Your child is not a machineMar 17, 2021
I am all about efficiency. I have to be. I have three children aged 3 and under that don’t go to daycare, I have no support system, and run a successful company. There is no room for procrastination in my daily life.
My days are neatly scheduled, our routines are sound and reliable, and I aim to keep everything flowing with ease.
Yet today, I want to tell you something completely contradictory: You need to STOP overachieving.
Our culture has become detrimental on various levels when it comes to parenthood and motherhood in general.
- Our culture encourages all-encompassing sacrifice of your well-being and simply powering through exhaustion and fatigue. We tell mothers that ur littles are only little for so long and we should always be positive and not complain when we are tired and overwhelmed.
- On the flip side, the internet is now overflowing with ‘sleep experts’ who did short online courses and now teach your kids to sleep with only one method and approach: the extinction or cry it out method. The expectations and rules set forth by these experts are unrealistic, robotic, and anxiety-inducing in parents because ultimately, you will always fall short and blame yourselves.
I have heard so many parents with less than realistic expectations of themselves and their children. They feel as though they have failed as parents, they are stressed and anxious, and they don’t know what to do anymore. So I ask them what’s wrong.
Here is what I hear:
- My 5-month-old takes inconsistent naps.
- My 2-year-old sometimes wakes before 6.
- My 3-month-old wakes at 6h30 and no later.
- My 9-month-old wakes up once per night, every week.
- My 3-year-old sometimes fights his nap.
And I stare back, a little perplexed.
They continue and tell me they have tried every app, showing me complex diagrams of their children’s sleep, and monitoring through technology when their babies eat, sleep, and wake. They stare at their baby monitors to see if their 3-year-old is sleeping in bed or just relaxing. They tell me their 4-month-old joyfully coo’s in bed rather than sleeping.
They tell me they failed and I need to fix it.
Now don’t get me wrong, early wakes can be worked on, and inconsistent naps can be gently guided. But to expect perfection, nearly robotic behavior from a young child is setting yourself up for failure.
No, your 9-month-old should not be waking three times per night, every night.
And no, your 5 week old should not be taking 3 hours to fall asleep.
And yes your 3-year-old should most definitely be spending 12h a night in his bed the vast majority of the time.
Your child is not a machine. We can’t press a button and force your 6-month-old to wake at 7h30 am. We can’t press a button and ensure your 9-month-old won’t ever need reassurance at night again. We can’t press a button and prevent your 3-year-old from having a bad dream.
Children are human. Perfectly imperfect.
Your 3-year-old WILL find new tricks to try and delay bedtime, but we can teach you what to do about it. Your 9-month-old WILL wake in the night at some point, but we can guide you to make sure it doesn’t become a habit.
Morning wakes will fluctuate with the seasons and with development.
Your baby will sometimes play in bed rather than sleep a full solid nap, but as long as he is having fun, why are you trying to be a party pooper?
That being said, suffering and pushing through exhaustion is not a solution. You SHOULD always seek help when your child isn’t sleeping well, is waking extremely early, and it is affecting your and your child’s daily life. Balance is key.
The goal is to optimize sleep, in a developmentally appropriate way. That means sleeping 12h per night and taking great naps by 6 months of age the majority of the time, but not ALL the time, and NOT at 4 or 5 months.
Sleep is progressive. Sleep is developmental. Sleep is affected by EVERYTHING.
Your child is not a machine. You can’t decide that your naturally early riser will now wake only at 8h30 am every morning because this is what you’d prefer. You can’t expect your toddler never to try and delay bedtime. You can’t expect your 9-month-old to never need you at night again.
I hear so many horror stories of clients who have worked with other so-called sleep experts…
- She told me if I breastfed my baby to sleep he would never sleep alone.
- She told me not to interact with my toddler at bedtime because he would manipulate me.
- She told me to ignore questions during our routine.
- She told me not to look my baby in the eye when feeding.
- She told me never to look at my toddler's eyes when I put her to bed.
Are there times when you need to decrease interactions to get a toddler to sleep after he or she has gotten out of bed 5 times in 3 minutes? Of course! But should you avoid interacting, conversing, sharing hugs and laughs during your bedtime routine? NEVER.
If your baby wants to feed to sleep, let him. If your baby wants to gaze into your eyes while feeding? Gaze back and try to record the moment in your mind.
A good consultant can help you get better sleep without turning you or your child into a machine.
But a good consultant will also tell you to expect bumps in the road, while ensuring you she will be there to support, guide, and encourage you along the way.
Your child is not a machine. So any expert that guarantees x y and z should be avoided at all costs. Because they will treat your child as a broken computer or car, and not as the wonderful human being that he is.
Strive for a good schedule. Respect routines. In fact, they will help you THRIVE. But also know when to put it all aside, snuggle a bit, and tell your to-do list ‘Tomorrow. Right now, I want to procrastinate and love on my children.