Popping this here for posterity. It went a bit bonkers on Facebook when we posted it. It clearly resonated with many of you…
Yet another relative stranger asked last week if Wilf is a ‘good baby’. Hubby replied with,” “Yes, he does all the things a baby should do”, whilst I rolled my eyes in the other direction.
Then came the decoded version of the same question, “Yes, but does he sleep? Because sleep is THE most important thing.”
Except it isn’t the most important thing, not really. Yes, it’s important that we don’t become sleep deprived over long periods – our mental health is precious and needs taking care of – but children are not machines. And what’s even worse than sleep deprivation for a new mum’s mental health? Being made to feel like a failure because her baby isn’t sleeping from 7-7, or wakes frequently at night, or feeds to sleep, or all the other things that are biologically normal, but are frequently referred to as ‘issues’; as problems to solve.
I am beyond sick of this dialogue surrounding babies. It’s total b*llshit, and a million dollar industry to boot, fuelled largely by ‘experts’ trying to make money out of your exhaustion, when you’re at your most vulnerable and fragile, by making you think your baby has a problem that needs fixing.
Here’s a few facts:
– nobody sleeps 12 hours straight. We’re not designed to. We sleep in cycles, with light and deep stages, we stir, we move about, we sometimes have sleepless nights.
– Technically ‘sleeping through’ is classed as five hours of sleep.
– A baby’s sleep cycle is 45 minutes. How frequently your baby wakes is dependent on YOUR baby, not Robo-baby in the ‘one-size-fits-all’ book.
– Various things can impact sleep in children: hunger/thirst, temperature, too noisy/too quiet (the womb is a noisy place!), white light, external or internal discomfort, magnesium deficiency, bedtime too early/late, separation anxiety, learning a new skill, growth spurt, illness, over/under tired, overstimulation or screen time before bed, developmental leap, stress, anxiety, teething and one that gets overlooked in so many ‘expert opinions’: the need for comfort and security.
– Your labour and baby’s birth can have a big impact on their sleep, as can genetics.
– ‘Self-soothing’ isn’t biologically possible until children are much older. Some babies are naturally content and happy to be put down and drift off. If that’s your baby, great! If not, don’t think you’re doing something wrong. The term ‘self-soothing’ was coined during a research experiment to mean ‘the opposite of crying upon waking’. Sadly, it’s been twisted to mean something else entirely.
I couldn’t care less if people think Wilf ‘should’ be sleeping though. He is not a ‘bad’ baby. He’s awesome. Of course, I appreciate the nights with one wake up instead of five, just as I’m grateful that Primrose has always enjoyed her sleep, but no child should be classed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on how much they sleep.
What utter, utter nonsense.
Jo, The Mother Side x
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