Last week I followed Ezzo Week 2007 on Tulip Girl. I had little to contribute, since I haven't glanced at a Babywise book since skimming through one while pregnant. One thing I do remember are the promises to have a baby sleeping through the night from an early age.
Boy, that issue really dogged me when I was pregnant. The very thought of getting out of bed to feed a baby in the middle of the night, perhaps even pacing the floor with him screaming, had me fatigued. I decided, though, that since Weissbluth (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) says some babies still need night feedings up until 9 months old, I wouldn't force any sleep training before then. Still, I hoped that my child might start sleeping through the night on his own by, I don't know, three months? Oh, how I hoped!
What has happened since then? Sister, you don't even want to know! I'll share our sleep story some other time. But I'll tell you one thing I learned, as I read book after book after book on sleep: When a baby younger than six months sleeps through the night, it's not necessarily a good thing. Oh, we might think that a baby who sleeps for a long time is "sleeping better"-- but at this age, you have to question what "better" is. In some cases, prolonged sleep can actually be detrimental. Here's how:
1) SIDS. Babies younger than six months are at the greatest risk for SIDS. This risk peaks between 2-4 months, the period in which infants sleep the deepest. The longer a baby sleeps, the deeper he sleeps, and the more difficult it is for him to rouse himself if he encounters a breathing problem. This is why the AAP recommends co-sleeping for a baby's first six months. Babies sleep less deeply when mom is in the room and that, my friends, is sleeping better. Crazy, I know.
2) Let-Down. For a breastfeeding mother, her let-down is strongest at night. If God designed it that way, then I figure we ought to roll with it rather than wishing it away. This night nursing keeps up a mother's milk supply (crucial, since the AAP now recommends exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of six months) while ensuring adequate weight gain for the child.
3) Child Spacing. A baby who wakes in the night is good for birth control. Because this leaves you too fatigued to, uh, procreate? No. Because the frequency of a baby's suckling is one of the single greatest factors as to when your fertility returns. Many women I know experienced their first postpartum menses as soon as their baby began sleeping through the night.
Of course, if I had read all this two years ago, I would have said, "But a mother needs her sleep! How can she take care of a baby when she's been up all night feeding her?" Well, yes, a mother needs her sleep. No question about that. I've since learned, though, how easily she can feed a baby without losing a Z. More on that this week.