In my volunteer work I get to talk to mothers about babies. The amount of conflicting advice swishing around on the internet is alarming. Here is my run down of information on infant sleep.
I am not a great writer so here are some links:
Now, the reason why I’m even bothering to put together these things other people have written heaps about is that it is Important. Some of the bad advice routinely doled out in our community damages families right at the mother-baby level.
- Avoiding eye contact when helping a baby sleep. Eye contact helps reassure babies and releases endorphins to help them feel better. Witholding this sort of basic reassurance is shown to alarm babies.
- Separate feeding and sleeping. Breastfeeding naturally encourages sleep. Suckling releases cholecystekinen in both mother and baby. This hormone makes you drowsy – a natural sedative. An extra boost is released in the baby 20 minutes later when the milk is digested.
- Babies need to learn to self settle. Human babies are born very dependent on their parents. They actually need an adult to help them calm down. Letting them cry it out exposes their brains to excessive cortisol levels which are neurotoxic – deleting the precious connections already laid down.
- Responding to your baby is making a rod for your back. On the contrary, that love and affection is not wasted. The loving bond between mother and baby can be a big step towards loving obedience. As Maria Montessori found, a gentle approach can yield obedience without the need for punishments.
And the books that back this up are:
- Why Love Matters how affection shapes your baby’s brain. Sue Gerhardt
- Helping your baby sleep why gentle techniques are best by Anni Gethin and Beth MacGregor
Dr Sears, Pinky McKay, Elizabeth Pantley are other authors on this subject.
For something quick to print and share the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health Inc has a position paper on Controlled Crying.
My family experience supports these attachment parenting theories. Those with most difficulty getting to sleep were left to cry as babies. The few who can sleep anywhere anytime fed off to sleep and co-slept.
When you think of how people lived before modern cities should make it obvious. People sleep together for warmth and because most houses don’t have separate bedrooms for each family member. Living in groups means there is always someone to carry a baby for a while – anyone who has had someone else’s baby settle to sleep in their arms knows it is no trouble.