Kendra over at Catholic All Year has a blog post about baby sleep and what she does to get her babies to sleep. It's a very interesting post (as all of Kendra's posts are), and the comments are even more interesting. While Kendra was very much do whatever works for you, every family is different, many of the commentators seemed to say that babies needed to be trained to sleep and before employing CIO (cry-it-out), everyone was sleep-deprived and miserable and afterwards, everyone was happy and well rested. And, I'm sure that is true for them. But, it's not true for me.
I've gotten to a point in my parenting where I can respect that different things work for different families. I'm not judging those who do CIO. I totally respect that most parents really are parenting the best they can and everyone does things differently. I realize that co-sleeping isn't for everyone..that it doesn't work for some families. And, that's okay. Those families need to do what works for them.
However I did want to address the idea that babies need to be taught to sleep alone for healthy sleep habits and that co-sleeping leads to unhealthy sleep habits and sleep-deprived mothers and babies.
With all my babies, we've co-slept from day one. They've always nursed to fall asleep unless they fell asleep in the stroller, the sling or the car.
Co-sleeping and night-nursing is easy for me. It doesn't disturb my sleep and I sleep just fine with a baby in bed with me, and even nursing in the middle of the night does not disturb me because I don't have to get up. I barely even have to roll over.
By 1 week, my babies have all had their days/night straight and would (98% of the time) sleep all night, with only waking up to nurse...but no fussy/awake periods during the night. So, I never actually got up at night (except to change a poopy diaper and that all stopped by 3-4 weeks of age or so).
By 3-6 months, they would reliably give a solid 2 hour stretch of sleeping alone, in the beginning of the night and I could easily nurse them to sleep and then lay them down and they'd be good for about 2 hours while I did my own thing.
By 6-10 months, I could nurse them to sleep and easily lay them down for naps and they would nap alone (for some reason napping was harder to get them to do alone).
|Here's proof.. Baby napping alone! 7 months ago this would have been rare...now it's a daily occurrence. And, now you can also see what Elsa wore Sunday.|
By a year, they were down to nursing only once or twice in the middle of the night. Since we're still co-sleeping, this nursing is not disruptive to me in the least. I simply latch them on and go right back to sleep.
Sometime around age 2-2 1/2 I night-weaned them completely, although they would continue to nurse to fall asleep but not nurse at all during the night. Depending on the child, this was easier or harder, but with all the kids, it was fairly painless.
One thing I learned from night-weaning, is that even at age 2, some of my kids were legitimately thirsty in the middle of the night and that is why they wanted to nurse. Once I started keeping a sippy- cup of water in the bedroom to offer instead of nursing, night-weaning went fairly smoothly. Heck, sometimes, I still wake up thirsty and need a drink of water to go back to sleep.
Sometime around age 2.5-3.5 they stopped nursing to sleep. They just did this all on their own. I didn't have to teach them or anything, they just naturally started pulling off from nursing before being completely asleep and then falling asleep on their own. I know some people will think aaaack, you were still nursing your 2-year or 3-year old to sleep, but really nursing them to sleep is EASIER than reading stories or singing songs or doing whatever bedtime routine other people do with their kids. It only takes about 10 minutes at that age, and is a more sure-fire way of getting them to sleep than stories and singing or whatnot. And they all naturally gave it up...on their own. And, none of them got cavities from it either.
And, if I wasn't home to put them to sleep, they fell asleep just fine with Daddy, so it wasn't like I had to be there all the time. It's just that most of the time I was, so it was easy enough to nurse to sleep.
Also, around age 3, they all moved to their own bed in another room.
And, between 3 or 3 1/2, they all weaned totally and completely..and have slept on their own, in their own bed, ever since. They all have healthy sleep habits, fall asleep easily and for the most part sleep all night. We don't have elaborate bedtime routines...or kids stalling bedtime or kids getting out of bed repeatably. From age 3-4, some of them would come into my bed in the middle of the night a few times a week, and I was fine with that. By age 4, they pretty much all stopped doing that and stayed in their own bed all night.
There has been a natural progression of increasingly independent sleep that happened all by itself without sleep training.
For babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.That line from that classic poem is so true. Babies grow up. They all grow up. They all wean. They all learn to fall asleep on their own. They stop needing to be rocked (or nursed). They become easier to put down asleep as their sleep pattern shifts from a newborn pattern to an adult pattern.* They all start sleeping through the night. Some earlier than others..but it DOES happen. Sometimes it feels like society is pushing babies and toddlers more and more towards independence earlier and earlier. We just joined a new coop and Elsa is in the nursery. I'm only assigned to be in the nursery with her the last class...the first class I have "off" to socialize in the parent's lounge and the 2nd class I'm expected to help out in another class. Last week was our first day there, and not surprisingly at all, Elsa protested rather strongly if I tried to leave her alone in the nursery with total and complete strangers. She was terrified. So, I didn't leave her. She's just a baby. I put her on my back in the Beco and took her with me to help out in the class I was assigned to help out. And, she was fine..she fell asleep back there. And, I was fine with her on my back. The other mothers in the nursery were oh, it's like a band-aid...you rip it off and it hurts and they cry, but then they get used to it and they stop crying. And, maybe that's true..but I wasn't going to leave her in there crying and alone with unfamiliar people. She's just a baby. I don't judge others who do that..but I'm not going to. Just because she can't be left at 12-months with total strangers doesn't mean she won't happily go into a preschool class at age 3 or a kindergarten class at age 5. They all grow up. I don't need to force separation at age 1, to make it possible at age 3 or age 4.
Likewise I don't need to force a baby to sleep alone at 6 months, to ensure that they're sleeping alone when they're three or that they have healthy sleep habits. It just happens..they just naturally grow up and become less needy and more independent.
I can honestly say that I've never felt sleep-deprived from my babies nursing in the middle of the night. The only times I have felt sleep deprived are when I stayed up too late, or I was up with someone who was sick or injured. But, never just from my babies waking up to nurse. I honestly can't relate to moms talking about those sleep-deprived first few months, because I'm wasn't sleep-deprived. I sleep, baby sleeps, we all sleep together and it works for us.
And, my babies have never seemed sleep-deprived or been cranky from nursing at night or nursing to sleep. The only time they've been cranky and sleep deprived is when they haven't napped enough. And, that's not the fault of co-sleeping or nursing to sleep...that's the fault of us having places to go and people to see and things to do and simply not being home during nap, so they had cat naps in the car, or fell asleep in the sling at the grocery store or were pulled out of bed and thrown into the car to rush off to piano lessons.
On the flip side though, the advantage of nursing to sleep is that my babies are very adaptable and will nap anywhere. So, a 1-year old who sleeps all through Mass...SWEET!
The other advantage is that co-sleeping and night-nursing delays the onset of the return of fertility...and provides a form of "natural child spacing". My children are all spaced fairly far apart, and this form of co-sleeping/breastfeeding is a large reason why. Now, some people may not care about that, or may want closely spaced children (and that's great). But for those who do, or who are unsure about NFP...ecological breastfeeding/co-sleeping/continued nursing at night can work and provide a natural form of child-spacing. Of course there are exceptions..there are always exceptions...but it totally does work for me.
And, I as I said earlier...I respect the fact that everyone parents differently and that every family does what works from them. I really believe that. Co-sleeping doesn't work for everyone. My purpose in writing this post is to show that babies and toddlers can naturally learn healthy sleep habits and independent sleep in their own time without being "trained" into it. You don't HAVE to teach a baby how to sleep alone or how to fall asleep alone. They WILL figure it out...eventually..in their own time.
*Dr. Sears talks about this. When babies are first born, they fall asleep asleep differently than adults. They go from awake to light/REM sleep and then into deep sleep, which is why it's so hard to put a newborn baby down when they first fall asleep. They don't fall straight into deep sleep the way an older baby or an adult does. As they get older, this gradually shifts and they start to fall asleep and enter deep sleep earlier and faster (similar to the way an older child falls asleep and at that point, they become much easier to lay down if they fall asleep nursing or being rocked). I can always tell when Elsa is ready to be put down because her head rolls back in my arms...the rolling head is a sure sign of deep sleep.
And, since it just happens to be Sunday, I'm linking up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday...because that's what I do . I just can't let a Sunday go by without letting you all know what I wore (because I'm sure you all just care so much..or not).
|The photographer wanted to stage the picture this way.|
|You've seen all these pieces before. Everything is second hand...and that black cloth peaking out of the top of my shirt...that's actually a belly band worn..not-on-the-belly. But, hey..it works.|