So, I would definitely say that one of the biggest struggles in my young Evelyne’s life (for me, that is) is in the area of sleep. She’s not what you would call “a good sleeper.” She’s actually in a place now where she’s pretty decent, she almost always sleeps through the night, but her naps leave much to be desired. It’s hard entertaining her for 11 hours a day, let’s just say. However, in the past 16 months we’ve definitely experienced the LOWS brought-on by lack of sleep…hers and ours. And those many occasions of rocking her for an hour at 3 in the morning definitely gave me plenty of time to reflect on why I was rocking her for an hour at 3 in the morning. It boils down to the fact that I’m her mother. She needed me. Though my exhausted body resented it, my heart desired to meet her needs, despite what other people told me about what she “should” be doing. I can’t go back and re-capture those sweet hours of rocking my cuddly baby, and I know one day I’ll really want to. It was such a short season, in retrospect. I can see that now. When I was in it, it felt like a lifetime. Like surely she would NEVER sleep through the night, she would probably call me when she’s in college and I’ll drive over to her dorm room to rock her back to sleep at 2 a.m. That’s what it felt like. But now I see that though it lasted several more months than I was expecting it to, it really was such a short and sweet season.
So I get a little annoyed when I see articles like this. Now I’m all for recognizing how important adequate sleep is to the growth and health of children. I’ve read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and I’ve given-up most of my social life to get my child to bed at an early hour. But let’s be honest, to me this article’s seemed like one big scare tactic for parents. “Don’t nurse your 5-month old when they wake in the middle of the night or else he’ll be obese and depressed by age 3!!!!” I mean, seriously? FIVE months?!
Yes, medical research does point to some significant statistics in regards to how important it is to make sure our babies get enough sleep. It is important. We should not treat it too lightly. But good grief, don’t make it sound like the single cause of childhood sleep problems is parents who co-sleep or soothe their child back to sleep in the middle of the night. In fact, Weissbluth (a doctor who runs a pediatric sleep clinic) makes a great case that it’s not so much how you’re getting them to sleep, it’s the quantity and quality of their sleep. It’s the timing of the naps and how long they are that matters, not whether you’re rocking your child to sleep or letting them scream their lungs out. It’s the total amount of sleep that is restorative over time, not whether you’re spending the night lying next to your child in bed or across the hall from them. This expert on childhood sleep doesn’t put-down co-sleeping, he says it’s often a great way for the whole family to get some good rest.
I was annoyed when I read this article because I’m tired of hearing people say things to make parents feel guilty for ACTING LIKE PARENTS. Yes, it is not healthy when a child gets way less than the amount of sleep his body requires. Yes, sometimes that turns into a big problem that makes him scream a lot and makes his parents want to stab their eyes out. Yes, sometimes you have to change your approach. But let’s please not make these broad statements to scare parents into ignoring their 5 month-old’s hunger cries out of fear that he’ll have nightmares and be obese when he’s three. Can we please not not make sweeping judgements of the thousands of families who successfully and happily co-sleep—WITH RESTED CHILDREN!??? Can we please not use words like “maladaptive” to describe the motherly instinct that God has given us to comfort and nurture our infants?
Yes, their physical rest is very important, that’s not to be downplayed. But our children are not just physical creatures. They have hearts and souls, and while there are times you have to make judgement calls on what at the moment is more important, their physical or emotional needs…. let’s not forget that the decisions we’re making leave lasting imprints on their soul, and if I want to rock my baby until she’s four (which I don’t, thankfully!), then she may be a little sleepy at times, but she will know she is loved.
Courtney has a great post about Nighttime Parenting that I suggest you head over to read. It’s very “maladaptive.”