Friday, April 24

my aware baby - sleep

I started sharing some bits and bobs from the Aware Baby book. The first post is over here.

In the rest of Chp 2, Solter covers topics such as what to do if your baby has already learnt to suppress crying, how to tell when she needs a cry, and basically offers advice and thoughts that will help the parent feel more confident in following this idea. She also offers some exercises whereby you reflect on issues that might help you, such as your childhood and feelings about your baby.

Chp 3 covers food. It includes further notes about nursing for comfort as well as understanding hunger and introducing solids. One of the basic threads running through all this is that a baby that was allowed to cry and did not nurse/feed for comfort, is able to self-wean and regulate their food intake.

Chp 4 is all about sleep. She advocates co-sleeping and why babies won't fall asleep. Naturally, one of these reasons is a need to cry.

It's difficult to know whether the Wildflower has improved sleep due to age (it's still quite bad anyway) or because of being allowed to cry. But when all this clicked for me, I realised that going to bed with all that repressed stress must make for a fidgety, restless, wakeful baby. How difficult is it for us adults, to sleep when we have unreleased emotions, stuff on our minds, worries, etc?

Solter suggests that a sleepy baby will sleep immediately and spontaneously (once stimulation is removed). She says that,
"True sleepiness in a baby is characterized by a tired, relaxed look. The baby will not be fussy, whiny, fidgety, or hyperactive."

I took a quick look at Sears' The Baby Book, for their suggestions on getting a baby to sleep. Amongst removing stimulation, the other suggestions include wearing baby down, sleeping close and other similar comforting, noise, as well as rocking, car rides, and a swaying crib. Nothing about a good cry before bed.

Solter suggests that a baby needs to be ready for sleep and will do so easily when they are ready. Sears suggests we can help them get ready for sleep with warm baths and massages. And then get them to sleep with the suggestions above.

The idea of making a baby sleep never rang true for me. Fortunately I ignored this part of Sears' book and allowed the Wildflower to get ready for bed when she appeared tired. However, whee things went pear-shaped, is that the appearance of tiredness began as much as 2-3 hours before she would actually fall asleep. Without being allowed to cry, she had a lot of pent up stress. And back then, I believed that rocking and walking her was the best thing I could do.

So what happened was that her tired moaning sounds lasted for an eternity and my rocking was stopping her from releasing the stress. They were very, very long evenings and nights. At the time I just thought, well, that's her way of indicating tiredness and working herself up for sleep. It wasn't until around 8 months of age that I started to question the behaviour.

Here's a great thought I read just this morning. Solter says that most of us read fussiness and whining as indicators of sleep. I know I do! Who doesn't say, upon hearing a whiny child before nap time, 'oh, he's getting tired'? This is just what Solter asks. And then states,

"Whining and fussing are indications of a need to cry, not a need to sleep."

*Mon slaps hand to forehead*

She says that whilst a fussy baby may be sleepy (which is I guess why we make the natural connection), they are not actually ready for sleep while they are fussing.

I think I've understood that on a basic level. Parents tend to do all the things that Sears suggests - to wind baby down from fussiness. But Solter goes right to the core of fussiness - baby needs to release built-up stress. Baby needs a cry.

And now that I think of it, the easiest times for me to try out this crying philosophy has always been right before a nap. Solter says that tiredness makes it harder for a baby to hold in emotions. Anyone who has seen a whiny unhappy child before bedtime can testify to that. But the crucial bit we skip, is that what this means is that it's easier for a child to cry when tired.

Right before a nap, a) I am most confident that she needs a cry, and b) she is able to cry more easily.

I think back to times when the Wildflower has fallen asleep in my arms without hardly a sound, and that most other times there's tons of fussiness going on. I made the connection with high irritability - that she needed to release tensions - but general fussiness was just tiredness to me.

Solter concludes her basic point with,
"[the baby] will not be truly ready for sleep until after she has cried"

I've just been given a whole new perspective on fussiness before sleep. And it is so obvious when you look at it from this side. As hindsight tends to be.

pic: DKImages


  1. Fascinating stuff here. When mine was a baby, there wasn't as much information on attachment parenting so easily available. Everyone thought I was nuts for co-sleeping until she was 3, and then sporadically until she was 7.
    I got a "stunt-crib", and it was useful for letting her have naps alone when it was just too hot to wear her in a sling.

    Great post!

  2. Very interesting perspective. I'm always re-hashing what we could have done to help DS cope with life better. He was an exceptionally good crier (pained chuckle). I always felt like he just worked himself up into such a frenzy all. the. time. that sleep was impossible because of his high cortisol levels. But, I don't think I'll ever really know. Still, I'll tuck this info away for babe #2 and hope...

  3. * wanted to add that I used to massage my hatchling with warm almond oil to relax her and get her ready for sleep...she loved it!

  4. jumbleberry - did you have a particularly bad pregnancy labour with jumbleson?

    BSM - massage is wonderful. Wildflower loves it. I think the point though is not to do things without also givng them a chance to cry, if they need it. Even massage could become a control pattern if done often enough and suppressed crying!

  5. Yay, I'm glad the post came back! Okay, so I was thinking about this post yesterday morning as I was caring for my son (9.5mo). He's sick and has been fussing a lot--especially yesterday, and kept having crying spells. It got me thinking...maybe sickness, like tiredness, helps bring pent up emotions to the surface...aside from not feeling well, maybe sick babies are crying to release stress as well? He had a hard time falling asleep, even though I knew he was tired, so I let him cry for a while, after which he fell asleep very easily. He woke up 45 minutes later to pee and, I guess, to cry some more. Then he fell asleep again. By the end of the evening he was inconsolable and obviously not feeling well at all, so instead of letting him cry we did everything we could to get him to sleep. I think if they are that sick, they just need their rest. But earlier, the crying did seem to help.

    I'm curious to see if he is any calmer after he feels better, compared to before he got sick. We shall see.

  6. Lisa that's makes perfect sense. Solter tiredness seems to let their guards down, so why not another vulnerable period such as illness? And afterall, illness is a stress.

    And that's great intuition listening too, on your part, to help him sleep afterwards.

    It will be interesting to see what he's afterwards. Don't many kids have a couple of days immediately after illness where they seem irritable or more prone to become upset?

  7. I read you first post on crying back when my DS was four/five months, now he's seven months. I have found that letting him cry has immediate benifits (sleeps better, longer, less stirring, good mood upon waking) but it was not until reading this that I connected letting him cry with the fact that around the same time I started letting him cry he 'randomly' started falling asleep at night w/o BFing. He would simply pull off the breast when he was done.Sometimes he would crawl around a bit, then he would lie down, and be very still. Sometimes he will hold eye contact with me and smile dreamily (so sweet!) and just drift off. This isn't every night by any means, but it's becoming more and more common, and this is something I was lead to believe was impossible! "Babies need to be trained to sleep," ha!

    The connection between fussing and tiredness does seem so obvious now. I'm starting to think DS needs to cry more than I've been letting him, which isn't every often (he's what people consider a "good" baby). Thank you for sharing this as well as your other posts on crying, it has made a wonderful difference to me and DS so far. :)

  8. Thankyou for sharing your story Anon. I'm so glad this has made sense in your life and relationship with your child, and that it has produced such wonderful results.

    The crying thing needs daily attention, so I've found. When the Wildflower isn't irritable, I'm tending to think about it a lot less, until bedtime comes and she becomes 'fussy'.

  9. So glad this post is back. I stumbled it, for what that is worth (and I'm not really sure, a I'm a sporadic stumbler compared to most.) Anyway, I am trying to apply some of this line of thinking to toddler tantrums and whining as well, although of course it's different because that is often out of anger/frustration...but trying to sort out the line between comfort/distraction/allowing...good stuff...

  10. I've got a tantrum post in my head, so will be interested on your thoughts on that one.


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