Jed having a rare nap at not quite eight weeks old. (Yup, i know)
I met a woman in a shop a few weeks ago. Her small one was flirting with mine and we got talking. Somehow sleep came into the conversation. I mentioned that we’d had a disrupted night and she burst out laughing, somehow managing to keep an understanding sort of a look at the same time. She has five kids. The first one? Not a sleeper. She tried everything, several times. Felt so much pressure from all the advice and comments from those around her, thought it was her fault. Nothing did any good, number one kid is still not a sleep through the night sort of a person. Number 2, 3 and fourth born children? Slept through the night from fairly early on. Fifth one? Two years old and yet to rack up that first sleep through the night. I wish i had met her when Jed was 6 months old. Would have saved me alot of stress. It didn’t help that his father added heaping spoonfuls of criticism on a regular basis. From the safe place of sleeping largely undisturbed by others i hasten to add.
Fast forward to today and we’re going through a rough patch in the sleep department again. Jed is in that transition time of becoming a ‘little person’ rather than a baby or toddler. Psychologically the phases of development go from 0-3 and then 3-7yrs. This transition is all about learning to stand on his own two feet. Mama as back-up of course, but still, learning that separation dance doesn’t come easy. He’s having nightmares of me not being there and needing reassuring touch from me in the night to let him know i am there. Mama is always there. Joseph Chilton Pearce writes wonderfully about this transition in his book the Magical Child
Jed is a wonderful kid. He is well balanced, fun, incredibly smart (this is the kid who started walking and talking at 9 months), is centred, wise, emotionally intelligent and many other things. And you know what? I am real tired of hearing what i should have done to stop him from waking repeatedly. Tired of hearing it’s my fault he is a waker because i co-slept or breastfed on demand, wore purple underpants or didn’t leave him to cry it out. More often these days, it’s that he needs to go out more, run around more or go to preschool to tire him out. I heard for the third time from the same mama today, that he would sleep better if i made sure to take him out more often. My personal favourite is still the friend who, when Jed was 16 months old and wasn’t sleeping through said, ‘oh, well clearly you don’t really want him to sleep through or you would have manifested it by now’. On reflection, i realised that all these comments (bar that last one) and helpful suggestions came from mothers whose babies and children are sleepers. Pah! I have to admit to holding myself back from cursing all their future offspring with sleeping issues.
It keeps coming up for me, this sleep thing. There is not much support out there for mothers dealing with the chronic effects of sleep deprivation while still trying, bless us, to live life fully and parent peacefully and joyfully from our hearts. Or for those with small ones who have a hard time letting go into sleep. I would love to start a blog for mama’s struggling with sleep issues or just plain ole fashioned nursing a newborn soul interrupted sleep. I don’t have the energy right now and so will include links on growmama for now. Let me know if there is information or blogs you have found helpful.
You know your child best. Listen to your inner voice. Get perspective if you think it would help. Sometimes just hearing you are doing fine is a welcome thing. Get rest. When you can, how you can. Let go of ambitious plans until you are all getting more chunks of sleep. By all means read up about sleep stuff, but be aware that trying any ‘sleep training’ before at least 9 months is not recommended by even conventional child psychologist’s. Trying something different in a consistent manner can be important so you know you are doing your best to shift things. Be ready to let it go if it causes more stress than you can handle or it clearly, repeatedly isn’t working. Ignore the well meaning remarks and questions of whether your child is sleeping through the night yet. Prepare comments you can respond to when asked if your baby/child sleeps through the night. (Ie, jokingly say, i am sure he/she will be by high school). And, Dad? Get up once or twice a week to be there for your waking child aye – good for your connection with your kid and very very good for your relationship. Keep that baby co-sleeping with you if that is what you feel strongly about and know that you might be trekking back and forth to little one’s room anyway. Much easier to lean over than get up.
You know what? I wouldn’t change much about the last years and how i have handled our sleeping…i have learnt so much. Believe me, if you had insider info on our sleep history, you’d know what a statement that is.
Some interesting reading on sleep and babies/very young children:
If you are at your wits end you might try a session (she does phone and email as well as in person) with Genevieve Simperingham. Her website is peaceful-parent.com. Or with Tracy at Dreaming Babies. Sometimes just sitting down to write the case history and reflecting on what is going on for you and your family can be all it takes for insight or compassion to strike.