Sleep deprivation is like an initiation into parenthood. We are all too familiar with the physical fatigue and brain fog that comes from a slew of sleepless nights. The truth is that infants are not yet wired to sleep through the night. Until circadian rhythms become regulated, infants will wake every few hours. After three or four months, some will sleep for longer stretches, while others will continue to fight consecutive sleep.
Parents, especially first-timers, often become frustrated. It may sound absurd to train an infant to sleep when this is a normal biological function, but a whole industry has sprung up to help weary folks coax their infant to snooze. Many books and websites are dedicated to this age old conundrum and you can even have an expert come to your house to assist! There are several ways to achieve this and people have heated opinions about which method is most effective.
Attachment Theory states that it is natural to sleep with our children. This ancient concept is practiced throughout the world and gaining popularity in the West. There are many co- sleeper solutions on the market now to keep baby close. Rocking and nursing baby back to sleep as well as attending to the infant throughout the night are some of the cornerstones for Attachment Parenting. The early days are so important for bonding and establishing trust. The downside is that it can be exhausting to sustain and works best if you have a large support network, which is increasingly rare in modern society.
Cry It Out ?? This method involves allowing the infant to fall asleep without assistance. The idea is to leave the baby alone in order to set a precedent that the parent will not be there every time the infant cries. The result being that they eventually give up and learn to soothe themselves to sleep. This can feel rather harsh for most parents as listening to your child cry for an extended period of time isn’t the most enjoyable, especially in the wee hours of the night.
The Interval Method. This is a less severe method that involves putting the baby to bed while drowsy and checking in at set intervals, letting him cry it out initially for five minutes, then ten minutes, and up to fifteen minutes at a time. If your child is still crying for a prolonged period after three days, stop the training and try again in a few weeks.
Studies have found no significant long-term physical or emotional effects from any of the above mentioned techniques. It is more about what you believe is best for your family and the method that works best is the one that both parents are on board with. This is one of the first big hurdles a parent will encounter and it is necessary to do it in your own way to build confidence in your parenting skills.
The truth is, there isn’t one right way as each child and parent is unique and has different needs. Some infants prefer solitude and darkness while others crave touch, light, and sound. What one Mother swears by may not work for yours.
Create a routine based on what feels right and comforting to you and to your child; catch up on sleep when you can. Think of the exhaustion as a badge of honor that prepares you for the long haul ahead. Accept it for what it is, know that it won’t last forever, and get help if you can. Focus on your baby and try to let go of the more inessential demands of life.
Expect Sleep regressions; it is important to note that parenting is not a 9-5 job and there are many late nights still ahead. Sleep tends to be erratic during growth spurts and routine disruptions like travel, illness, and teething to name a few. Perhaps the late nights in the beginning are a form of resilient training for what lies ahead. Consider this practice for putting your child’s needs ahead of your own in sheer selflessness that is the very definition of parenthood.