A baby-centered approach to sleep
Babies need sleep, and God knows, their parents need sleep too! Unfortunately, newborns have their own ideas about when and where to sleep. Eventually all new parents will have to answer the question: Crib or family bed? Feed him again or let him cry it out? Will some expert’s method work for my baby?
Here are some real-life experiences from parents who grappled with these questions —- and devised their own solutions based on different styles. After all, every baby is unique —- just like her parents. Find out what works for you.
The premise of the baby-centered teaching method
A baby is at his best when he is physically close to his mother and knows that she is there to meet his needs. Parents who take this course tend to feed their baby on demand (no matter when he cries) and sleep with him, either in the family bed or in their bed. They focus on making the bed a positive, natural place where mom can quickly offer food or comfort. Experts like William and Martha Sears, and organizations like La Leche League, base their parenting advice on this idea.
All parents take a more or less baby-centered approach because a brand new baby needs constant nourishment (every few hours, throughout the day and night). However, by 3 months of age, most infants can last longer at night (usually up to 5 to 6 hours) without breastfeeding. While some parents use techniques to encourage their children to sleep more at night, those who prefer a child-centered approach usually prefer to let this happen naturally.
Success of the child-centered approach
For Shannon and Duncan McLeod of Seattle, this co-sleeping approach worked well with their first daughter, 3-year-old Evie. Now they’re using it again with their second child. Three-month-old Piper is breastfed on demand and sleeps in a bassinet attached to their bed. Because mom and dad usually go to bed around 9 p.m., this evolved into a natural time for Piper to fall asleep. At night, when her parents go to bed later than 9 p.m., Piper is either willing to sleep first (in her crib) or in her mom’s arms until Shannon is ready to retire.
Like many babies her age, Piper doesn’t sleep through the night. Every few hours, Shannon says, “she would fuss while I would lay on my side to nurse.” . “And then we’d both fall right back asleep.” She doesn’t expect the pattern to end anytime soon, nor does she worry about the situation. “We’re not even considering (sleeping through the night) as a milestone,” she says. . (Big sister Evie started sleeping on her own around the age of one and turned it into a toddler bed two years later.)
McLeod’s laid-back approach also applies to daytime naps. Wherever Shannon is, Piper just naps next to her-either in the crib in the same bed, in her bouncy chair, or in Mom’s arms. That way, Shannon doesn’t feel like they’re confined to a certain room at certain times of the day. “We just don’t have a strict schedule,” she says.
Shannon hasn’t struggled with her children’s sleep issues. But she admits she’s not sure exactly why. “We don’t know which comes first,” she says. . “Is it our gentle education or our gentle children? ”
If you ask New York’s Bev and Todd Lacy, you’ll find that it’s the mature parenting that counts. Left alone in his crib, their tummy-aching newborn Daniel would cry incessantly. “He would only sleep when he was next to me,” says Bev. Although they didn’t plan it, their bed became a “family bed.”