The contentious topic of sleep.  I had planned to avoid the controversy, but I feel compelled to talk about it now.

Right around the time that sleep became a problem for me, The Sleep Sense Program ads began popping up in my newsfeed on Facebook – a pastime I frequented while up late at night with my baby.  No doubt the algorithms Facebook is known for had taken note of my Google search terms.

When our baby was six months, my husband and I weighed the decision to switch to disposable diapers at night.  Up until that point, I had been waking every two hours when Finn became restless due to his wet cloth diaper.  Any amount of wetness was enough to wake him and as soon as he was covered in a dry diaper he would fall back asleep.  We decided that the extra stretches of sleep for mama was worth the compromise for us, and we switched to (eco) disposables at night.

This was not an easy decision for us though we’ve come to a place where we are comfortable with this decision for the health and happiness of our family.  Most often when we explain our reasoning or discuss our use of cloth diapers, we allow others to fall into their assumptions that we cloth for the sake of the environment or to save in the cost of disposables.  Yes, for all of these reasons cloth works for us, but what kept me hanging diaper liners and miniature cloth wipes on the clothes line day after day and what kept me waking every two hours for six months was to protect our baby’s genitals from constant exposure to chemicals commonly found in disposable diapers.  (See this article, but please conduct your own research if this speaks to you.)

I reveal this admission to you not to offend or make users of disposable diapers feel judged, but to show that in parenting we all have questions to ask ourselves about the practices we as a society accept as normal.  We make so many choices on a daily basis about the products we bring into our homes and choose to use on our children.  We presume products we find on the shelves of our grocery stores to be safe for use, without questioning the companies that produce them.  I’m simply suggesting that if you feel compelled to do so, look deeper.  Being a parent today involves difficult choices, and we must choose to do things that sit well with us and our family.  We all are making choices with the information we have at hand and use our mama instincts to guide us and set limits on what we’re comfortable with.  Always listen to that voice inside.

I’m simply suggesting that if you feel compelled to do so, look deeper.  Being a parent today involves difficult choices, and we must choose to do things that sit well with us and our family.

Sleep is one of those fundamental parts of the everyday that parents sacrifice in the name of newborns.  Again, we each have different limits as to how little and for how long we can go without sleep.  Parenting a new baby tests the limits of how little sleep is tolerable.  It’s easy in the fog and desperation of sleep deprivation to be lured in by promises of sleep solutions.  I know because I’ve been in the thick of the desperation.  So when Facebook began showing me The Dana Obleman Sleep Sense ads during the 3 am sleep deserts when I would wake, yet again, to change Finn’s diaper, I signed up.  Though I knew the free newsletter wasn’t about to reveal the juicy sleep secrets to me, I devoured it in search of the holy grail of motherhood.

At some point in the light of the next day, I began to really look into this sleep program.  Dana Obleman, the founder behind this program, as it turns out, has an educational background very similar to myself – she holds a Bachelor of Arts and another in Education.  She taught grade one for a few years before having her first child when she noticed a deficit in the parenting help book market.  Doing her own research and developing her own strategies, she established herself as a sleep consultant, launching her evidently very profitable business.

Did you catch that?  Dana Obleman, the developer of The Sleep Sense Program has the very same education as I do.  She and I also share the credential of mother.  So then why would I replace my good sense with hers?

While Dana Obleman and her Sleep Sense Program are one of many books and resources promising sleep solutions for moms and babies, I highlight this one in particular in hopes of demonstrating just how silly it is to discount my own instincts and parenting choices for easy promises of holy grail solutions.

Do you want to know the truth?  Babies aren’t supposed to sleep through the night. They’re meant to wake and feed and seek closeness and comfort from mother, because that’s what they’ve evolved to do to survive.  Sleep, the deep and restful sort I have craved for months, checked out of my life when my baby checked in.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  When I chose to become a mother, I accepted the responsibility of caring for the physiological, emotional and any other sort of need of a baby wholly dependent on me.  Again, don’t presume me some sort of unicorn or self-congratulator.  That’s not what this is about.  I have had my share of meltdowns and thrown my share of pillows and f-bombs at 3 and 4 and 5 am when I can’t bear to have my nipple suckled for a moment longer.  I’ve needed reminders from other mothers that this not sleeping is what babies do — and gosh aren’t they cute? It’s a good thing, I’ll tell you.

Our society is quick to perpetuate plain awful parenting advice involving full blown or modified versions of the “Cry-It-Out” method, like that perpetuated by Dana Obleman’s Sleep Sense Program.  Please, please, please — for the sake of the mental and emotional health of your baby and that of the next generation — consider doing some research before beginning sleep training that involves crying.  There is a reason why mothers feel the way they do at the sound of their baby crying.  Don’t suppress your mother’s instincts.

 

There are so many resources to cite, but here is an article to get you started:

  • For sleep solutions that corresponded with my parenting philosophies, I often sought out La Leche League International’s sleep guide Sweet Sleep from my local LLL leader.
  • The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley is also LLL approved and offers some great tips as every baby is different.

 

Again, follow your instincts in search of answers that speak to you, your personal limits, and the values you hold for your family.  Sleep well, Mamas.

 

joanna crichton photography, mom, baby

Photography by Joanna Crichton