Another Perspective on Sleep Issues

A few of you have asked about sleep - never enough of course.
 
This is what I think about it after 24 years of wondering WHY babies don't come with an off switch.....
 
There are a few things you can do. You're probably at the stage where you've tried everything.  And go for it, do try everything - you might find something that works with your wakeful one....
 
Expectations.
It is an unrealistic expectation to think your baby will sleep through the night any time soon. Every baby comes with their own set of "adjusting to their new body" issues.  If you are one of the few whose child sleeps all night - be exceedingly grateful!  It is uncommon.  Some babies can be trained to sleep better with controlled crying etc, but many will not.   As far as baby training goes, I think it's not alot of use under about a year, because you both go through all the pain of the training and then teething, a cold, or a growth spurt puts you back to square one. 
 
I let them sleep with us. Often it is the contact, more than the milk, that the baby needs.  In our western society we separate mother and baby early and for some reason it is considered a  great thing if your baby is low maintenance and requires little contact.  I think early separation is not natural and most babies agree with me!    (You're thinking - surely there is a happy medium!!) 
 
Think of less 'civilized', more 'primitive' cultures where babies are tied on to their mother with a cloth while she works, and the family sleeps together.  (Your baby has been carried very close, like inside, for 9 months and naturally objects to being suddenly left alone.) Compare that to the distancing that is encouraged in our culture.  A bassinette, then a crib, then a small bed and their own room as soon as possible.  We use strollers and prams instead of holding the baby, and swings and  bouncy chairs to comfort the baby, and sleep pods and capsules while they sleep and we run around.  I am extremely aware of the ridiculous amounts of work a family entails and the pressure we feel to get it all done.  Just be aware that YOU choose what you do and consider more contact, fewer gadgets.
 
Comforting your baby at night
Trends come and go, but wrapping a baby has always been done by mothers because it comforts the baby.  You pick up a squirming baby before they are fully awake and crying and feed her laying in bed, rub her back to get rid of air bubbles and put her back, or not.  Keep the light very dim, no media, as little movement as you can get away with, so the baby is not stimulated, and at some point in the near future figures out not much happens at night, in fact, the idea is to sleep.  
 
I love sleeping with a baby.  I think the safety issues people go on about are silly. You can not sleep for a tiny squeak he makes so  a mother is not going to lay on her baby.  Also, as far as the "Oh no, he'll never leave our bed!!" worry - an older baby is much easier and quicker to train than a little baby.  You can tell when he is "Milking the System" (pun) and when he has needs like hunger and fear and loneliness.  When you are sure of this, a certain amount of controlled crying is endurable but when you are not sure it is torture.  I had a strong objection to letting my babies cry until they were frantic, so did a step by step approach when I felt it was time to train them into their own bed.  Having them sleep with a brother or sister or even a pet also makes the transition easier.  Meanwhile, there is alot of bonding that goes on and much more sleeping!
   
Truly the main reason for letting babies sleep with you is so you get more sleep, which, unless you've lived through it, you really don't understand the need.  The biggest help for me was learning to relax when you are not sleeping! Don't let yourself worry "I'm going to be sooo tired tomorrow".  Instead think about happy things like how sweet he is and his warm cuddles and how wonderful it is that you can feed him and give him milk to make him grow and how blessed you are to have this beautiful child.  I know you think those things - the trick is to think them in the middle of the night!!
 
Horizontal rest, even when you are not sleeping, works, if you can relax enough to let it.  Not as good as the real thing, mind you, but enough to be happy instead of - well - you know..... desperate. 
 
The biggest thing is, a child feels your feelings, so if you are  stressing about it the baby feels it and needs comfort.  
Take the stress you feel from not sleeping out of the equation and everything is better even though you still do not get enough.  
  
Another thing is to admit to yourself and others that you cannot do all you normally do or want to do with small children- give yourself a break and don't try to be so normal.  The goal in having a new baby is not to see how quickly you can get back to your normal running around. It is.....well, the new baby!
 
One of the "profile" mothers on the website,  is so lively and active that you would never guess that she has a goal to spend at least 12 hours out of 24, in bed!  Usually with her two babies. Do what you feel you need to do to be a happy mother, even if it is a little unusual. 

So about that off switch.  Because it is not there you get two blessings (that is, GOOD things).  Your character becomes refined- you develop  patience, a deep unselfishness, sacrifice and loving someone more than yourself.  And the priviledge of serving and teaching love to this wonderful new person you have brought into the world.  

It may not feel like it at the moment, but that is better than sleep.

-Lisa

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