Getting Sleep With A Newborn Or Toddler
I read that article that is flying around the internet about being sleep deprived until your child is the age of 4 or 6. I've also seen a lot of the reactions from parents! Do you think they are positive reactions from parents or soon-to-be parents that feel encouraged? They sure aren't.
Many parents who are in the thick of the middle of the night wakings and exhausted during the day are now seeing this article bounce from source to source. That's sure not spreading a lot of hope. Now of course, not all news is or has to be encouraging, but not all news has to be misleading either.
When I read the title I felt pretty passionate about it! The truth is, I love all things related to healthy infant sleep. Knowing their sleep cycles, catching their wake windows, setting up sweet routines and watching the whole family thrive because everyone in the house is getting sleep!
Seeing this article come up daily and watching the comments pour in from parents who have reluctantly accepted that their baby is 7 months, 14 months, or 3 years old and no one is getting rest, I was fired up for a second there.
As a postpartum doula, I support parents if they have accepted less sleep than what they could be getting, because in that same breath I am encouraging parents to take very good care of themselves and if more sleep is what they feel they need, they can have that. In most cases of sleep deprivation once baby is around 4 months, is because parents could benefit from some tools and the baby needs some coaching in the direction of getting more of those heavenly zzz's. So while not everyone needs to get the sleep I could help you get through a few changes, this article only sensationalized sleep deprivation rather than actually confirming it.
What better way to work against the perpetuation of accepting this than to break it down for you.
Sensationalize: It's a way to present information about something that provokes public interest and excitement at the expense of accuracy.
That article's title vs. the study's findings don't add up. They draw you in with a title that will catch the attention of parents everywhere. With our peers telling us we can say goodbye to sleep when a baby enters our lives', it's not going to be difficult to keep that going with an article stating we will all be sleep deprived for YEARS.
When reading the article further it mentions that parents are sleeping one hour less in the first three months of baby's life than before they were pregnant. Okay..I'm not going to argue the facts or results they received, but 1 hour? It's certainly enough for some of us to feel out of sorts and needing a nap at some point during the day to feel re-energized. Deprivation level? Maybe.
But it went on to say that "by the time kids in the study were 4 to 6 years old the moms were still missing out on about 20 minutes of sleep..."
That could be like setting your alarm clock earlier to get some time to yourself. I'm not going to say that attitude is everything here...but...maybe 20 minutes of our sleep isn't really a shareable piece of information to have parents feeling discouraged about bringing new life home with them!
Life isn't always how you look at it. There are many situations where sleep deprivation is happening night after night after night and articles like these just encourage us to accept our zombie like state because our baby woke up every 45 minutes to every hour and a half. Presenting this information as if it's the norm is dangerous. Sleep deprivation can lead to postpartum depression and more perinatal mood disorders. But that's not even what the article discovered. It was 20 minutes. At that rate we may all be sleep deprived for the rest of our lives!
A huge aspect of what we do as Postpartum & Infant Care Doulas at Wilmington Coastal Doulas is help shape babies for healthy sleep for the long term. This looks like sleep that is biologically suited for their age and their daily need. Sleep that doesn't interfere with breastfeeding. This looks like sleep habits that can be established even if attachment parenting is the desire of the parents.
As postpartum doulas we don't just watch or hold your baby while you sleep ( I mean we will if that's what you ask from us!) but we help you set the foundation for how you picture your future with your babies and children, because it can be that way for you.
You just don't have to accept what the media tells you about parenting. Fear mongering should just keep it's distance from expecting families.