Posts Tagged "sleep"

Navigating Sleep with a Third Child

Posted on Jun 3, 2011 in Featured, Parenting | 8 comments

Navigating Sleep with a Third Child

{This is a follow-up to my January post Reconsidering Co-sleeping where at 35 weeks pregnant I revealed that after 2 kids and 5.5 years of co-sleeping I was considering a crib for my third child.} I had this idea back in January that I wanted to write a post that would realistically present the nuances of co-sleeping, that would argue that Attachment Parenting is not a set of cult rules but rather a complex personal philosophy that shifts from family to family, from child to child, and over time. By highlighting my own sleep struggles and divided mind on the issue of co-sleeping, I wanted to show that you can still be an attachment parent even while you decide not to embrace all elements of the philosophy…because you are making the best decisions for your family in the spirit of striving for balance in personal and family life. I believed that my post was balanced in that I could be honest about my struggles while remaining incredibly supportive of co-sleeping (from personal experience not just a theoretical standpoint). Some commenters correctly pointed out that there is a difference between co-sleeping and bed-sharing. Dr. William Sears, a well-known pediatrician and author of many parenting books, defines co-sleeping as sleeping within arm’s reach of the baby. Bed-sharing on the other hand is actually sleeping on the same surface, in the same bed, as the child. Having slept with both of my kids since 2005, I know that distinction, and yet, for some reason, I seem to continually use the two terms interchangeably. To be honest, I find that many people do this on a regular basis and while I find the distinction can be important, I also feel comfortable with my use of co-sleeping to encompass all the ways that parents share sleep with their children. I really enjoyed all the commenters who shared their personal stories, experience and tips. I appreciated the tips and atmosphere of support though as a long-time co-sleeper and supporter of the practice, most of the ideas were ones that I had entertained and discarded as not working for us in our 800 square foot, 2 bedroom house. No chance of a mattress beside our King size bed that took up our whole room. No chance of a double bed in the kids room that already housed a loft bed, toddler bed and all of their clothes and toys. Nevertheless, I really appreciated the helpfulness and understanding. However, there were also comments (notably in response to a re-posting on the Natural Parents Network facebook page) along the lines of “every child deserves to be co-slept with” and “I co-slept with all 4 of my children and wouldn’t have it any other way.” I regretted that I had somehow given the impression that: I was planning to stick the baby from Day 1 in a crib in a room down the hall, I had no intention of being sensitive and responsive to the individual needs of this particular baby, I was absolutely, certainly never going to sleep with this baby at all, I no longer supported co-sleeping, My mind was made up. My intention from the day of that post was to start with a bassinet beside the bed and move after a couple of months to a crib in our room, a few feet away from our bed. This way I could still hear the baby easily and respond before baby cried but I would have a little more physical space so that I would not jump to attention every time baby stirred and so that baby wouldn’t get in the habit of nursing every hour. As a mother of two other children, I was also well aware that even our best intentions are at the mercy of our individual babies. I was prepared for the fact that this baby might not want to sleep anywhere other than on my body. As an ardent supporter of co-sleeping for its benefits, I was also prepared to share my bed with the baby whenever necessary, if we were...

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Reconsidering Co-sleeping

Posted on Jan 14, 2011 in Featured, Parenting | 14 comments

Reconsidering Co-sleeping

As we wait for this baby to arrive, I find myself seriously considering a crib. This may not seem very inflammatory. After all, for the vast majority a crib isn’t even a consideration; it’s a necessary purchase that requires no thought beyond what sheets to choose. However, we co-slept (or bed-shared) with our two older children. A crib feels like venturing into strange territory. In fact, it even feels like a bit of a betrayal. Not that I have a problem with OTHER people using cribs at all. It’s just for me, it feels like denying this baby some of the wonderful things we were able to give our older kids. Furthermore, it goes against my personal instincts and parenting philosophies about keeping our kids close. In a lot of ways I love co-sleeping. I love the extra snuggles in the night.  I love the extra hours of closeness with my children. I love being able to hear, see and feel that they are safe. I love waking up together. I love the early morning cuddles and giggles. I love that co-sleeping makes it easier for Aaron to be involved in night-time parenting. I love looking over and seeing one of my children cradled in Aaron’s arms. There are more practical benefits to co-sleeping beyond all that lovey-dovey stuff though. Many people, including Dr. James McKenna from University of Notre Dame, claim benefits to co-sleeping like the ease of maintaining the breastfeeding relationship and the increased sleep for mom. Long-term effects also suggested include higher self-esteem in adults who co-slept as children and a new book by Margot Sunderland, director of education at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London, “says the practice makes children more likely to grow up as calm, healthy adults.” There are even studies that say that practiced safely, co-sleeping decreases the incidence of SIDS. In my own experience, I saw first hand the ways that co-sleeping made breastfeeding easier. I could just roll over and nurse a baby while half asleep, without having to get up, walk down the hall, nurse in a chair and then carefully try to get baby back in the crib (without rousing her and having to start over). We learned quite quickly to disturb our babies as little as possible in the night if we wanted to maximize our sleep.  A baby that falls asleep nursing in a side-lying position is much easier to keep asleep than one who needs to be moved and placed back into a crib. Plus, because I wasn’t getting up, walking around and turning on lights, it was easier for me to go back to sleep after a feed too. The problem is I’m beginning to feel that some of those gains in the early days set me up for some challenges later on. Some examples: 1. Eventually I began to dread climbing into bed at night. I would be tired (from a long day with a toddler who usually went to bed at the same time as us) and ready to sleep but as soon as I jostled the bed or baby smelled me beside her, it would be mean another feed before I could go to sleep. Whether it was 8:30, or 9:00, or 10:00, or midnight. I could not get into bed and just go to sleep. Even if baby had only nursed an hour ago, I was in for another feed before I could punch out. 2. Increased Night Wakings. Both of my kids spent their early days in a little bassinet type bed beside our bed and only moved into our bed when they outgrew their first bed, around 4 or 5 months old. Around this time, we noticed that they were developing skills for soothing themselves back to sleep. We would hear them rustle, re-settle, perhaps suck a finger or thumb and then go back to sleep. Around this time, hours of consecutive sleep were increasing from 2 (with a newborn) to 4 or 5. By the time both children were a year old, they were waking...

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Going Solo

Posted on Nov 5, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 2 comments

Going Solo

In a few hours, Aaron is going to drop me off at the shuttle that will take me to 30 hours away from my children. I’m going to the City to visit my sister, a couple of girl friends and to get some much needed maternity clothes. I will be gone two nights. This is BIG. Rain is five years old. He co-slept with us until he was three when we started the slow process of transitioning him to to his own room: first in his own bed beside ours, then by having him nap in his new room, and then by switching him to sleeping nights in his room too. By this time, we were co-sleeping with his little sister Noa. This summer we transitioned Noa into her own bed in a room she shares with Rain. The process was surprisingly easy. Nevertheless, we wake up every morning with both of them in our bed. I breastfed Rain until he was a little over two. He weaned when I got pregnant with Noa. Noa has also just recently weaned after two years of nursing. For the last six years, I’ve been non-stop pregnant or nursing and co-sleeping. When Rain was two, Aaron and I went away overnight to celebrate our 5th anniversary. Rain stayed with my sister and I think we were actually gone less than 24 hours. Rain was a little sad but it went well and we probably would have done it again except that we got pregnant the next month so we started the whole process over again. Other than a few hours here and there when I’ve gone out with a friend, or Aaron and I have gone out and gotten a babysitter, or Rain went to preschool, or I worked part-time, that night away is the longest I’ve been away from my kids and they’ve been away from me. And now I’m 24 weeks pregnant. In February, I will begin what will likely be another two years of nursing and co-sleeping. It’s high time Mama had a bit of an extended break. I’m beyond excited about this trip. I will be able to: Read a book or knit on the ferry (rather than chase active toddlers round and round the boat, or sequester ourselves in the car with a DVD on the laptop) Go for dinner with a friend and stay for dessert (rather than rush to gobble the last of my meal and pay the bill before the toddler has a total melt down) Leave a restaurant without having to pick up food off the seats and floor first. Take transit and zone out listening to my own music on the ipod (rather than listen to non-stop child chatter or fighting) Do whatever I want all day Have uninterrupted conversations SLEEP BY MYSELF. ALL NIGHT. TWICE. I’m also incredibly nervous about this trip. I know in my heart that they will be fine. They will be with their dad who they adore and they have lots of fun things planned to do while I am gone. I will have a cell phone so they can call me whenever they need to. It will be ok. But it’s also a first and firsts are always a bit scary. I know there will be at least a few tears (on both sides) when I leave and over the weekend. I worry that two nights is too ambitious for a first separation. I worry that it’s unfair to leave Aaron with the full-time parenting over the weekend (hello irrational mother-guilt!). But I know that this will be good for all of us. I know it’s important to get space for yourself every now and then. I know it’ll be good for the kids to have both the uninterrupted time with Aaron and the opportunity to see that they are capable of surviving  time away from me occasionally. I feel immeasurably grateful (and loved!)  that Aaron encouraged me to do this trip. Plus, when I get home, I will have more than 1 pair of pants...

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Stop The Cycle – Cry It Out pt. 2

Posted on Apr 27, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 19 comments

Stop The Cycle – Cry It Out pt. 2

Last week at my local La Leche League meeting the topic for discussion was adapting to motherhood and one of the questions was “What did you to do to help your baby adjust to life outside the womb?” A young mother of a 2.5 month old baby responded by saying that she had let her baby cry and that it had been the good thing for him because now he is sleeping well. She went on to say that it had been terrible and that she herself had cried the first few times but that it had been the right thing to do. Considering the group, which was primarily made up of proponents of attachment parenting, the resulting discussion was incredibly supportive, thanks to the stealthy handling of our leader. She steered the conversation away from the specifics and toward the need to recognize that every baby is different, that every mom knows best what her baby needs and that we need to support each other in that. One of the other mothers piped up to say that she too had used sleep training with her baby and often felt judged for it. Some others brought up that they felt judged for going to their babies when they cried, and for not sleep training. Everyone reiterated that mothers know what is best for their babies. I was impressed with how the situation was handled but I sat quietly through the entire discussion. I am fervently opposed to crying-it-out (and you can read why here). I don’t believe it’s one of those minor parenting differences that we all have to accept each other on, like whether we cloth diaper or use disposables, whether we breastfeed for 12 months or 24, whether or not we use rewards for behaviour modification, or for that matter whether or not we use sleep training methods on older babies. I don’t believe that letting a 10 week old baby cry-it-out is just fodder for the mommy wars. The cry-it-out (CIO) method is not a choice that families come up with of their own accord. I am fairly certain that if every family were left to their own devices, to trust themselves, to trust their babies, the cry-it-out method would die out because it goes against our very instincts. Every evolutionary biological maternal instinct we have tells us to go to, pick up, and soothe a baby who is crying. This young mother said herself that it was terrible and she cried the first few times she tried the method.  An article I read while researching this post reiterated that point: The first night I cried for over an hour, long enough that my mom finally had to take a break and walk around the neighborhood while my dad kept watch. Anecdotally, I hear that over and over from moms, even those who are huge supporters of CIO. We all seem to think that parents and babies have to toughen up, that if they all just suck it up for a few days (or weeks) they’ll be the better for it, because someone wiser and more experienced said that this is what we are supposed to do. The only reason we continue as a society to use this method is because of pressures coming from outside the walls of our homes and I am beginning to think that we have a responsibility to stop this insanity. You think it’s harsh to call it insanity? Try this perspective: Leaving a baby to cry is a method that was popularized by doctors and paediatricians from the turn of the 20th century. This was a time when influential men like Luther Emmett Holt (1855 – 1924) and Truby King (1858-1938) were telling mothers that a strict schedule of feeding and sleeping should be kept. Their advice included encouraging regular bowel movements from the time the baby was younger than 2 months old by holding the baby over a basin and inserting soap suppositories, rubber tubing or an oiled cone into the baby’s rectum at the same time every day!! This...

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Not For Us – Cry It Out Pt. 1

Posted on Apr 26, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 3 comments

Not For Us – Cry It Out Pt. 1

Last week I ended up in a group setting where I sat quietly by as a new mother explained that she had let her 10 week old son cry it out. I had no idea how to respond. Mere hours before I had posted the following on my Facebook page: Young babies cannot tell time. They have no way of knowing that it’s been only 5 min or 5 hours since they last saw you. They also do not have object permanence which means that if they can’t see, touch, smell or hear you, it’s the same as if you don’t exist. When they call for you and you don’t come, they have no way of knowing that you are still there but in the other room. Talk about terrifying: to be helpless and your primary caregiver no longer exists. No wonder their little brains are flooded with stress hormones. BBC News – Crying-it-out ‘harms baby brains’ news.bbc.co.uk Dr Penelope Leach says recent scientific tests show high levels of the stress hormone cortisol develop in babies when no one answers their cries. I should be clear here that I am talking about young babies. Newborns. Infants. Babies under 6 months old for sure (regarding the reference to object permanence). Newborns cry because they are hungry, cold, tired or need their mothers. They do not cry to manipulate. They cry to tell you they have needs that must be met. For older babies, over 6 months, over 1 year, various methods of sleep training is perhaps an issue of personal parenting choice. I personally still try to avoid it but I can see that modified versions of cry-it-out, like crying-in-arms or Dr. Jay Gordon’s advice can be helpful, especially for working mothers. I concede that willingly. Older babies can learn to wait occasionally (ask any mother of more than 1 child). Older babies do need to be taught that sometimes they have to go to sleep when they would rather play. Older babies can be taught sleep associations that do not involve wearing out her mother. But a 10 week old baby? No. That baby is crying to tell you something. There are plenty of articles and studies out there that discuss why CIO (cry-it-out) is harmful. This one discusses the history of the practice and offers an alternative: crying in arms. This one discusses attachment theory. These articles are only a drop in the bucket on the subject and both are well researched and referenced. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Leach that leaving a young infant to cry is damaging to the brain as well as to the baby’s emotional development, and to the relationship between mother and child in terms of the child trusting that their caregiver will respond to their needs, requests for help. Crying is the young infant’s primary form of communication. They need to trust that you will respond to them when they communicate and that trust is vital to ongoing attempts to forge a bond of attachment. I don’t use this word attachment in a fluffy way; I am talking about the attachment that psychologists study in humans and in animals as being necessary to our very survival. Perhaps the main reason for the persistence of the CIO method is the misunderstanding that it works. Certainly, many babies do eventually stop crying and sleep, but unfortunately, this is often cited as being linked with the baby becoming so stressed that he or she simply shuts down as a means of coping with extremely overwhelming negative emotions, similar to victims of post traumatic stress disorder. These babies pass out from exhaustion and fear, from crippling levels of stress hormones in their tiny developing brains. They do not go to sleep because they have learned to self-soothe. Given the new body of sophisticated, cross-discipline research on attachment and brain development outlined in this article, it is clear that a baby’s willingness to accept sleep training after reportedly brief periods of protest is no less than a cycle of hyperarousal and dissociation responses that is damaging to...

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