If you’re a somewhat regular reader of this blog, you know that I have on more than one occasion discussed our past 18 months and 7 sleepless nights. I thought sleepless nights were par for the course for the first few months after Sophia was born. I really didn’t expect the sleeplessness to continue (at least to such a severe degree) well into the second half of Sophia’s first year. The advice I get from most people after the initial shock of hearing that Sophia still doesn’t sleep through the night is that things will get better.
And I believe them, too. I mean, honestly, how many 25 year olds do you know who still sleep with mom and dad and wake up at night do you know? But what I want to know is: when?
Before becoming a mom, I approached the prospect of parenthood much like I approach my job: there are guiding, logical principles by which everything works and all problems can be solved in a systematic manner. Once I realized that a continuous stretch of sleep (at least 5 hrs) was seemingly unattainable, my beliefs regarding parenthood faltered. Sophia didn’t develop like the book said, she was ahead in some things, behind in others and seemed to generally be on her own schedule whether I liked it or not.
I spoke to child psychologists and cognitive development specialists (thankfully, for free since they are good friends of ours — it pays to have good friends, btw). I spoke to moms and pediatricians and everyone had a slightly different bend on the situation. The pediatricians mostly said that at this point, I should try and stick out the Cry It Out Method and that the sleepless nights are a bad habit that needs to be broken. The parents said that they had never seen such a thing and only head of a few instances from a friend of a friend of a friend. Child psychologists also mostly said that I have to establish boundaries for what is acceptable behavior and be tough. Some moms who have had similar experiences (again, a rare occurrence) said that there is no reason for this and this will self-correct.
Well… I’ve had quite some time to mull it over and since I am a mom too, I can now offer my own opinion. In fact, this is not just a mom’s opinion, but an opinion of a person with a degree in the sciences where I learned that everything can be explained and proven. So here goes:
Everything happens for a reason. I repeat: everything happens for a reason. Also, there is a solution to everything that will become evident once you uncover the crux of the problem. The crux of this problem lies in the understanding that every child is different. Some children are more sensitive to stimuli than others. Information and its input via the various human sensory modalities can contribute to overstimulation and hinder the child’s ability to calm-down and self-sooth (a necessary component of falling and staying asleep). So, if we consider that children develop at different rates and that some children are easily overstimulated but that stimulation is a hindering to self-soothing, we can deduce that decreasing exposure to stimuli should help a child to fall and more importantly stay asleep.
If we consider overstimulation to be an irritant (much like loud, thumping music in the middle of the night), we can also name other irritants such as teething pain, indigestion, allergies, etc. Irritants are just… well just what they sound like: irritation. Have you ever tried to fall asleep with a tickle in the back of your through or an itch? Difficult, yes? So, to remove irritants, we should consider our environment including diets.
So we’ve changed our routine a little bit to reduce overstimulation and minimize the impact of potential irritants. We are cautiously optimistic and I will share progress when Sophia’s sleep patterns conform to a Gaussian distribution. Until then, I have devised a set of parenting principles by which we now live and breathe.
- Children develop at different speeds and there is absolutely NO need to rush any developmental milestone. My child will walk, crawl and crawl down the stairs backwards when she is ready.
- There is NO need for my child to be pressured into doing anything she doesn’t want to do. If I see you do that, I will ask you to cease and if I ask you again, you will likely have lost a significant amount of trust in my eyes.
- Children do not need many toys. Toys provide visual and audio stimulation and too much of that can lead to overstimulation.
- Children’s diets need not be crazy or complicated. They need to eat real food and in moderate portions. Your toddler’s portion should be at most 1/3 of your portion.
- Last, but not least and perhaps the most important one:I am the mom and hubby is the dad — what we say goes. No ifs, ands or buts about that.
I leave you with a final thought: the people who tell you that you should do X or Y are not the parents and their connection to your child is clearly not as significant as yours especially if you’re the mother. You know your child best and you know what’s best for your child.