Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Doubts about Motherhood: Sleeping

Photo Credit: David J. Laporte

Sleeping is probably the most hotly contested issue surrounding newborns. Everyone has an opinion and most people are certain that their opinion is the right one and the only right one at that. Many mothers, myself included, feel shamed into silence. At least for me, I'm going to be silent no more.

In my lifetime the recommendations of the best thing to do have changed a lot. When I was a kid, babies slept on their tummies. Then sometime in my teenage years I think, babies slept on their side. And now as an adult, babies sleep on their back. All of this information and the tips that parents get from various people in their life can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. And on top of all of that, your newborn isn't sleeping!

I firmly believe that parental 'instinct' is really the voice God. God formed your child in your womb. If he made your newborn, then he knows what makes them tick. He know the quirks about them and he will share those things with you. So when your instinct tells you this kid doesn't want to be swaddled and hates his bassinet because he doesn't wants his arms free and doesn't want to touch anything when he stretches out (Ben), then God just gave you a hint about your child. When your instinct tells you this kid loves a blanket to sleep with because she wants to be cozy and has something to grab (Lily), then God just gave you a hint about your child.

Those hints can go a long way in figuring out what sleeping arrangement is best for your child. Every child is different and their specific needs are different. You can ask your relatives, your friends, and your pediatrician. They will all probably give you different answers. All of those answers can't be right for your child. In fact, none of those answers might be right for your child. After you have gathered many ideas and opinions, then ask God which one of them is best for your child. Asking others for their opinion is not a bad thing, but make sure you are able to detach their opinion from their attitude. If you can't, don't ask.

With a newborn, sleep is precious and you often don't get enough of it. When you don't get enough sleep, your normal ability to handle people and situations is lowered and your stress level is higher. So don't put yourself in a situation to get more stress. Do put yourself in a situation to get more help. Ask family or friends to help out with the baby for a few hours or a night, so you can get some rest. The more tired you get, the more exhausted you are and when you are exhausted you are more dangerous. Ask for help and get some rest.

Now that you are asking for help and you are rested, you can figure out the exact combination of things to help your child sleep. For example, Ben slept with us in our bed for two or three months. Then he slept in his car seat that was in his crib for a month or so. And finally he transitioned to sleeping in his crib on his belly with nothing around him. Lily slept in her bassinet for about half of the night and finished the night sleeping on my chest on the couch. We did this for a couple weeks. She then slept in her car seat in her crib for a few more weeks. And by 6 weeks old she was sleeping in her crib on her back on top of a pillow with a blanket over her.

Yes I have broken 'rules' with both of my children. I haven't worried about it either because I trusted what God was telling about my child was more important than the general rules that are given by society. What works for my children may not work for your children.

I am NOT advocating one particular method to help your baby sleep.

I am advocating for you to listen to God.
I am advocating for you to ask for help.
I am advocating for you to get some sleep.

I think those things are what is best for you and your child. After you have done those things, then you can work out the best way to help your child sleep.

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