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You are a mom. You need to make sacrifices now. Your whole life, you have really been able to, for the most part, put your needs first. Those days are over. But guess what, this new you does not need to turn into a martyr. Having a new baby, you will get less sleep than you used to, or at least more fragmented sleep than you used to, but having a new baby does not mean you don’t get to sleep at all. It doesn’t mean you have to function for the next several years on a few hours, interrupted a night. What if I told you it only needed to last for a few months?
I am a mom of four children, and I sleep better than I ever did before I had kids.
My youngest was sleeping from 7:30 at night until 7:00 AM with a feeding I got her up for at 10 PM (I call this a dreamfeed) at 8 weeks old.
Some moms look at moms trying to get their babies sleeping through the night as selfish. They say to suck it up, this is what you signed up for, and forget trying to sleep.
For moms trying to accomplish sleeping through the night, it is about so much more than selfishness. First, I find it a bit comical that a mother would accuse another mother of doing something for selfish reasons. I think those of us who are moms really know that basically everything we do is for our kids. We have to force ourselves to make time for ourselves and often even to make time for our spouses. If you feel motherhood, then you know mother plus selfish doesn’t really fit together.
It isn’t about being selfish.
It is about being able to be ourselves because we are getting enough sleep, so we can be the best moms we can be. We can be happy. We can be focused. We can be patient. How much easier of a time do you think I had to be a patient and engaged mother of four when my 8 week old was sleeping through the night? That is not about being selfish. That is still about putting kids ahead of myself.
Even so, that isn’t even the number one reasons moms try to get their little ones sleeping well at a young age. They do it because they believe sleep is essential for the baby. That reason might not be a popular one for the moms accusing us of doing it out of selfishness. It is easier to accuse us of being selfish than to allow the worries of how the lack of sleep will impact their own babies.
We can be accused of doing it for selfish reasons all day long, but our driving reason for putting the effort into getting a baby to sleep well is because we believe sleep is best for a baby. Also being able to sleep? Major perk. Very much a perk. That perk trickles into the family only being benefited. We mothers of sleeping babies have more energy than we would otherwise. We have more patience than we would otherwise. Even if you look at baby sleeping well as “only” benefiting the mother, you can’t ignore that the fact that the rest of the family benefits from that.
If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. That saying exists for a reason.
Back to the importance of sleep. What has us convinced sleep is worth working for? We have read the studies, and we are convinced. Maybe some haven’t read the studies, they have only heard about them from the news or from friends, but common sense tells them, yes, I see those benefits in my life when I get healthy sleep. That is probably true for my baby, also. This post contains affiliate links.
The book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth goes into great detail on the importance of sleep. Some key points:
“Providing the growing brain with sufficient sleep is necessary for developing the ability to concentrate and an easier temperament” (page 7). (emphasis mine)
“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm” (page 7). (emphasis mine)
“Sleeping well increases brainpower just as lifting weights builds stronger muscles…” (page 7). (emphasis mine)
“…when children learn to sleep well, they also learn to maintain optimal wakefulness” (page 8). (emphasis–larger text–mine)
“Sleep problems not only disrupt a child’s nights, they disrupt his days, too, by making him less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to do concentrate, and easily distracted. They also make him more physically impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy” (page 11). (emphasis mine)
“…infants who sleep more during the day are better able to learn from their environment; this is because they have a better-developed ability to maintain focused or sustained attention…They learn simply from looking at the clouds and trees, touching, feeling, smelling, hearing, and watching their mother’s and father’s faces” (page 24). (emphasis mine)
He talks about toddlers and how toddlers who get adequate sleep are more mild and in positive moods. “…three year olds who nap are more adaptable than those who do not” (page 24). (emphasis mine)
Some parents might want to hold off on teaching sleep abilities because some day the child will not need naps anyway. Parents will just wait it out. Weissbluth points out, “…it simply is not true that children who miss naps will “make up” for it by sleeping more at night. In fact, the sleep they miss is gone forever” (page 24). (emphasis mine)
“…the children who slept more [at age three] were more fun to be around, more sociable, and less demanding” (page 25). (emphasis mine)
“I believe that healthy naps lead to optimal daytime alertness for learning–that is, naps adjust the alert/drowsy control to just the right setting for optimal daytime arousal” (page 28). He also says, “Without naps, the child is too drowsy to learn well” (page 28).
“Infants who take long naps have longer attention spans” (page 60) and “…they seem to learn faster” (page 60).
Studies have also found children with higher grades sleep longer (page 61). And is it much longer? No. One study found that brighter children slept 30-40 minutes longer each night (page 61). That isn’t much time. And studies done on sets of twins where one slept longer than the other showed that the twin who slept more had higher test scores at age ten than the twin who slept less.
“…in a study of one- and two-year old children, those who woke up frequently were much more likely to have an injury such as a broken bone or cut requiring medical attention than those who slept through…” (page 318). (emphasis mine)
“In my own pediatric practice, fat babies are almost always overtired babies. That’s because their mothers have incorrectly attributed their babies’ crying to hunger instead of fatigue” (page 433). (emphasis mine)
That is just a sampling of the information in this one book on the importance of sleep. Of course, there are many more resources out there.
- Healthy Sleep from Harvard: “Lack of adequate sleep affects mood, motivation, judgment, and our perception of events.” You can also read theories on why sleep is important here.
- 11 Reasons You Need Sleep. “Quality shut-eye is some of the best medicine available. It leads to more energy, helps you handle stress and improves overall well-being. Your system also benefits in countless little-known yet important ways when you get the seven to eight hours nightly that experts recommend. Sleep is your body’s time to heal, recharge and restore itself. Skimp on it, it that sleep debt affects every body function, from your memory to your mood to the number of sick days you take and even your risk for a heart attack”
- 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep: “Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more.”Sleep used to be kind of ignored, like parking our car in a garage and picking it up in the morning,” says David Rapoport, MD, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program.Not anymore. Here are some health benefits researchers have discovered about a good night’s sleep.”
- Health Costs of Losing Sleep: This was on the news just a few days ago.
Sleep is no respector of persons. You need it even if you are a mom. You need it even if you are a baby. Moms who are aiming for their babies and children to have solid sleep habits aren’t doing so to be selfish. They are doing so for their children. They believe in the benefits of sleep. They are doing so because they love their children. So the next time to you decide to accuse a mom seeking sleep for her baby of selfishness, step back and realize she loves her baby as much as you love yours, and she is trying to do the best for her baby as much as you are yours.