Sleep Backstory: it was going so well! Gwen was waking once around 11ish, eating, then sleeping until 5ish! For a week and a half, I think. Then the past two nights Gwen woke that first time, but again between 1 and 2. And while I could easily get her to go back to sleep, she would not stay asleep when I lay her down in her crib. Two endlessly frustrating nights. Here's hoping this is short lived. 

Today I'm going to share an article... copy and paste it in full, because when I read it I just wanted to yell, THIS! YES, this this this this this! A thousand times yes!

So, today I share: Four Lies Sleep Trainers Tell You (And One Truth they Won't)

I'm writing this for the mama at the end of her rope that has started letting her baby co-sleep (or is contemplating it) and is scared to death that she is doing her child a great disservice. I'm writing this for the mama who is so exhausted every night that she cries just thinking about the sun going down and another night of a crying baby. I'm writing this for the mama who is sitting in a group of other mamas whose babies are all now sleeping through the night (or are all only getting up twice a night at most) while your six (or eight) (or ten) (or eighteen) month old baby is still up five to seven times a night and you almost burst into tears wondering what you are doing wrong. (The answer is NOTHING.) I am writing this for the mama who planned to sleep train and now doesn't think it's the right thing to do. I am writing this for the mama who is thinking she doesn't have the strength to go on, but also doesn't feel like sleep training is what she wants to do. In short, I'm writing this for the mama I was this time last year.

I need to come clean. When my son was a newborn I never questioned if I would sleep train, I only wanted to know when to start. Most of the sleep training sites I devoured on-line or read in person told me to start sleep training at the four month mark or "when my baby no longer actually needed me in the middle of the night and was waking up out of habit rather than necessity." I was assured by my reading that there would come a time when he "didn't need me" and was waking up for "attention." He just turned 20 months old and I am still waiting for that time. So, if you are reading this and you have sleep trained your baby or toddler and you think it was what you had to do and it was necessary for your family, I will not argue with you. I don't live in your house; you're the mama and I'll believe that you did (and do) what your family needs you to do and that you did it with love and respect for all your family's needs.

Lie #1: If you start co-sleeping with your child/rocking/nursing your child to sleep, your child will NEVER learn to sleep on his/her own.

Never is a very long time and like most "never" statements, this one is not true. How many adults fall asleep being rocked? How many still co-sleep with their parents? Not everyone was sleep trained, so obviously the child does decide to sleep on his/her own eventually. It is true that time does seem to drag on forever when you have an infant, but believe it or not, these first few years really do only last for a few years (no matter what our sleep deprived sense of time makes it feel like). It can feel like you either have to sleep train right away or you will be doing whatever you are doing "forever," but there are other options.

You will not be parenting your child to sleep forever. My great-aunt co-slept with her adopted daughter from the time she was six months old until she was five years old. Then, one day, her daughter decided she wanted to sleep in her own room and never slept in her mom's room again. This story is about a two year old who decided she was ready. Not sure you can wait until your child is between two and five? You can always sleep train when your baby is older (either a toddler or a kid old enough to reason why sleeping in their own room all night is a good thing) if that feels better to you.

Lie #2 Your child does not need to wake up after the age of four months. It is normal for the your baby to sleep through the night by then.

Just because your baby is physically capable of going without food for longer periods at four months doesn't mean that they are physically ready or emotionally capable to sleep through the night. Several doctors and anthropologists agree that many young humans are not designed to sleep through the night until the age of three or four. Even if it is your doctor telling you that your child is ready to sleep through the night keep in mind two things. (1) Your doctor sees your child for twenty minutes every one to two months while you see him/her every day and (2) doctors often only see night waking from a nutritional point of view. Your child will no longer be at risk for going into a low blood sugar coma if he/she sleeps 12 hours a night. That is hardly the same thing as your child being completely ready. Think of it this way, as an adult, you are physically capable of running a marathon, but without being physically, emotionally, and nutritionally ready, you might not be so great at it. Even with someone there to train you step by step, if you are not mentally and emotionally ready for that marathon, it will be a hundred times harder.

Another thing to think about is how much contact you have with your baby during the day. Breastfeeding hormones and milk levels are regulated by how much physical contact you have with your baby. His or her night waking and co-sleeping which is murder on your energy level at work, might be a key factor in how capable you will be at maintaining a good milk supply.

Lie #3: Sleep is a skill that you must teach your child.

That line haunted me as I struggled with a son who just could not sleep for long stretches because of problems with reflux and food allergies. I was terrified that I was failing to do my job as a mother and teach him sleep, but just think about how silly that sounds. For those who have suffered insomnia, did any amount of "training" teach you to sleep even when you were highly motivated to sleep by your own insomnia. Sleep is what Peggy O'Mara calls "an instinct," just like you don't teach your child to laugh or cry, you cannot teach them to sleep.

You can teach good sleep habits and associations, but you can't force your baby (or yourself) to sleep. You can train your baby not to call for you in the middle of the night, and that might mean you get more sleep, but that does not necessarily mean that your baby will be getting more sleep. He or she might just not bother trying to get your help. (It's this idea that has kept me from sleep training my son thus far. I value that he knows I listen to him when he calls for me and I respect that he calls me only when he needs me.)

Lie #4: If your baby doesn't learn to sleep through the night now, he or she will have sleep problems when they are older and those can be detrimental.

This is another lie that kept me at the edge of breaking into tears at any moment. What I didn't know then, but I do know now is that there is absolutely no correlation between an individual's sleep patterns as a baby or even a toddler and those of when they are an older child or an adult. Babies and toddlers are evolutionarily designed to sleep differently. Again, good sleep habits are wonderful to reinforce from the beginning and do have an effect on how an older child sleeps. If you teach your child that sleep is a fun, relaxing thing, than they will be more willing to go to sleep when older. If you teach then that sleep is a scary and lonely thing, I think that association probably does travel with them as well.

The Truth: You can survive this and so can your child. This will end one day and it will get better.

You are stronger than you think you are. Ask for help when you need it, but inside you is a survivor. Your body and your mind is more resourceful than you can ever imagine and you are not alone. I know it feels like it will never end and I know you feel like you cannot go on. I have shed your tears and I have said those words. You can get through this; if I can anyone can!

Here is what has inspired me. It's from The Tao of Motherhood by Vimala McClure:

Everything which endures can
only do so because Eternal
Consciousness gives it a sentience.

A mother who gives herself
completely to her infant meets
herself in the dark and finds

In the hours between midnight
and dawn, she crosses the
threshold of self-concern and
discovers a Self that has no limits.
A wise mother meets this
Presence with humility and steps
through time into selflessness.

Infants know when their mothers
have done this, and they
become peaceful.

Who, then, is the doer? Is it the
infant who brings its mother
through the veil of self-concern
into limitlessness? Is it the
mother, who chooses to hold
sacred her infant's needs and
surrender herself? Or is it the
One, which weaves them both
through a spiraling path
toward wholeness?

You can sit and meditate while
your baby cries himself to sleep.
Or you can go to him and share
his tears, and find your Self.

Ps. Like the author, I don't judge you if you sleep trained! But it hasn't seemed like the right thing to do for us yet. While I am considering night weaning sometime in the next few months, I still just don't feel ready to sleep train.

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~ Meegs