Google+ Authentic Parenting: Do they really have to sleep through the night? (rerun)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do they really have to sleep through the night? (rerun)

The fun part of living in a prison with golden bars with a few other couples who don't share your parenting view, is that I get frustrated on a daily basis. Now that might not seem so nice, but it gives me plenty of material to write about any way.
This week major frustration (and it has been for quite a while) is the sleep through the night-issue (STTN).

Let me first draw out the situation for you. My daughther is now 20 months old. She has always been a difficult sleeper and a frequent night nurser. This doesn't really pose a problem, as we are bedsharing, so our awake time during the night is rather limited (except for those odd nights she just wants to nurse and nurse until the early hours). We did have some fertility issues (which I won't discuss here, because I'd be going way off topic), so we pondered on nightweaning. We gave it a couple of tries, but in the end we concluded that a) I am way to lazy to nightwean, b) if she's nursing at night she might need it (ok, maybe not from a nutritional point of view, but at least for comfort, which, to me, is equally important).
To cut a long story short, we did well to go with our onstincts, because now, the fertility issue resolved itself and the nightnursing too. Now of course that's just how you see things. My daughter falls asleep around eight PM and wakes up to nurse around 4.30 AM, she dozes off again and takes her morning boobie when the alarm wakes us up. Of course there are still nights when she wakes more frequently, or nurses around the clock, but all and all, we're ok with it and I believe she does so for a reason. From where I stand there is no point in pushing her to sleep for 10 hours straight.

Now, this week, I was yet again asked for advice on the sleep situation of another woman's 8 month old. Quick sketch: Baby's sleeping in a crib in a seperate bedroom, and hurray!!!!, she's still breastfed. Baby falls asleep around 7 or 7.30 PM. Smart as she is, she wakes up a few times per night to call on her mommy for some delicious boobie. And this is where it itches.
So the mom asks me what to do. Luckily, we're all against controlled crying (ouf!). I tell her about the Jay Gordon method (see below) and try to explain in short. I tell her she should pick the six hours of sleep she prefers. "Oh," she says: "she sleeps six hours straight, that's not the problem." Confused, I ask her what the problem might be, adding that six hours in a row is already tremendous (I would have signed for that at eighet months!!!). She replies:"that's all well, but by now, she's big enough to not need the milk during the night. It's not like she could be hungry."

You can imagine how this conversation drives me crazy (more so because it's not the first time I've had it with this woman and she still does not see we'll never see eye to eye on our parenting ways).
Is it so crazy that the poor kid calls for his mother in the middle of the night when she wakes up alone in a dark and unfamiliar room far far away? Would you want to leave her there in fear? Knowing a fluctuation in serotonine (caused by stress) might cause SIDS?
Why would a baby only require nursing when she's hungry (if that were true why on earth did people invent a pacifier?). How on earth can you expect your baby to sleep twelve hours in a row? Just have some patience, she might well do that when she's a teen (at least I hope so with our daughter, so we can catch up!). And maybe, njust maybe,m the kid is actually hungry. Some babies just have a smaller stomach and need more frequent feedings, some women have a smaller storage capacity, so they need to nurse more frequently.
And even more infuriating when I told her - as consolation - that my daughter wakes up for a feed at four, she almost screamed: "Oh hell, I won't be feeding her at night when she's that old!" Thank you, please come again.

What is all this fuss about sleeping through the night anyway. We ourselves sometimes get up to pee. And if you're concerned about your own sleep, think about all the night you went out untill the early hours. Were you complaining then? Forget pacifiers, blankies, teddies, just let them go at it at their own pace!
I agree, it can sometimes be frustrating, and there are those days that you're just exhausted, but why would we try to mold our children into what we want them to do all the time? If we just let nature take its course, they'll sleep through eventually. You think they'll come and ask you for boobie at 2AM when they're 18? I think not.
If you wanted something you can turn off at night and put back on in the morning, on your schedule, you should have bought a TV. Parenting doesn't stop at night. Here in West-Africa, children sleep in bed with their parents until they're two at least (or until there's a younger nursling, then they move to older sibling's beds), they stil wake up at age two and nobody screams bloody murder. That's the way it goes, that's how nature made us. If we had to be scheduled, the schedules would be delivered with that baby at birth.

Read on:
If you are set on having them sleep through the night, this might be the easiest peaceful way: Changing the sleep pattern in the family bed by dr. Jay Gordon
Cosleeping is a biological imperative



  1. My DD is 15 months.

    When she was 9 months old, we were still nursing 3 times at night. She did not sleep 6 hours straight until she was 10 months. I do co-sleeping (nights she wants to nurse all night or when she wants a snack, and I did not want to get up to put her back to bed), and I also have her sleeping in her bed, two feet from me, in my room.

  2. I know a baby that was a cry it out baby, I was still pregnant. Seeing what happened to this 2.5 month old cemented my cosleeping ideal. I was visiting,the baby put to bed, and she cried - then screamed. I actually witnessed the parents turn off the baby phone. They said she did this for months and months. With a week of that visit, the parents were overjoyed. The baby now slept 12 hours solid - not even 3 months old!!!

    Guess what - a week after that - Momma had no more booby juice.

    that baby today, is sickly, scared, timid, rarely held, sleeps alone, when sick put into a swing (vs carried, rocked by the parents), "don't spoil the child".

    I have chosen all the opposites, baby wearing, baby led weaning, elimination communication, cosleeping, etc etc etc - after observing the detrimental effects that Western civilization is having on babies!

  3. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! MY 20 month old has JUST began sleeping (SOME) 6 hr shifts.. TY I needed this reminder! TY!

  4. Thanks for the comment Ella, and good for you! I know it can be hard sometimes, but what makes me pull through is the thought that once she's 12 or 14 she might sleep until noon every day

  5. I really wish everyone saw things this way. I'm glad that some people do, though, so that I can at least feel like I'm not the only one! :D

    Our daughter is almost a year old and still also wakes twice a night (or more if she is teething). And I'm fine with that. But it seems like on a weekly basis I have to field the question of whether she is sleeping through the night yet. And I've run out of polite ways to say "she will when she's ready"

  6. I unfortunately wasn't able to have a breastfeeding relationship with my son. I did however pump milk for him until he was 16 months old(He is now almost 21 months). I only stopped bc my supply dried up due to the fact that we are expecting again.
    I did/do however practice all the other aspects of attachment/natural parenting. We bedshare, babywear, gentle guidance, etc.
    Even with out the breastfeeding, our son still has never slept through the night and rarely sleeps more than a 5 hour stretch without waking up and needing a sippy of goat's milk.
    I have come to accept that this is who he is. My husband had and still has an issue with his sleeping habits at times, but I know eventually he will sleep longer stretches. I don't mind the waking up and snuggling in the middle of the night. I miss out on a lot of that during the day now that he is a very active toddler.
    I know that some day I will look back and miss these days(and nights)!

  7. Thank you for this article, my baby is 11 months old and has never slept through, we co-sleep, breastfeed and do BLW and I've been having a crisis of confidence recently on these issues. Your article has helped me put this into perspective- he won't be asking for My boobie at 18 ;)

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    It drives me INSANE too when people complain about this. My daughter wakes up every single hour. They know NOTHING about sleep deprivation!

    We recently made the switch from a cradle next to our bed to IN our bed and now it's every 2 hours.


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