E.Expecting your first baby? The unavoidable truth is that you are losing a lot of sleep. As you can tell, experienced and weather-beaten parents are delighted to share this news. When I was pregnant, my friends used to say, “In the early days it’s all about survival.” “Enjoy lying down while you can!”
By the time my daughter arrived, I had amassed a small arsenal to combat her expected arousal. Swaddles, blackout blinds and a white noise machine. In the months after she was born, I used an app to obsessively track her “wake-up time” and her sleep total minute-by-minute, determined to crack the code for a restful night’s sleep. . As I recall her first summer, I was escorted to her in-laws’ attic bedroom, where I would hear sound machines blaring in the dark, rocking her (at her will) to take a nap. I spent hours letting it run. But no matter what I do, her daughter never sleeps well and I almost drove myself crazy to discover it. why.
Lack of sleep can be daunting, so naturally many parents suffer from sleep deprivation, and studies have shown that poor sleep quality is an indicator of postpartum depression. But looking back, I can’t help but feel that my expectations were partly what made infant sleep such a heavy subject for me.
By the time she was six months old, everyone was asking, “Has she been sleeping through the night?” The idea is deeply ingrained that those early days of drowsiness and sleep deprivation, among the smudges of milk and the blur of unwashed hair, will pass as quickly as they come. So is the idea that if it isn’t, it’s the result of “bad habits,” parental codependency, or worse, incompetence.
The truth is more complicated. Sure, there are things parents can do to promote sleep, but the reality is that some babies sleep well and others don’t. And staying asleep well past the baby stage can be difficult. One study found that nearly 30% of 2-year-olds wake up frequently during the night. Nightmares, illness, and separation anxiety all prove very difficult to deal with when toddlers get out of bed at night and call unrelentingly for mom and dad in tiny frightened voices. Another study found that new parents can be expected to be sleep deprived for up to six years after the birth of their first child. Yet telling people that my 2-year-old son is still awake at night tends to induce gasps of fear.
Sleep seems to be shifting in our collective understanding, from an innate biological process over which we have little control, to the ultimate exercise in parenting capacity. In other words, if you master the right method, a full night’s sleep will be your reward. This is fueled in part by the lucrative industry of sleep consultants that has emerged in recent years to “solve” family sleep problems, many of which are the holy grail of baby sleep: 7pm to 7am. It advertises that it will not be interrupted independently until
But a one-size-fits-all approach to sleep often conflicts with healthy biological instincts. For example, after 6 months of age, it is normal for babies to wake up at night to breastfeed, which is healthy for both development and milk supply. Such attitudes also arouse feelings of shame and anxiety in parents whose babies disobey, believing that it is in their child’s best interests and forcing them to make painful choices.
One parent said he stopped his toddler from waking up at night by closing the bedroom door every night for a week while his son screamed inconsolably on the other side. Some parents simply have to prioritize their mental health when it comes to sleep, and I can’t blame them. But before breaking her daughter’s resolve to get into my bed early in the morning and go to bed nose-to-nose against me, I don’t have to try this method, but it can break me.
The creeping commodification of baby sleep is pathologicalizing what can be more accurately described as a simple “CBS,” or “crazy babyshit.” This term was coined by a friend when our babies were little to describe those maddeningly inexplicable discrepancies in the behavior of first babies. Didn’t you sleep for a week? Why was broccoli one day their favorite and the next it was rejected and never touched again?
Responsibility sharing is often cited as a way to help parents understand their obligations to their children at meals. Parents decide what to give, but ultimately it is the child who decides whether and how much to eat. It also proves to be a useful formula to follow in many of the negotiations involved in parenting young children. I decide when and how I put my daughter to bed. She decides when she goes to bed throughout the night. I know that day will come sooner or later.
There is no denying that our current situation involves some degree of shame. Am I letting her down in some way? Is it my fault that I’m still so tired? But now, when I see pregnant parents, I try not to burden them with the terrors of sleepless nights. Instead, if they ask me, the most valuable lesson ever since my daughter has permeated our lives is to try to let go of control whenever possible, no matter how difficult it may be. , and tell.