Monday, July 23, 2007

Sleep Well, Little Baby

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.

1 comment:

TulipGrrl said...

After milk supply problems with our first two, I was CERTAIN to keep at least one night nursing in with the next two until they weaned. And to be honest, doing that didn't really impact my sleep. (I got much less sleep when I stayed up too late online. *blush*)