Thursday, March 3, 2011

Unrest in America


U is for "unrested," and when I speak of unrest in America, I'm not referring to the civil variety. Nope, I'm speaking of a whole different subject, one that's on my mind today because of a phone conversation with my niece, whose best friend is about as unrested as it gets.

Many of the young moms I know today are sleep-deprived, and so are their children. I was sleep-deprived too, of course, but only until my babies were two or three months old and considered "ready" (according to old-time parenting policies) to sleep through the night. These policies; endorsed by my mom, my grandma, and the dear old docs they consulted; ensured that the vast majority of babies did manage to get a full night's sleep, without parental guilt or recrimination. As a devout dozer, I'm thankful to have been born into my particular generation...one of the last that felt entitled to some shame-free shut-eye! There is a down side, though. I will be turning 59 this year. ;)

But I digress. What I wanted to share with any young moms who might be interested (and I won't be offended if you think I've lost my marbles and decide to run the other direction so you don't trip on them) is this: The prevailing wisdom in my day was that babies needed to develop patterns of self-soothing, creating for themselves a going-to-sleep mechanism. Mothers were instructed to feed the baby, sing to the baby, tell the baby a story (in other words, establish a night-time ritual) and then put the baby in his bed…saying good night, lovingly tucking him in, walking out, and closing the door...never to return until morning's light. During this initial training period (never more than a week and usually just a couple of days), the baby often cried, mistakenly believing he needed mommy to come pick him up more than he needed a good night's rest. Some infants got mad enough to wail loud and hard, protesting crib-time because they still wanted to play. While more playtime was what these babies thought they needed, their real need was bedtime and 11 or 12 renewing hours of sleep. Heck we all need that, right? (Admittedly not 12 hours, but 7 or 8 is required by most.) We are, after all, only human...and the physiology of our species is what it is.

At any rate, given the opportunity (and a parent that embraced the concept), in less than a week the baby not only learned to take that good night’s sleep for himself but knew how to achieve the blissful state on his own. Some cuddled with a toy or a blanket, others played with their hair, but all learned how to go to sleep without assistance. And this was a good thing, because mommy was well-rested, and so were they. Which, by the way, makes a big difference when it comes to daytime behavior. Truth is, sometimes a mother shows her love best by NOT doing something the baby wants. Because sometimes, the baby needs the opposite of what he is demanding. Of course, this notion seems to run adrift of the prevailing (psychologist-driven) parenting philosophies today, as discussed in my post on Wednesday.

Question: Do you think babies born and raised under the "new" parenting techniques are psychologically healthier as a result of following the purportedly sage advice of today's self-appointed baby gurus? Does having a PhD by your name make you a wise well of knowledge about sleep training? (Reading the next paragraph may help you deduce my own answer to that query.) Hint: I think the best counsel comes from moms and grandmas who have healthy, well-adjusted kids and lots of hands-on experience.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal recently that spoke of the disturbing increase in insomnia and sleep disorders among children and young people in our country. Simply put, increasing numbers of them don't know how to sleep without aid(s). They have not learned to develop normal sleep patterns. Sadly, studies have shown that these kids are at increased risk for various forms of mental illness and behavior disorders. Something's gotta give here.

You may have guessed by now that I think those parenting pundits and psychologists who have thrown out sleep-training methods that worked well for many generations (in favor of expecting a baby or toddler to automatically do what's "best" for them if given free reign) are at least partially to blame for the sleep problems of our youngsters. Constantly going into the room to check on, soothe, or (worse still) feed a baby in his or her crib at night merely trains that child to cry until the same pay-off occurs every night, and sometimes multiple times. That's just the way it works...behavior modification, pure and simple...and not the kind of behavior modification a sleepy mom wants!

Self-determination is an excellent thing, in its place, but so is recognition that others in the family have rights and needs, too. Sleep happens to be one of these...even for parents (who, by the way, deserve the opportunity to wield some authority in their own homes). Taking charge, after all, is their stewardship...and should not be ceded to an infant...the family member with the least developed intelligence and life experience. Parents need to be pack leaders, not bedraggled, sleep-seeking followers. And guess what? Baby will be happier, too!

Just my opinion, of course. (And I am Dr. nobody.)

;)

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41 comments:

Jocelyn Christensen said...

Uh yeah, pretty much everything that you are saying is written in a book called Babywise. I did it with all my children and they slept through the night by 4-6 weeks...8, then 10, then 12 hours a night...and never stopped!

I have had people say "I heard that was bad for the child" to "Do" babywise. But it isn't. It's just what you said...self-soothing. We've all got to learn. I also saw it as being very respectful of both the Parrents and child's need for rest and love.

I also think that women in my generation are not being taught these things by their parents, because we are busy learning so many other wonderful things. Things that women didn't have access to in the past.

But this book puts it out there for any woman wise enough to seek that counsel.

Sue said...

That is great to know, Jocelyn. I wonder why more young people aren't doing the babywise thing!

=)

Laraine Eddington said...

My daughter used Babywise too and she has great sleepers.

Judie said...

Our first granddaughter was a terrible sleeper, and was not ever left to go to sleep on her own. It meant many years of frustration for her parents. I didn't butt in after suggesting only once that they let her cry. It would have fallen on deaf ears!!

Life in Rehab said...

I agree with you that there's no need to be an exhausted mess all day.

We followed the Family Bed theory, which points out that we're the only mammal that sleeps apart from our young. My three slept with us until they made the decision to all move into their own room, so for about four years we shared the big king sized bed. If the baby currently being breast fed woke up, I nursed. We cuddled. They woke up giggling in the morning. And we all got plenty of sleep.

And once they left our room, not even once did they ever come back. There were no monsters under beds or in closets, no bad dreams, and thunder wasn't scary.

We never regretted it, and the children all plan to do the same.

Jenny said...

Sue for President!

I am soooo on this band wagon with you.

The other thing that really saddens me is children who don't get enough rest because their parents don't feel it is important.

Mumsy, Chancy and Company said...

Another great post sweet Sue and just like the last post, I totally agree with all you have said. Hugs

Jackie said...

This philosophy save me. And both of my kids, who are super sleepers, thankfully!

Nancy said...

Sue...you are so right on!! Our children today have a sense of entitlement starting in infancy. i followed the "let 'em cry" procedure and my kids all slept through at an early age. In addition, I never put them in bed with a bottle propped up, thus they enjoyed their intimacy at bottle time with me and never became "addicted" to a bottle after 9 months.

Wanda Metcalf said...

I love this post!! You are a "Retro Housewife" Ah yes, said in love, a kindred spirit of mine.

I love what you said about our generation's need to teach each other. We need to be Titus Women and stop letting our kids buy books the moment they find out they our going to have babies and read all kinds of nonsense.

We just found out we are going to be grandparents for the first time and my daughter in law has already said things like I can only have this and I can't do that. I am all for being safe and having healthy babies don't get me wrong! But I think some of these book can really scare and go over board. Lets just do what the Dr. says.

Good post! Thanks for dropping by my page I look forward to more of your writings.

Catherine said...

Love! I'm a bit of a sleep nazi with my toddler. I just don't function well without sleep...as my sweet newborn is reminding me :) But she still is very sweet and letting me sleep more than my first newborn.

CollectIn Texas Gal said...

Dear Dr. Nobody....U're views are widely acclaimed by our Rested Generation! I happen to be UhhhOne!

However, when it comes to Grandbabies....uhhhhmmmmmmm...it seems holding a napping baby is such a joy...especially since I'm more rested, and he goes home before bedtime.

Donnie said...

I'm so glad I'm past that stage in my life and am able to say goodnight to the grands and go home....lol...

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Oh how I remember those days...I just never felt rested...

My daughter in law is a firm believer in Babywise. It worked for her..

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Oh how I remember those days...I just never felt rested...

My daughter in law is a firm believer in Babywise. It worked for her..

karen said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Dr. I followed this philosophy with all of mine and they were all great little sleepers - still are. Rest is good. Makes it easier to have all that love at home.

La said...

...or they can look forward to resting in about 18 years.

Mary said...

Such sound advice for a sound night of sleep!

Brian Miller said...

i am in agreement...we did it with our boys...and it worked...i think the new system in bunk...

anitamombanita said...

My daughter did it with both her grandsons and they are both great sleepers. They know when it's bedtime that means a story, some snuggling and then lights out. If they do cry after that, it's because there's a problem.

Now if I could just get HER to go to bed when they do....LOL.

Cindy Adkins said...

Hi Sue,
Oh, I remember those days--and am so glad mine are grown!!! But, it was always such a joy for me, I have to say!!!
XO

Donna said...

Gee, I think I probably was an awful mother...mine (premie twins the first time) didn't sleep through the night till they were 2! I almost died from lack of sleep. They took an hour to eat every three...AND I worked part-time. It was a haunting experience. I did not have help and had a husband who slept through it all.
My second birth was a daughter who slept great from 3 months on...yeah!! I just think they are all wired differently.
I sleep especially well, thankyou!!

VK said...

Apparently the "Babywise" movement is quite controversial, but how 'bout putting the books down and just using some plain old common sense. I had a niece in law living with me this past summer that had to read every sentence in those or other books before she could even decide if it was okay to give her 1 year old a drink of water. Her little guy slept well because of the book. Kinda funny really.
My DIL doesn't think sleep is important and hasn't had a good night of it since her 5 1/2 year old was born. The kids can really be a mess during the day, let alone in the night.
My common sense daughter just doesn't get all in a wad about it and she just puts her babies down when it it time. They are much happier during the day as well as giving peace and not being scared of everything all night long.

BTW another pet peeve of some parents is how they handle them in church. Really? Your 5 year old can't go an hour without food? Your 3 year old has to play out in the foyer for 35 minutes? Your 1 year old HAS to take the sacrament? Really?

Stef said...

You are Dr. Beentheredonethat. You are surely qualified. My kids are so much happier when they are able to go to sleep on their own without me.
Now, if I can just convince my 2 year old that he needs to nap still....grrrrr.

Pondside said...

Amen, amen and amen again. I am so thankful that I was visiting my parents when our first child was about two months old. I think we had just two crying bedtimes and then he slept through the night - 10 hours. Our son and DIL stood by the crib and rubbed the baby's back - at three, he's adorable but still not able to fall asleep on his own.

Honey at 2805 said...

I had rituals with my child (moon's ago) too. My niece, who had a baby last year is following the new "Old" ways and her baby's bedtime is very ritualized. Good for the mothers who are following this program.

hip-chick said...

I think that mothers today have set themselves up for such hardships. Children have to be perfect athletes, perfect students...the fact is that the real deal doesn't even begin until your children are in their teens. We are all going to screw up our children. Our parents screwed us up and their parents screwed them up...our children will screw up our grandchildren. The goal is to minimize the damage.
There has not been a person yet who has been able to raise the perfect child no matter how sleep deprived they may be.

Cheryl said...

Fantastically written and, from my experience, very true.

5thsister said...

Preaching to the choir my friend!

Heather said...

I wake up my children every hour to tell them I love them so I can build their self-esteem.

Respectfully Submitted,

Matthew D. Anderson

City Share said...

I am expecting my first child and planning on putting the baby on a schedule. I had never heard of Babywise. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the great posts.

☆☆Mumsy said...

I was told the same from many wise women before me, but learned quickly that everyone is different, so by the second baby came around, I did what my intuition told me, and never look back..

Grandma Honey said...

Our last 2 babies slept with us til they were 5. I guess there are many ways to do this and still turn out with happy productive adults.

Mari's World said...

Wow, I didn't read all the comments but you ahve spaarked a debate here...I agree with you wholeheartedly. My first two, now in their 20's had that treatment, it worked and I slept.
The twins also currently get that treatment and they are great sleepers. I sleep and we have fun filled days (most of the time)
I agree with you Granny Sue, hear hear!

Amy said...

I am a big follower of Babywise. I agree completely that is true. I think it is so important for mothers. That said, it is easier said than done. :)

m_and_m said...

I guess I've seen it go both ways. I've seen moms stress out when they can't make this work, and I've seen this work.

It's hard when you are a new mom to figure out what advice really is worth listening to.

As a mom who has struggled with her own sleep and schedule, let alone how to help her children with theirs, I just wanted to be a voice for those for whom things like this haven't worked like, well, clockwork. ;)

No question, though, that sleep is important and schedules can be very helpful if you can make them work.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

I don't know why I should be surprised that there are parents who let their kids sleep whenever. These may be the same kids who scream and whine in public, and the parents don't do anything about it. Really annoying.

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

When our firstborn was little, I had an experience that had me feeling guilty to let her cry herself to sleep (too long to go into that here), but when it was time for our next two, we definitely allowed them the one week of falling asleep on their own and it was well worth it thereafter. (Yes, the first week was tough).

Blessings & Aloha!
Thank you so much for visiting and your sweet comment!

legosandlightsabers.com said...

Babywise has been warned against by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) because it goes too far in one direction. Strict Scheduling and some babies have failure to thrive with that.

Just like everything in life, following the spirit is so useful! I was very sensitive to my boys at night during their first year. Yes I lost some sleep, but it was worth it for me.

Once they were a year old, I felt better about letting them CIO (Cry it out) and it only took a few days.

I know many moms feel OK doing it earlier, but for me and my particular boys I felt waiting until a year was best.

Interestingly my 3rd boy slept through the night when he was about 6 months, without any crying at all.

Each child is different and there is no one size fits all answer.

Heather said...

I think babywise goes to far the other direction. I really think every family has to find what works for them... all families are so different and each child is different there can't be just one right way.

Darlene said...

All I can say is that it worked very well with my five. I was blessed to have a wonderful experienced mom and an exceptionally good pediatrician, who were both adament about letting them cry. It only took a couple of days, except with you, my dear Sue, and it took about four with you. If a baby is healthy, it is the very best thing to do for both mom and baby.

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