BurlingtonVT Moms Blog is partnering with Phoenix Physical Therapy to bring you our latest series titled “50 Shades of Sleep”, about…you guessed it….sleep. Like an elusive treasure, we find ourselves obsessing about sleep not only for ourselves but for our children as well. Although we may not consciously recognize it we are constantly making decisions surrounding the subject of sleep. Is it OK to co-sleep? Can babies really be trained to sleep? What are night terrors? When do you move your child from your bed to the bassinet or to his own crib or into his own bed? Does the thought of SIDS scare everyone? Is it normal for kids to wet the bed and up to what age? And does it all change when they get older? Our goal through this series is to invite you into an open conversation about all things sleep, and to acknowledge that no matter your struggles or choices, you are never alone.
Trusting Your Intuition
There were some very dark days when I was a first time mom – tired, lonely, feeling isolated, rocking a baby in the dead of the night, crooked light streaming in through cracks in the shades from Winooski streetlights. Feeling exhausted, feeling defeated, feeling confused, feeling ALONE.
I remember scouring the internet for advice, buying sleep books on Amazon, getting [unsolicited] advice from strangers, but at the root of all the advice seemed to lie a fear tactic. “Do this or your baby will…” “Don’t do this or your baby will…” No venue encouraged my intuition. No piece of advice celebrated my brand-new, budding “mom senses”. As a result I felt lost, depressed, confused, and ill-equipped to handle my baby.
Eventually I got over the hump — even though, in the midst of those dark days it felt like it would never end — and realized that the phrase “sleep like a baby” is a misnomer. Babies aren’t designed to sleep like adults. Babies go through lots of stages and cycles. Some cycles include wonderful, beautiful, restful sleep… and some don’t. A big part of parenting happens at night, in the dark, in the forgotten hours when it seems like the rest of the world is asleep and it’s just you and a baby who refuses to sleep, or who needs to be rocked, or who is crying, or who is eating. We learn a lot about ourselves in the process of night time parenting – about how strong we are, how patient and loving we can be, how easily we can snap.
The phrase that saved me, the phrase that sticks with me, the only sleep advice I care to pass on, is simple. It came from Dr. William Sears. “Wherever all family members sleep the best is the right arrangement for you and your baby.” That means whatever works for your family is the right choice for your family. This gave me reprieve from the fear that I was ruining my baby, the stress that I wasn’t doing it the way friends or family did. This empowered me to trust my intuition, to honor the connection with my baby, to be confident in my decisions, and my entire family is better off for it. So weary mamas, take heart. You are equipped to parent your children, you are equipped to make decisions for your family, the challenges of newborn sleep will fade, and you will rest again.