Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Lowdown on Night Waking

What's the first thing you think about when you think about having a baby? For me it's the cuddles, that sweet little baby giving me gorgeous smiles. I forget all about the hard work of having a baby, and glory in all the good stuff. Of course, that is what we are meant to do, if we remembered the hard stuff as we do the good stuff, well, we probably wouldn't keep having babies would we?

One of the hard things about having a baby is sleep, or more aptly the lack thereof. I function well on low sleep, but I know many people (my husband included) who need sleep to function well. They get grumpy, agitated, and unmotivated. It's one of the hardest aspects of having a baby after all, isn't it? Sleep is essential, for both baby and parents. Night parenting though, is very important. As hard as it can be, night parenting is unavoidable, important, and should be embraced. (I know, you think I'm crazy don't you?)

When a baby is born they are programmed to wake up, they wake when they are hungry, and when they are wet, and if they want snuggles. These are all very valid reasons for babies of any age to wake, not just newborns.

When your sweet little baby is born they need 3 things, a clean diaper, a full belly (which is where breastmilk comes in) and their mama to cuddle. Often newborns don't want to be put down, if they are it won't last long. They seem to sleep best on mom's chest, and sometimes, nowhere else. We buy lots of "things" to put our babies in, swings, bouncers, cribs, bassinets, etc, but the one place they want to be is with mom. You carried your baby for nine months, they are used to your voice, your heartbeat, the whoosh of blood running through your veins. We refer to the next few months after being born as the "fourth trimester". It's an important time of bonding, cuddling, and meeting babies needs whenever they need them met.

A few common myths about this time - 1. Babies manipulate us and don't always need us when they cry. 2. You will spoil your baby by holding them often. 3. Babies must learn to self soothe early. None of these things are true. Not a single one.

The truth is that it is normal for newborns, babies and even toddlers to wake in the night. In fact, you don't even sleep through the night! You may not remember it, but we all go through periods of wakefulness and deep sleep. Sometimes we arouse and then fall back asleep, other times we arouse and go to the bathroom, or get a drink of water, I occasionally wake up and cuddle up to my husband. That is normal. It is normal for babies to do the same thing. Needing a change, a drink or snack, or even a cuddle from mom, is a normal, biological response to night waking.

The problem stems from the western world declaring there was a problem with night waking. Before this it was seen as normal and parents dealt with it. It may seem like night waking goes on forever. You may seem sleep deprived and find yourself thinking "Is this every going to end?" and the answer really is, well, no. Your 5 year old may wet the bed and need help cleaning up at 2 am. Your 10 year old may have a nightmare and need a cuddle at 5 am. Your teenager may have a problem with friends, and need help mulling it over at midnight, when you would be just as happy to be in bed. That's part of being a parent. That's what we sign up for when we have babies.

If you look at it from a new perspective, 2 years of night waking and breastfeeding, 18 years of loving your child and gaining that trust for a life long good relationship, is such a short short time in a 100 year life span. It's barely a blip on the screen. For me it's not worth it to "train" my babies or see them as an inconvenience, I'd rather stick to WIO "Waiting it Out".

Did you wait it out with your babies? What do you think about night waking?

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