Monday, April 23, 2012

Sleeping Through The Night?

Are You Awake? by Sophie Blackall (Henry, Holt and Company, 2011)

A new picture book, Are You Awake? by Sophie Blackall, just arrived at the library and I love it. It's about the all-too-familiar issue of children and sleep. It seems like, as parents, we often spend a lot of time wrestling with this issue - getting our baby to sleep through the night, deciding on the proper bedtime, naptime issues, bedtime negotiations, children waking us up too early, etc. In Are You Awake?, a little boy who just can't sleep ends up keeping his mother up almost long enough to see the sun come up. Sound familiar? You are likely not alone.

One of the first things that people asked me after the birth of my child was, "How is he sleeping?" or more specifically, "Is he sleeping through the night yet?" I never knew how to properly respond to these questions. For at this time, my child (my newborn) was only a few weeks old when these questions started coming. I thought, "well, he is sleeping like any newborn." What I meant was: he's alseep a lot of the time, waking up every 2-3 hours for feeding. As a new mom, I thought, isn't that what is expected? Should he already be sleeping through the night? When I said, "no, he's not sleeping through the night yet," I encountered sympathetic looks that said to me, "I'm so very sorry. You poor thing." Then I felt my first tinge of mom guilt. Was I doing something wrong? Do all babies sleep through the night immediately? Should I let him cry it out? Should I be co-sleeping? Should I not co-sleep? The great sleep debate continued as I met more new moms and we discussed this terrible "sleep issue." With each new stage of growth, new sleep/bedtime issues would be discussed. I certainly don't know everything about parenting. I'm learning all the time. But now that some time has passed, I can look back on those first few years with the advantage of the perspective of time. I realize that many things that seem impossible or are stress-filled decisions for new parents (sleep habits, nursing/not nursing/when to wean, potty training, on and on...) are do-able. They come with time, love, patience, and trial and error. Every child presents unique parenting challenges and blessings. Some hurdles are crossed and milestones reached much later than we ever expected as parents. And, hopefully, when those once impossible parenting moments are in the past, we can reflect on them with some perspective, nostalgia, and humor.

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