I’ve had two sleep support inquiries recently that were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Both were from parents with 10-month-old little girls. Both baby girls bed share and still breastfeed during the night.
One question went like this: “Is it okay that my 10-month-old still wakes during the night and nurses back to sleep? I don’t actually know how often she’s up because I pretty much sleep through it. I like having her with me but people keep telling me I shouldn’t be doing this.”
The other question went like this: “How can we get our daughter to sleep in her crib? She’s up all night crying and the only thing that gets her back to sleep is nursing her, and we’re exhausted and at our wits end. One of us always has to be in bed with her and we have no time together anymore for just the two of us.”
The first family found a way for everyone to get adequate sleep by keeping their baby with them.
The second family is reactive or “accidental co-sleepers.” They started doing it for survival but didn’t anticipate the long-term ramifications of having their baby in the bed. And, with her still in the bed now, no one is getting adequate amounts of restful sleep.
As Elizabeth Pantley succinctly states in her book, "The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers," parents have two paths: stay with your baby until she falls asleep or help her to learn how to fall asleep on her own.
Guess which path is the right one?
If you said the one that fits your family best, then you are CORRECT. Two gold stars.
The other thing Pantley says in her book is that there is no problem until there’s a problem FOR YOU. I’ve been saying this for years. And this is what I told the mommy with the first question. I said, if this is working for you and your family, there is not a problem. It’s nobody else’s business. She told me afterward she was anxious about calling me because she was afraid I was going to tell her she needed to change this and was extremely relieved that I actually applauded her for finding balance in her family. I also told her, when and if the time came that she wanted to make changes, she could. Gracefully, gently, with love. Pantley says the only thing that needs to be changed is how to respond to unwanted advice!
And yet another thing that Pantley says that I always say is that getting your child to sleep is like a puzzle. You must patiently get all the pieces of the puzzle in place to see the whole picture. Some of these puzzle pieces include hitting your child’s sleep windows, taking into consideration your child’s age and temperament, the amount of total sleep your child is getting, etc. That’s why she encourages you to make a decision about which path you will take and then create a plan and stick with it. She does a wonderful job in her book walking tired parents through the formation of a sleep plan. If doing it alone seems daunting, call in a sleep coach to help you through the process. The important thing is that you know there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each puzzle is unique, each families’ values are unique. What works beautifully for one family is a nightmare for another – as illustrated by the two families above.
Pam Diamond is a parent coach, postpartum doula, baby sleep consultant and owner of First Daze & Nightzzz, LLC. Pam’s goal is to help parents and babies get off to the best possible start. She helps families fix what’s not working and enjoy what is. She lives in Cary with her husband and two teenage children. You can learn more about Pam on her website: First Daze & Nightzzz, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.