What I Wish Every Mother Knew About Babies and Sleep
My original guest post for Little Hearts Wishes Week was going to be a list of things I Wish I had Known Before I Became a Mom. However, the sleep portion sort of took a life of it’s own on and that combined with my total disgust for so called “sleep trainers” created this post instead. So my new wishes blog is“What I Wish Every Mother Knew About Babies and Sleep”
1. There is no such thing as “Sleeping Through The Night”-
Babies do not just magically start sleeping 10+ hrs a night at 6-8 weeks old like so many claim. The term “sleeping through the night” simply means baby sleeps for a 5 hour or longer stretch at one time, and this does not usually begin until 4+ months. If baby goes down at 7pm and you don’t go to bed until 10, don’t be surprised when baby is back up at 12am.
Honestly, you don’t WANT your baby to sleep for long stretches like that anyways~it increases the risk of SIDS. We now know that babies need the constant stirring and waking to keep them from slipping into too deep of a sleep that they are then unable to rouse from.
Young children do not completely develop a true sleep pattern until around age 5. Before that the human sleep mechanisms are not completely formed. So from birth until 5 it is completely normal for your child to wake in the night, and they will. Each of my kids do not wake every night, but since I have four, I am up several times a night with someone (and Sariah does wake 1-2 times every night on top of me getting up with the others a minimum of 1-2 times).
Don’t fall into the Mommy Wars of “my baby is better than yours and this is why…”
To quote Dr. Sears: “An important fact for you to remember is that your baby’s sleep habits are more a reflection of your baby’s temperament rather than your style of nighttime parenting. And keep in mind that other parents usually exaggerate how long their baby sleeps, as if this were a badge of good parenting, which it isn’t. It’s not your fault baby wakes up.”
2. Co-Sleeping is perfectly natural, safe, and NO you will NOT end up with a 6 yr old in your bed still!-
Co-Sleeping, when done safely and correctly, will NOT spoil your baby, and actually INCREASES the success rates of breastfeeding, DECREASES SIDS rates, and will INCREASE the amount of sleep everyone gets. Think about it, baby is right there with you (whether in your bed or in a side car crib) so when they do start to wake you can get to them quickly instead of stumbling around in the dark down hallways and into another room. The faster you can get to baby, the faster baby will return to sleeping.
I promise it will not last forever, and your baby will eventually transition into their own bed when they are ready. Don’t push them because, as crazy as it sounds now, when they are gone you will miss it. I miss snuggling with my Little Man at night. He stayed in our bed the longest of all of our kids (to date, as Sariah is still sleeping with us) and he was 3 when he transitioned into his own bed. A far cry for the 5-6 age range so many warned me I would be “stuck” with (and honestly I would not have considered myself “stuck” anyway).
3. Babies DO need to eat/drink at night and this does not mean only newborns-
Not only do babies need the nightly wakings to keep them from slipping into too deep of a sleep, they also need the constant night feedings to grow and remain healthy. It is not healthy, and actually can be dangerous, to try and force a baby to sleep through/skip a feeding that they need. Babies, especially newborns-3 months, are at risk of having their blood sugar levels dip dangerously low if they go too long without eating. If a baby wakes to eat, they are NOT trying to manipulate you. A baby cannot manipulate you, and it’s so sad that so many feel that they can.
Children from birth until about the age of 5 can and do need some sort of nourishment in the night. They are small and still growing at dramatic rates. Their systems are different than ours. Honestly, I wake up 1-2 times a night needing to use the restroom and get a drink, so if I am waking up thirsty, why should I tell my kids they have to wait until morning? My kids do not wake every single night asking for something to eat or drink, but when they do wake asking for that, I give it to them. I never ignore them or tell them they are not hungry/thirsty. I would not tell myself I am not hungry/thirsty when my body says I am, yet so many feel that a child’s pleas in the night for food or drink should just be ignored.
4. Please do not fall in the “sleep training” trap-
Sleep Training is harmful to babies, not only increasing their risk of SIDS, but also creating unsecure attachments which can hinder baby’s development. I know it’s hard, trust me I do! I have not slept through the night in almost 6 years now, not ONCE, EVER! Someone is always waking in this house.
I know you can become desperate for sleep, but please do not ever let that desperation go so far that you do things you do not feel comfortable with. If it feels wrong, if your body screams out at you that what you are doing is not right, listen! Trust your instincts, not what some author is trying to sell you. They are out to make money, and that’s it.
There are several so called “Sleep Trainers” and “Sleep Whisperers” out there, each more ignorant and dangerous than the next. This all started 50 years ago with Dr. Spock (no, not from Star trek!). He was the original CIO (cry it out) advocate and had an entire generation of parents believing their tiny babies were out to “get them” from the moment they were born. These “terrible” little babies were on a mission to break and control mommy and daddy, to “manipulate” from day 1 and parents had to rule with iron fists and learn to ignore those ‘manipulative” cries. Funny how so few realize the Dr. Spock recanted everything he taught on his death bed, stating he was wrong and that babies’ cries should be responded to. He said babies should never be left to simply CIO.
Since then many more quacks have paraded around the same CIO dribble as Dr. Spock in a pretty new packaged selling is as “sleep training” for babies. Currently, the worst one (in my opinion) would have to be Tizzie Hall. She calls herself “The Sleep Whisperer” and her method “Save Our Sleep”. Her so-called methods are what got me in such a “tizzie” that my entire blog morphed into this.
If you have never heard of her, like me, you probably live in the US. She is really big overseas in places like Europe, the UK, Ireland, Australia, etc. The Dangers of Baby Training (from FB) describes her as…
“She does have 2 little boys (aged 3 and 1) but wrote the book before she had children. She doesn’t have any qualifications past a normal high school education. Among other things she advocates crying, a 3 hourly feeding schedule if you BF or 4 hourly if you FF, overwrap babies with excessive bedding (which is what The Analytical Armadillo has been questioning recently), has some very misinformed views and ideas which are all based on her observations and opinions, rather than any that can be substantiated by scientific evidence and had some weird notions that babies can poo and vomit on cue to manipulate their parents. In her toddler book, she advocates the use of the ‘holding technique’ to restrain kids and teach them not to touch things (there’s a video on youtube of her demonstrating this) and thinks babies should only be fed purees until they are 12 months, then mashed food, then only real food at approx 24 months old and thinks BLW is ‘inappropriate.’ She is all over facebook at the moment (and not in a good way)…. “
These are quotes taken directly from Tizzie Hall herself either from her book or her forums/FB page. Ironically she has tried to come back and say many of these things she never said or were taken out of context. I have also been informed that she now charges for answers on her forum and refuses to answer anything on FB because those who were against her so called “system” would pick apart her answers….
“I often come across a baby who has learnt to vomit at bedtime during failed attempts at controlled crying. If you have one of these babies you will need to teach your child that vomiting will not get your attention or buy any extra time. This is hard, but it has to be done to stop the vomiting. The way you achieve this is to make the bed vomit-proof. Layer the towels in the bed and on the floor so it is easy for you to remove the vomit. When your baby vomits take the top towels away, leaving a second layer in case of a second vomit. If the vomit has gone on her clothing, undress her and put clean clothes on without taking her out of the cot by moving her to the other end. Do not make eye contact or talk to her while you do all this and be calm and confident through out, so you can fool your baby into thinking you don’t care about vomit.”
-This was taken directly from her book but she claims it was “out of context.” You be the judge.
To go along with this, in the article Victoria White: As a mother I take serious issue with the so- called Baby Whisperer Victoria quotes Tizzie about babies “manipulating” their parents by pooping and instructs parents to ignore this and let baby sleep in the poop to “teach them a lesson”
“‘When he pooed instead, they left him lying in his poo because they “realised” it had become “a game” They changed him after he’d gone to sleep. Don’t worry if you don’t get the bottom of your sleeping baby perfectly clean, says Tizzie, ‘a little bit of poo will not do any harm between then and the morning’.”
Or how about this winner, which is what sent me spiraling into this blog:
Question posted from a follower of the Save Our Sleep Program:
Q ~ ‘I’ve recently started my 7 month old on s.o.s routine. Day 4 and our nights are getting so much better. Before starting bub was waking every 2 hours sometimes less. My partner and I were exhausted. The first night he slept for 4 hours before needing to be resettled, second night was 7 hours and last night was 9.5 hours. Praying tonight is 12. Two little issues, first my boobs are killing me in the mornings now- I’m so engorged. And the second issue is that i think he is getting cold at night. I sleep him in a long sleeve onesie, a sleeping bag and a cellular blanket but he manages to wriggle out from under the blanket and when i go in to check on him he is sleeping on top of the blanket, and he is cold to touch.’
A ~ Do you have the bedding guide from the SOS website? It shows you what to dress bubs in for temps in various states. Best $9 you’ll ever spend! Need to make sure everything is 100% cotton (incl. mattress protector) otherwise bubs will sweat. Most of us use many more blankets than the guide, every bubs is different eg. I’m in Sydney and in a room of 24.2C my 6m has 12 blankets on + the clothing, bag and wrap mentioned in the guide.
Check out The Analytical Armadillo for a much deeper look into this issue, she actually asked Tizzie about the increased risk of SIDS in regards to babies over heating from too many blankets, here is some of Tizzie’s reply:
“As all of you know before giving any advice I do countless hours of research so I stand by all of my advice. These ladies don’t seem to be aware of the current SIDS guidelines stating as long as your babies head and face are uncovered and you are using cotton or bamboo bedding then it is perfectly safe to layer up the amount of these blankets to keep your baby warm. My opinion and research shows this in return keeps our babies in the safe back sleeping position. Also it is now clear overheating is only cited a risk factor and not as big a factor as was first thought but we do live in a generation with parents so scared of over heating their babies they are doing the opposite and under heating them which in my opinion a greater factor because a cold baby will roll to his or her tummy and sleep face down in the mattress.”
Click the link above to view her full response and so much more.
Sadly there are many more Tizzie Hall’s out there, people looking to make a quick buck on the desperation of sleep deprived parents at their wit’s end. They prey on this desperation to get parents to do things they otherwise would never even consider.
My wish is that parents would just throw all of this baby “training” crap out the window and trust their instincts! Listen to your baby; listen to your body. If it feels wrong, then it IS wrong. Your instincts are there for a reason. My second wish, that parents would stop listening to society and believing their babies are out to “get” and “control” them. A baby is not capable of manipulation; they have no understanding of that. They have simple, basic needs, and their only way to communicate those needs is to cry. Listen to their cries, respond to them, please do not ignore them. Studies now show that when babies are left to CIO or CC (controlled cry, a so called “nicer” form of CIO where you go in every 2, 4, 6 minutes and comfort baby only to leave again) they release the stress chemical cortisol, which is DAMAGING to their little brains. As little as 5 minutes of crying can actually cause damage and prolonged CIOing can lead to developmental delays later on.
I saw a great comparison the other day that took words about leaving a baby alone to CIO to teach them to stop “manipulating” and replaced the word ‘baby’ with ‘grandma’. It was a mock response to Tizzie Hall, thanking her for saving the author’s sleep. The author thanked Tizzie for giving the her the strength to ignore her elderly grandma’s cries in the night and show grandma who was boss in that house. When grandma vomited from being so upset, the author cleaned it up and left grandma without saying a word. After a few nights, grandma stopped crying, and the author said grandma doesn’t say or do much during the day, either, she just lays there silently. The author broke grandma’s spirit-is that what you really want to do to your child? Do you want to break your baby’s spirit, to teach them that mommy is “boss” and will not be “manipulated”? Sure, CIO seems to work. Babies do stop crying at night, but it’s not because you trained them to stop “manipulating” you, you simply trained them that mommy will not respond to their needs so why bother crying. (See full text here-Dear Sleep Trainer Expert,) It was a great visual to show that we would not treat an adult like this so why is it ok to treat an innocent baby this way?
A HUGE thank you shout must go to Anneke Temmink from The Dangers of Baby Training who provided me with all of the awesome links and quotes about the so called “sleep whisperer”. She is awesome!
Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.