happy and getting enough sleep, then the only problem is the stream of unwanted advice. And if that’s the case, it’s time to memorize this response: “Thank you for sharing your ideas. We have this one covered.” And if the other person continues to press their beliefs on you, then it’s fine to let them know, “Thanks for caring. But we’re fine. This may not be the right way for you, but it’s the right way for me.”

Now, let’s identify what really IS a sleep problem that needs to be fixed.

~ BABY is not sleeping well.
For the first two years of life children need 13 to 16 hours of sleep every day, including one to four daily naps. Adequate sleep is a biological necessity to stabilize mood and support the miraculous growth and development that occurs in early life.

~ The adults in the house are suffering, sleep deprived, or miserable.
Being a parent – raising a human being – is the most important job of your life. If your lack of sleep is affecting your ability to be present for your baby, or robbing you of the joy of this special time in your life, it’s imperative that you find a solution.

~ What used to work is no longer working.
You may have been perfectly happy to nurse your newborn every hour or two all night long. You may have relished that precious time like no other. But when you’re baby is still needing all-night attention and you’re busy planning his first birthday party – you may be desperate for change. And change may be necessary for the good of your entire family.

So, to summarize, be sure you aren’t creating problems in your own mind based on what someone else believes is your problem. Address only those issues that are important to your baby’s health, or your family’s happiness, an option like the Kids shark toy pillow can make life easier giving things to play with to the baby so he can get tired. That said, if you are struggling, it is perfectly okay to put together a plan to change your baby’s sleep habits. It’s hard to be a great parent if your nighttime baby care rituals are not working for you. Just know that you never have to leave your baby to cry to sleep – there are a wide variety of gentle, thoughtful ideas that you can use to lovingly and respectfully make those changes.

You know your baby better than anyone else in the world. Trust your instincts, and follow your heart. And enjoy every day of this magical, priceless time in your life.

 

Elizabeth Pantley is mother of four and the author of the now-classic baby sleep book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution online baby gift baskets, as well as the series of seven other No-Cry Solution parenting books on topics such as discipline, separation anxiety and potty training. Visit her at nocrysolution.com.

Making the Best Sleep Choices for my Family

This week someone got in touch with me to talk about a new study in the journal Pediatrics, which suggests that there’s no long-term harm associated with certain methods of sleep training. These methods use controlled crying in order to encourage babies to fall asleep on their own. They followed two groups of babies at seven months – one of which used sleep training techniques, and one of which didn’t. They followed up with these groups at six years old, and found no statistical differences. Their emotional health, behavior and sleep problems were the same. As well, the mothers’ levels of depression and anxiety were the same.

Many of the newspaper headlines around this article suggested that this means that sleep training is okay, or recommended. These two methods, when practiced with seven-month-olds, don’t appear to cause brain damage, so why not use them?

I have two children, who are now four and seven years old. The days of being up all night with a baby are currently behind me. I remember them all too well, though. And I remember how I handled them. One of the eight principles of Attachment Parenting International is ensuring safe sleep, physically and emotionally. I tried to do that, by keeping my babies close to me at night, and responding to their needs. I didn’t do this because I was afraid of causing them brain damage, I did this because it’s what worked best for my family.

Day 16

The truth is that many, if not most, parents go through periods where they’re not getting enough sleep. We all handle this in different ways. This is as it should be, because every baby is different, and every family is different. Each child will learn to sleep independently on a different timeline. Even with my own two children, I’ve seen very different temperaments and developmental paths. As a result, I don’t believe there’s any single answer when your baby is keeping you up at night, including sleep training.

I also don’t believe that I should do something simply because it isn’t harmful. There are many things that simply aren’t right for my family, even though they’re safe. For example, I have rules about not eating food on the couch. This isn’t because my children will be damaged if they eat on the couch, it’s because I don’t want to clean it. In the same way, I have always known that I didn’t want to let my babies cry themselves to sleep. It’s not about avoiding harm, it’s about making the choice that I feel is best for my family. Listening to my babies cry wasn’t best for me, or my family.

As well, I think it’s important to point out something about this study. It looked at two very specific sleep training methods, used with seven month olds. It did not look at all methods, and it did not look at four month olds or two month olds or even younger babies. We can say that there aren’t any apparent negative long-term effects in this case, but this doesn’t mean that would be the case for any sleep training method with any baby.

There were hard nights as the parent of an infant, but looking back I can honestly say that I’m happy I didn’t let my babies cry it out. It wasn’t for my family. And one study can’t change that.

What methods have you found effective to help everyone in your family get enough sleep, other than using “cry it out”? And do the results of this study change your opinion on the method?

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