The Obsession with Sleep

Our child does not have to be trained to speak. 
They learn to speak by copying, by listening, by being spoken to. Once this skill is achieved, it leads to reading, and writing.  Language is a gift, absorbed through immersion.  It is the result of a literacy rich environment, with loving guidance and modelling, opportunity and growth.

Our child does not have to be trained to eat. It is intuitive, a developmental milestone.  We should not force it or try to speed up.  


The idea that babies must be trained to sleep is the realm of a baby industry primed to ‘equip’ modern parents. This is the most contentious part of the parenting puzzle. Modern parents are cultured to think that forced routines or schedules are necessary, that this is how we can hold on to a sense of control, predictability and sanity.  With pressure to return to ‘normal’, be unchanged by parenthood, and not have parenting disrupt career, the lure of ‘sleep training’ promises order and success.

Sleep Training offers a promise that is fraught – like a political party telling you what you want to hear before an election.  Waving a carrot in front of you – ever out of reach.  

 “The controlled crying* method has not been rigorously assessed in terms of the impact on the infant’s emotional development. Other strategies, apart from controlled crying, should always be discussed with parents as preferable options.”

Australian Association for Infant Mental Health Inc (AAIMHI)

*also known as controlled comforting and sleep training

Many child development specialists will tell you that ‘success’ in sleep training means that you have taught your baby that no one will come. That they are on their own.  That the empathetic pathways will be trimmed from their developing brain, as only those pathways that are stimulated will grow and thrive. This is a process known as ‘Protest-Despair-Detachment.’ Stimulating empathetic pathways is simple: Respond to your baby. Hold them.  Feed them on cue.  

Human infants need contact. This is how they learn.
The noise they make are communicating their needs.  It feels good to be heard.

If you are thinking about sleep training, take some time to reflect on why.

Yes – sleep deprivation is a akin to torture. 

The solution, however, is not to deprive the baby because The baby is not the problem.
Maternal depletion, lack of support and pressure to carry on are the problem.

The solution is to honour matrescence. and acknowledge the possibility of patrescence.
Workplaces need to be set up to acknowledge the importance of parenting.  Culturally we ignore this critical and unpaid activity.  We disregard the biological connection of the mother-baby dyad and it’s role in child development.  The biological reliance on a Mother does not end with birth and is not limited to breastfeeding.  Partners, and other involved parties, are better able to support the Mother when they understand and value the Dyad.  

Empathetic pathways, healthy guts and
secure bonds are important to babies. 
Not ‘sleeping through’ and ‘independence’.

Our cultural value of independence is a sign that humanity got lost somewhere along the way.  The village has been virtualised and community is a privilege few know or experience.  We have all the puzzle pieces, but we are putting the puzzle together upside down.

There is no One Way – any schedule or instructive method will only ‘work’ easily if it closely matches the child’s natural rhythm.
Rather than try to control your baby, try watching your baby. Listen to your baby. Hold and Nurture your baby knowing you are not ‘creating rods’ or ‘bad habits’. If anything is created by holding your baby, including sleep-sharing, it is a trust. They grow so quickly, it is such a fleeting time. The Fourth Trimester refers to the newborn period. This is a time to slow down and focus on getting to know your baby.

From The Birth Map: boldly going where no birth plan has gone before​ (available here)
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