After being sent a link about the Pampers Nappies (with Tresillian Family Care Centres) Sleep Report I ummed and aahed about writing this post. You see, there are things I definitely agree with in the report, things I disagree with and emphasis which I believe is placed purely for promotional purposes (which I do not go into here).
I have posted about sleep before and I am fortunate that Immy is a good sleeper, though I sometimes wonder if it is a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg – is she a good sleeper by nature or is it as a result of the environment we have created surrounding sleep? I guess we will never really know. So here are my thoughts about the report (any information in italics has been taken directly from the report)…
“97 percent of Australian mothers with children under two have suffered with the adversities of sleep deprivation, which is impacting on their ability to enjoy quality time with their baby and in some cases, even life in general.”
Babies, toddlers and even children sleep differently to the way adults do, it is just a fact of life and we need to get our heads around this in order to stop our constant internal struggle as parents, surrounding sleep. Every baby, toddler and child sleeps has different sleep habits and preferences and even babies and toddlers who sleep well have ‘off’ nights – teething, illness, developmental changes, ambient temperature – any and all of these things effect their sleep. On top of this, their sleep patterns and needs change often too. You just feel like you have a handle on things and *kabam!* it all changes again.
While there are definitely things that we can do to help our children sleep, we also need make changes within own lives, our own expectations, even our own standards (unmopped floors be darned) to be better able to cope in those moments when we are sorely sleep deprived. Our lives are so busy – busy, busy, BUSY! Is it any wonder that we struggle to keep pace when we are existing on less sleep? Maybe the key is slowing down.
Slowing down our busy lives, slowing down our routines, slowing down the emotion and frustration which builds in the face of our tiredness. I think slowing down, spending more time on pause or play and less time in fast forward could help. I know that as a child I spent an awful lot more time hanging around at home then many children do nowadays, I honestly recall there being less places to be, less demands on our time, the daily routine was simpler and therefore slower.
Many mums, in an attempt to get some much needed shut eye, are taking a complacent attitude towards sleep habits in an effort to get their baby to sleep, oblivious to the fact these habits could be making matters worse for them. Some of these habits include letting their baby fall asleep while feeding (46%) and allowing their baby to sleep with them in their bed (41%), neither of which are conducive to healthy sleep patterns for either mum or bub.
This part of the report annoys me. I know Tresillian advocates a ‘feed, play, sleep’ routine and they are clearly adverse to co-sleeping but many families nowadays choose co-sleeping, it forms part of their beliefs about parenting, it is part of their parenting style. I don’t co-sleep but let me tell you a secret, I fed Immy to sleep. Not once, or twice, but until she was 20 months old, twice a day, and until a week ago, once a day. It worked for us. And I can assure you, she has very healthy sleep patterns.
I have fed her to sleep, patted her, rocked her, told her stories, sung her lullabies, and I still do, not to sleep now (at 26 months) but to help her learn to relax before sleep. Has it created bad ‘habits,’ I suppose the fact that we help Immy to relax before she goes to sleep could be described as a bad habit but I prefer to see it as teaching her to unwind. I also think that she is now so secure in herself and her place in the world because of our love, support and devotion to her needs that when we do change the circumstances surrounding her sleep (like recent weaning from breastfeeding), she is better able to cope with the change.
…Even at 18 months old, around half of Australian mums surveyed admit they still don’t have a regular routine and circumstances dictate their toddler’s sleep
As a complete routine junkie, it has always been important to me that Immy’s feeding and sleeping times are respected. I can probably count on one hand the number of times Immy has not been in her own bed for her afternoon nap. In fact, my own mother gasped just yesterday when I suggested Immy could have her nap in the car on the way home from an outing we are planning, not because she didn’t agree with what I was saying but because she couldn’t believe that I was suggesting it. I honestly and wholeheartedly maintain that a flexible routine based on the needs of the child makes for a happier, emotionally secure little person. Babies, toddlers and kids like knowing what comes next, they just do.
Tresillian encourages mums who are struggling with sleep patterns to get professional help before it starts to impact them negatively.
I agree that Mums who are struggling should seek help but I wonder if the range of professional help available represents and respects the range of parenting styles within our society. I had a friend take her baby to a sleep clinic as a result of ongoing night waking and then I watched her struggle back home to listen as her child became more and more emotionally upset as she followed the settling routine which the centre had advocated. Listening to that little bub cry and get more and more angry at her mama broke my heart, I can only imagine how it actually felt for my friend. What if I need help but I refuse to use a ‘controlled comforting/crying’ approach, what alternative assistance is available for me?
I wish the government funded assistance programs for families would actually help families within their own homes with practical suggestions and professional support, moving away from the home to a ‘sleep centre’ only in those cases where it is absolutely necessary. That the family and the sleep ‘problem’ could be supported in a more ‘holistic’ manner involving consideration of all of the possible influences on the baby’s sleep; whether it be constructive recommendations to change the sleeping environment, or the routine, or alternative strategies to try for feeding or settling, or even a suggestion to try a different brand of nappy for better nighttime sleep! Wouldn’t this be better for Mum and bub and the family as a whole?
I would love to hear your thoughts.