“Sleep, oh precious sleep, that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care”
Ever since I studied Macbeth, this line (from Act II, Scene 2) has fascinated me. I love the image of our personal tangled yarn (think of life and it’s many daily cares), being unraveled and restored to order by sleep.
The topic of sleep, or rather the lack of it, is a hot topic at all stages in life, babies need sleep, parents need sleep, children fight sleep, teenagers protest that they don’t need sleep and then sleep all day. As we age we seem to achieve less sleep for a variety of reasons. One thing for sure sleep is a hot topic at my weekly, Baby Cafe.
How much sleep is needed? Is sleep connected to a full tummy? What works best? Which book answers all of these questions?
As a mother and an experienced midwife, here are the solutions I propose:
Ensure adequate feeding, a warm constant environment, and a safe place for your baby to sleep. Every family must figure this one out for themselves. For some, it will be a crib, a cot, a mattress on the floor, for others a place in the parental bed (hopefully under the appropriate guidelines for co-sleeping)
The latest recommendations from the World Health Organization, inform us that our babies should be in the same room as the parent until at least 6 months of age. For some families the child will already be in the same room, through choice or circumstance. Others will choose to place their baby in his or her own room as soon as they return home from the Hospital.
There are many books out there: How to get your Child to Sleep; Your Child’s Sleep Problems; The Book of Sleep; The No Cry Solution to Solving Your Child’s Sleep Problems are just a few of the many bewildering titles.
If you are having problems, my advice would be to try to create some sort of routine (not easy in the first six weeks). Make a chart to have an honest assessment of your 24-hour cycle. Accept and celebrate that your baby/ is an individual. Neither one solution nor any book can give one foolproof solution. Recognize that this phase of sleepless nights will pass.
Our own babies sleep records were not perfect and we delved into many a book to try to improve the situation. With the wisdom of hindsight, I can now see that I may have indulged the daytime naps to the detriment of the nightly sleep. I was so excited to find our babies in a restful daytime sleep, that I would allow the daytime nap to continue way beyond 2 hours.
The good news is our two babies did get into good sleep patterns, as they matured from young babies into toddlerhood and their nutritional & emotional needs at night became less they finally adopted a pattern of sleep habits. Patience, persistence and routine were rewarded. The bad news this did not happen until they were aged 2 and a half. We survived, and the sleepless nights, and their accumulated toll, have not had a detrimental affect on us, nor we hope our two young men.
I am at a place in my own life now where I often cannot get to sleep and I usually only achieve five hours plus one each night. Surprisingly I am not tired, just accepting what my body dictates.
So, if you are one of the many parents who crave an extra hour, or so or would pay in gold for an uninterrupted night’s sleep, take heart, you are not alone. It will improve, and your unique individual baby will grow into a teenager craving sleep.
Not a lot has changed since Shakespeare’s time.
Anne Hemsley is a mother, UK midwife and childbirth educator. She founded Beijing’s first Baby Cafe, which supports parents in breast feeding. She also offers individual coaching for childbirth. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.