Perspective Changes Everything
“Perspective is the way we look at things when we look at them from a certain distance and it allows us to appreciate their value.” ~ Rafael E. Pino
It is undeniable that perspective changes everything. How can it affect our sleep journey as parents? Consider these examples:
Family A: This family has a six-month old child who wakes 3+ times at night to feed. His parents count the minutes while he’s awake; it’s torture to not be sleeping. The baby will not go back to sleep on his own and his mother spends 30 minutes or more rocking him back to sleep: precious time she could be sleeping. His sleep seems to be getting worse! Shouldn’t it be getting better as he gets older? Her back is sore and she’s exhausted. Recently, the baby was awake for an hour at night and the parents were fuming with frustration. Doesn’t he know that they need to sleep through the night? Shouldn’t HE be sleeping through the night at this age? The parents feel like they need to train the baby to sleep. They want their child to be independent at night….NOW.
Family B: This family also has a six-month old child. The child wakes at night to feed but his parents don’t count the number of times he wakes, nor do they watch the clock. They know his night-waking is normal infant behaviour¹; they focus on the important nutrition his night feeds provide and the emotional trust they are building when they respond to their child at night. They’re tired, but they’re happy to help him develop a positive association with sleep. To help them get through this demanding time, they make self-care a priority, nap when they can, and seek help from their “village” of support. Recently, the baby was awake for an hour at night and the parents used that time to relax with baby and take turns caring for him. They looked into his eyes and enjoyed his presence. They safely bedshare when they need to, so everyone gets the most sleep possible. It seems as though the child is waking more often lately because he’s learning some exciting new skills they have observed in the daytime! They recognize that sleep is not linear. He’s likely going through a developmental leap; this too shall pass. They trust that he’ll sleep through the night when he’s ready. They enjoy the cuddles while their baby is small as they know that one day soon their child won’t need them anymore at night.
“I’ve learned that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.” ~ Author Unknown. How true. These two families experience the exact same sleep behaviours from their child, yet their perspective is vastly different!
Parenting is hard and tiring. So how can you change your perspective to improve your experience? Try asking yourself some of the following questions:
What do I enjoy about this time that I’ll miss later?
What can I reasonably expect from my child at this age?
What physical and emotional support is my child benefiting from by my responding to her at night?
What exciting new skills do I see my child developing?
Can I find peace in the stillness of night wakings?
Can I find joy by looking into the eyes of the child?
Can I stop counting wakes and looking at the clock?
What am I grateful for?
If we can take a step back and look at things from a developmental perspective, we are much more likely to find joy in the journey. “Night time waking and crying are frequently culturally constructed as behavioural sleep 'problems’” ² since some cultures who view night wakings as normal infant behaviour report lower incidences of infant “sleep problems”.
At In Touch Sleep, I can help you determine if your child has a sleep problem and, if so, help you get to the root of the problem. Alternatively, perhaps you simply need some educational support around what is normal for your child’s age and what to expect. Perhaps a bit of support and some practical strategies for improving the family’s sleep are all you need to help you navigate this demanding but beautiful time.
¹Acebo C1, Sadeh A, Seifer R, Tzischinsky O, Hafer A, Carskadon MA. Sleep/wake patterns derived from activity monitoring and maternal report for healthy 1- to 5-year-old children. 2005
²Blunden SL1, Thompson KR, Dawson D. Behavioural sleep treatments and night time crying in infants: challenging the status quo. 2011