Sleep, part 2
If you breastfeed/rock/hold/snuggle your baby/young child to sleep you will be creating a monster! Your baby/child will never learn to self soothe. If you sleep with your baby/child (in the same room) your baby/child will never learn to sleep alone. If you bedshare you will harm your baby. These things have been said to parents time and time again. The holidays bring out everyone's opinions and advise. Sleep is the most contentious.
Let's start with biology:
Brain calming (self soothing) is not a learned behavior in children. It is a growth factor. You can train your child to not cry when going to sleep or during the night. HOWEVER, there are very good and many times repeated studies that show that your child isn't 'self soothing' but actually going into a fight or flight mode. Think frozen bunny. Don't move because if you do the bears will eat you. Babies and young children are instinctual beings not rational beings. Instinctually, the night time is the time of heightened awareness. It is the time of most danger. By holding and especially breastfeeding your child to sleep you are settling and balancing your child's serotonin and cortisol levels so that heightened awareness can recede. You are allowing your baby to physically feel that you will protect them in the scariest time of the day. Biologically it is also necessary for your baby to breastfeeding during the night. Your body makes specific brain growth milk at night. Your body slows your letdown (for most women). By slowing your letdown the specific amino acids and proteins that are brain specific can process more completely. You and your baby are literally growing brain cells by night time breastfeeding.
By the way, if anyone asks if your baby sleeps through the night, just roll your eyes. The standard sleep pattern for ADULTS is waking every 2-3hours. You wake, you drink a bit of water/check the time/adjust your position/pee and go back to sleep. Your baby does this same pattern except we add that brain building milk into the mix so your baby wants to breastfeed as well. If your baby is sleeping close, MOM gets more sleep.
Let's talk emotions:
Your baby/child is in a new or not frequently stayed at place. The sights, smells and noises of this place aren't familiar. Until 18 months you child doesn't have object permanence (remembering that something is familiar; it is just starting at 18months) so even if you have been to grandma's house before and have slept there, it is still all new to your baby. Remember the fight and flight mode we just reviewed? By keeping your baby/child close at night you are ensuring all the hard work you did to calm their brain to sleep isn't undone when they wake. Your close proximity allows your child/baby to feel safe even in this new place.
But what about sleeping alone? Infancy and childhood are the only times that we expect people to sleep alone. This is also specifically an American construct. Most places culturally have babies/children sleep with parents either in the same room or in the same bed until they are at least 2years old. Babies sleeping in another room didn't happen until the late 1940s. This is the time that houses got big enough in the US to move babies out. It was a sign of wealth to have a separate nursery. What also happened at this time is the SIDS rate in the US started to skyrocket. While separate sleeping is now culturally part of our vernacular it actually is a socio-economic construct not a biologically appropriate philosophy. Will this stop Aunt Betty (yes there really is an Aunt Betty!) from telling you all the horrible things that will happen if your baby/child sleeps near you? Nope but it sure helps to understand why you are choosing these sleeping arrangements. You don't have to change her mind. You just have to be secure in your own choices. If anyone tells you you are going to harm your child by bed sharing just print the Safe bed sharing rules posted in the comments and hand it to them. No sense in arguing.
What's the bottom line? Parents and babies/need sleep. The easiest way for everyone to get the most sleep is to keep your baby close
Sleep: [Part 1]
It is the quintessential issue but no more so than during the holidays.
If you are traveling, remember that your baby is in a new place. Just like many adults have issues sleeping in new places so do babies. Try to stick to your bedtime routine. Oh, you don't have one? Start now! It will be sketchy for Thanksgiving but firmly in place by Christmas. What is a bedtime routine? It is the steps you establish to signal that it is time to slow down and relax. Pick 6 steps that can be condensed to 5 minutes or take as long as 30 minutes. You want to have things that can be done anywhere. (It will help you relax as well). Include your partner and older children if applicable.
Here's an example:
1. Read to your baby. Remember you don't have to read children's books. You and your partner can read whatever you would like to each other.
2. Have a wash. Wipe face, hands and tush. Have a bath. Remember that it's cold. Dry as you go.
3. Brush teeth or gums. Good habit to start no matter how old your child.
4. Change clothes. There is nothing as relaxing as soft and warm jammies.
5. Tell your baby one positive thing about today.
6. Climb into bed and breastfeed your baby to sleep/rock and breastfeed your baby.
This routine is just a suggestion. Pick the 6 things that work for your family. Stick to the routine. Will it be easy all the time, NO. However, it will make slowing down and going to bed easier for everyone.
Part 2 tomorrow: the battle of you are spoiling your baby, sleep edition.