Sleepless in Suburbia

         I used to be known as the “log”. Once I fell asleep, I was out cold. It would take forever to wake me up, and I could sleep for hours on end.

That all changed once I became a parent. Now my husband and I will be lucky if we can get through even half the night with unbroken, solid slumber. Our kids love coming into our bed at night and look for any excuse to sleep with us. Even though we have a king size bed, it is not meant for four individuals to sleep on it at once.

We have come to terms with our sleepless nights. It has been a reality of our nighttime routine since my daughter was a baby. She was born premature and needed help to maintain her body heat. We figured the obvious solution was to keep her next to us in our bed at night. She is now six years old and still likes to sleep with us. Our three-and-a-half-year-old son, on the other hand, was not a preemie but sure loves to cuddle at night. They both start off the nights in their own room but somehow always end up in our bed before morning. This is our rendition of co-bedding.

Both of my kids were never “ferberized.” I am not a big believer in the Ferber method of letting the child “cry it out” and soothe himself to sleep. My heart is not cut out for it. Those that choose to use the method and it works for them, then more power to them.

For a newborn, his mother is the only world he knows and recognizes. He goes from her womb to seeking nourishment from her breast to adapting and adjusting to this big, crazy world. So how do we expect this same baby to immediately find comfort elsewhere away from any familiar warmth or scent? These are powerful senses to which a baby first responds.

I do not consider attending to your child’s needs as necessarily spoiling him or her. These soft-hearted, little beings have an inner compass that naturally points to their parents as a consistent source of comfort and security. Parents provide a true sense of constancy for their children.

However, this provision needs to be consistent during the day and night. We are so aware of our children’s wants and needs during the day, so why can we not be the same at night? Why are we so quick to outcast them from the comfort of our arms and shoulders when they need us the most at night? Yes, there is a need for a couple’s personal space and privacy, but the entire night is not needed for a couple’s “alone time”. These are precious years that just fly by in the blink of an eye, even if it is a sleep-deprived eye. By letting your kids know you are there for them at night when they may be the most vulnerable, you will be helping their emotional and physical growth and development. It is also a great way to build long-lasting, solid bonds with your children.

Eventually there will come a time when your kids will understand the concept of privacy and give you that space and want that same space and privacy for themselves. Until then make the most of these warm, cuddly sleepless nights. And to all a good night…

Tips on Avoiding Sleepless Nights (or at least reducing them)

  • Make the transition into the child’s own bedroom exciting and personal. Let her pick the colors, help with the décor, set up the furniture and choose fun bed linen for herself.
  • Offer soft, fuzzy stuffed animals for your child to snuggle and rely on during the night.
  • Leave a small night light on in her bedroom, in the hallway near your bedroom, and the washroom to avoid any injury or the child’s possible fear of the dark.
  • Use a consistent night time routine to calm the child’s nerves at bedtime:  warm bath, aromatherapy, soothing sounds, lullabies, saying a prayer, story time, etc. This is also a great way to bond and comfort your child.
  • Leave a cup or bottle of water near the child’s bed in case she gets thirsty at night.
  • Take care of all potty business before bedtime. If the child does happen to get up at night, take her straight to the washroom while keeping the lights dim. Try not to say much to her at that time or make too much noise, since she will probably still be in a sleepy state. Then just tuck her back into her bed.
  • Have a corner or area of your bedroom ready for company with a sleeping bag or mat on the floor. Let the child know, if need be, she is welcome in your room, just not in your bed.

Tayyaba Syed

Tayyaba is a freelance journalist from Illinois. She has been featured on NPR and writes for numerous publications. She also speaks about marriage and family. Most importantly, she is blessed to be a mother of two little adventurers and blogs at ” Sleepless in Suburbia” was originally published in Chicago Parent Magazine.

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