Thursday, 24 January 2013

On bedtime for baby

Isaac starting sleeping through the night at about 6 weeks old, but getting him down in the first place continues to vex and distress all of us.  I can clearly remember sitting on the floor in his darkened nursery, sobbing, bouncing him wildly up and down while he screamed and screamed and screamed.  And I did this every night.  For at least 45 minutes.  Until he was so exhausted he fell asleep in my arms.  I can remember giving him his last feed of the day, as he fell asleep on my lap, then lifting him gently into his cot so he wouldn't wake.  I can remember giving him milk in a cup, reading a story then slowly rocking back and forth while he drifted off and moving him into his cot just on the verge of sleep.  And I can remember the nights we tried controlled crying.  The hysterical child, standing in his cot, quietened each time one of us went in to comfort him, only to lay him down again and start the screaming all over again.  He used to stand, swaying with impending sleep, fighting it until he could finally lay his head on my shoulder and fall asleep from exhaustion.  Each night was as bad as the last, my heart being torn in two as my confused and frightened child wailed.

I'd forgotten what I knew of my beautiful, independent and determined son.  I had trained him to fall asleep on one of his parents.  And now I was ripping away that comforting presence.

From birth, Isaac never wanted to bed-share, he's too independent for that.  He decided his Moses basket was too small at 3 months, moved into his cot in his nursery and slept through for nearly 12 hours.  He moved on from breast-feeding without a second glance.  I've left him in creche at church from the day they would take him, without a single tear.  I think we had a period of stranger fear, I might have blinked and missed it.  He loves his mum and dad, prefers us to everyone else, but we have done an excellent job of fostering his innate self-confidence, providing him a secure platform to reach out into the world.

I missed every single cue that my independent, determined infant was screaming at me.

I truly believe that babies cannot manipulate their parents.  That when a newborn cries it is to express a need.  That you cannot spoil a child by giving them love.  And in my inexperience, I thought that meant that every cry was a request for me to intervene.  We're pretty laid-back parents; we trust our children to explore the world around them, that it is a safe place for them to be and that our job as parents is to provide safe boundaries that they can grow within.  So if you come to our home, you will see Isaac climbing on the sofa, wandering the garden while I stay in the kitchen and climbing the stairs unsupervised.  But for some reason, that didn't extend to bedtime.  So from birth, I trained Isaac to need someone to fall asleep.  And then I forgot that I knew him better than anyone else and followed advice from a book, from an online forum, from my friends.  Instead of trusting my instincts and doing what was best for my son.

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