Is there anything more discussed, dissected and formalized than the sleep patterns of a baby? Is there a secret to getting your baby to sleep? Many experts will tell you there is. But writer Rebecca Keenan calls them all out and wonders where the moderation is?
Guest Post: Calling B.S. On The Sleep Experts
I was halfway up the stairs when I heard him crying. It was
low and steady, not yet frantic. I took off running and
found my two aunts in a sitting room outside the bedroom where my baby was
“Has he been crying long?” I asked.
“Oh no. We were just giving him a minute,” they said.
A minute? A minute to what?, I thought. To continue crying, feeling
scared and alone and to lose his ability to trust in humankind forever?
I was a first-time mom who had gulped down the
attachment parenting Kool-Aid eagerly. I breastfed and wore my baby in slings
and wraps. And while I did put him down to sleep in a crib, bringing him into our bed when he awoke at night, I always nursed
him to sleep in my arms and never, ever let him cry.
My aunts had raised nine children between them
and already knew that it would take me another two babies to figure to out. They were probably thinking that it’s okay to let a baby cry for a minute, or five. The crying will often drop off on
its own, and if it doesn't, then of course you go in and comfort them. In the
meantime, they learn a bit of patience and it makes your life a whole lot
Of course, this is not what the baby sleep experts tell you.
Book after book preaches to new parents about how important it is to pick a
parenting approach or a sleep-training philosophy and stick with it.
Consistency is key, they all say. If you follow my advice and your kid is still
not sleeping well, it's because you're not doing it right. Choose whichever
approach works for you as long as you're consistent, but you know those other
guys will ruin your baby, no judgment, whatever works, but think of the baby.
I call b.s. on it all.
For one, life is not consistent. There are emergencies,
celebrations, vacations, transit mishaps and bouts of illness all the freaking
time. Why do these experts guilt parents into feeling like they've failed their
child by holding them to an impossible standard?
A basic structure to the day
and a loose routine are generally a good idea, sure, but remember that babies
change their sleep patterns every few weeks for the first six months. Then they
finally tend to settle into a bit of a pattern just in time for teething and
colds and, I dunno, maybe you want to go on a trip or stay out late or skip the
afternoon nap just this one time for the love of God.
How and when did two separate and
irreconcilable camps become the standard by which to guide early parenting? Attachment parenting versus the cry-it-out method, Sears versus Ferber, "on demand" versus rigid schedules. There are
definitely more moderate approaches, but they all seem to define themselves in
relation to these two incompatible ideals. They permeate all the parenting
literature, making new parents feel like they have to pick a side.
It's all so stupid.
After three babies, here's what I know
You can't always be there for your baby. Sometimes you're stuck in traffic on the highway and your baby just has to scream. Sometimes you need to attend to another child or you need to leave your baby with someone else. Sometimes you just want to finish one small chapter in an actual book with no pictures in it and, oh, whaddayaknow? She fell back asleep on her own. Your baby will still be fine. Honest, she won't even remember.
I also know that our hormones, instincts and emotions are
incredibly tuned into the cries of those small humans. So while it's perfectly
legit for you to lie crying on the hall floor, throwing that sleep training
book against the wall while your baby wails away in his crib, it's also legit
to pick that baby up and nurse him to sleep in your own bed if that's what he
needs or you need in that moment. He'll still learn to sleep on his own
Babies are fickle and you won't ever have it down perfectly
and the next thing you know they're in school and it's all behind you. However
you manage to get through the first year is really all the same to the baby so
long as they are well-loved, fed and occasionally wiped down.
Really and truly, new parents. It's going to be fine.
Rebecca Cuneo Keenan
is a writer living in Toronto with her husband and three children. She blogs
about daily parenting mishaps at Playground Confidential. You can also follow her on Twitter; it's shorter.
What were your secrets to getting your kids to sleep? Strict rules of moderation?
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