“O Sleep! it is a gentle thing, beloved from pole to pole” Samuel Taylor Coleridge may well have been writing about new parents rather than ancient mariners when he penned that line. I doubt there’s any topic that receives more weary coverage at parent-infant drop-ins. Should your baby be sleeping through the night? Should she be sleeping with you or alone? Should you let him cry it out? If you don’t, will you still be co-sleeping with a kindergartener? These questions seem to plague parents in our society, and many of us find our own convictions pulled and stretched out of shape by the endless barrage of advice, opinions, and dire warnings handed out by everyone from well-meaning relatives to equally well-meaning “sleep experts”. I was one of these new parents once, and found myself attempting to sleeptrain my four-month-old despite both my intellectual understanding and my intuition telling me this was a bad idea (and it was – she was so traumatized she never slept in the cradle again). Why did I do it? Because several other mums had come beaming into the drop-in with tales of eight hour sleeps, and, more significantly, with no bags under their eyes. I should have known better. I should have trusted my instinct, and saved both of us a lot of tears. In the end, however, my daughter and I worked things out: she started sleeping through the night the day after my twins were born. If I’d trusted her and myself a little more, and experts a little less, she might have done so even earlier. But we survived. With this cautionary tale in mind, go ahead and delve into what our “experts” have to say on sleep and crying, but weigh their advice thoughtfully with your own gut feeling. One day, sooner or later, you will sleep again.
Jennifer Landels was a CBE and doula with the Childbearing Society for many years before she left to devote her energies to writing, editing, and teaching swordplay from horseback as well as publishing Pulp Literature magazine. Her children all sleep through the night now – and much of the day given half a chance.