Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions.
The GOOD News is babies are not meant to sleep through the night because it’s not safe for them to. The BAD news is babies are not meant to sleep through the night because it’s not safe for them to. So here is the ugly truth, being a parent is hard. There is no getting around it. For about the first five years of their lives MOST children will not sleep through the entire night. There I said it and I wish more people would. Being a parent doesn’t nor should it end when you go to sleep. Our children need us and like fire fighters we need to expect that they will need us at any time of day, and we should be prepared. Unlike fire fighters we don’t have to get dressed before we have to put out a fire/night terror. And hey isn’t that in the job description as a parent any way?
Sleep is important and without it some of us can get tired, even cranky, which can lead to frustration and when you are all of these things it’s easy to make decisions you may not have made had you been well rested.
”Parents who are frustrated with frequent waking or who are sleep deprived may be tempted to try sleep training techniques that recommend letting a baby cry in an effort to “teach” him to “self-soothe”. New research suggests that these techniques can have detrimental physiological effects on the baby by increasing the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, with potential long term effects to emotional regulation, sleep patterns and behavior. An infant is not neurologically or developmentally capable of calming or soothing himself to sleep in a way that is healthy. The part of the brain that helps with self-soothing isn’t well developed until the child is two and a half to three years of age. Until that time, a child depends on his parents to help him calm down and learn to regulate his intense feelings.” -API
We Haven’t Always Slept Alone!
“It’s important to note that infant solitary sleep is a relatively new practice that has evolved in the western world only within the last 100 years. Recently, there have been efforts by various medical and professional organizations to discourage parents from sleeping with their children for fear that it contributes to an increase in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, new research demonstrates that co-sleeping, when practiced by informed parents, can be safe and beneficial. In fact, many cultures where parents routinely sleep with their children report some of the lowest SIDS rates. In some of these cultures SIDS is non-existent.
API encourages parents to respond to their children’s needs at night just as they do during the day. Parents are also encouraged to explore the variety of different sleeping arrangements, and to choose the approach that best allows them to be responsive at night. Individual babies’ sleep patterns and needs vary a great deal. Remain flexible and understand that it is developmentally appropriate and normal for babies to wake up during the night to feed and seek contact.”-API
Do you know how you were parented at night? My husband and I recently discovered our Cry It Out pasts.
I believe HOW we were brought up has a little to do with how we raise our babies.
Shared sleeping arrangements allow parents to pay attention to infants’ signaling which helps the infant learn to regulate emotional responses. According to Dr. Sears:
” Nightwaking has developmental benefits. Sleep researchers believe that babies sleep “smarter” than adults do. They theorize that light sleep helps the brain develop because the brain doesn’t rest during REM sleep. In fact, blood flow to the brain nearly doubles during REM sleep. (This increased blood flow is particularly evident in the area of the brain that automatically controls breathing.) During REM sleep the body increases its manufacture of certain nerve proteins, the building blocks of the brain. Learning is also thought to occur during the active stage of sleep. The brain may use this time to process information acquired while awake, storing what is beneficial to the individual and discarding what is not. Some sleep researchers believe that REM sleeps acts to auto-stimulate the developing brain, providing beneficial imagery that promotes mental development. During the light sleep stage, the higher centers of the brain keep operating, yet during deep sleep these higher brain centers shut off and the baby functions on her lower brain centers. It is possible that during this stage of rapid brain growth (babies’ brains grow to nearly seventy percent of adult volume during the first two years) the brain needs to continue functioning during sleep in order to develop. It is interesting to note that premature babies spend even more of their sleep time (approximately 90 percent) in REM sleep, perhaps to accelerate their brain growth. As you can see, the period of life when humans sleep the most and the brain is developing the most rapidly is also the time when they have the most active sleep.”
With my kids sleep history the above means my kids are going to be super geniuses! While getting little sleep is no laughing matter, it s a part of early parenthood. I recently discovered that the word sacrifice in it’s origin means to make something sacred. Our early parenting years, as hard as they may be, in the end IS sacred and the loss of sleep that I had been so used to, up until my decision to have a baby is worth this very very sacred time in their and our lives.
OKAY OKAY you say, but WHEN is my baby going to SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT? More “bad” news…no one can say because babies are all so different from one another. Keep in mind the size of your babies tummy. You are saying, “Stomach?! Sleep?! What are you talking about?!” When your baby is born their tummy is about the size of a marble and even at three months it’s the size of a ping pong ball. In the first three months, tiny babies seldom sleep for more than four-hour stretches without needing a feeding. Then from three to six months, most babies begin to settle. Thank goodness!. They are awake for longer stretches during the day and some may sleep five-hour stretches at night. Between three to six months, expect one or two nightwakings. You will also see the period of deep sleep lengthen. The vulnerable periods for nightwaking decrease and babies are able to enter deep sleep more quickly. Dr. Sears calls this “sleep maturity”.
BUT MY FRIENDS KIDS SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT
Please remember that your baby’s sleep habits are more about your baby’s temperament rather than how you parent at night. The ugly truth is that other parents usually exaggerate how long their baby sleeps, as if this makes you a good parent, it doesn’t. It is NOT your fault baby wakes up. But they DO wake up. WHEN your baby reaches “sleep maturity” unfortunately, varies. now bear in mind even WHEN they achieve this “sleep maturity around the last half of the first year, they STILL wake up. WHY!?!? You say rubbing your eyes and yawning. Well painful stuff like teething pain, and colds pop up. When your little ones start doing big kid stuff like sitting, crawling, and walking, your baby will “practice” these new skills in their sleep. Then between one and two years of age, when your baby starts to sleep through the above-mentioned wake-up stimuli, other causes of nightwaking occur, such as separation anxiety and nightmares.
BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU?!
So now you know, but sleep is still important for you. In the early days of parenting, even before baby is born, set up your own village that it will take to raise this baby. Ask for help. There are plenty of folks in your life willing to play with or just look adoringly after your baby while you get some sleep. Having grandma or a best friend hold your child for four hours while you get your Sleep Maturity on can be a life saver. Consider registering for a post partum doula in those first few days and weeks after baby is born.
IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING PERFECT
We did a series on Attachment Parenting on our radio show. These shows were emotionally moving for me. I always say I am not an expert & as it turns out, I am most certainly not an expert, these shows have helped me reconnect, pause and strive to be a better mom. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. That’s not my goal. Personally I just want to do better for my children. I want to be responsible and I want to be kind. That’s it. AP isn’t about being perfect. It’s about finding out that there are different ways to parent, the information I get from API has helped me understand that the things I’ve done instinctually are backed up by science and common sense. I am grateful to API and if you are too please feel free to be as generous as possible and give back.
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