Long before parenting styles and formula were a trendy thing to do, mothers innately followed their instincts with their babies. Breastfeeding and bed-sharing were the norm and nearly every parent was challenged with lack of sleep through the first several years of a child’s life. When following those instincts, studies show that the trust and connection built between parent and child are naturally strong, children tend to grow up healthier physically and emotionally, are statistically safer in regards to SIDS, and develop a strong self-esteem and sense of security. Fast forward to today – formula that is full of chemicals and synthetic vitamins is seen as the easier choice, isolated crib sleeping is more convenient, and methods to sleep train are abundant. For some reason, society says that babies need to be sleeping through the night, when biology says the complete opposite.
It’s a known fact that breastmilk is specifically designed to be the best thing for a baby and is easy for babies to digest, causing them want to eat more often than formula fed babies. Because they eat more often, they naturally wake frequently at night (obviously). That frequent night waking is biologically vital in regulating the breathing in an infant’s sleep, which is linked to lower risk of SIDS. Not to mention that night nursing is vital to keep up breastmilk supply and can help decrease fertility for natural spacing between children.
Contrary to popular belief, babies are not capable of manipulative crying – their cries are simply their only form of communication and they use it to communicate their needs. (And yes, it is a need for them just to be held.) Choosing to detach from your babies’ cries and isolate them in order to “train” them to sleep can permanently harm your child. Studies have shown time and time again that it damages their brains as it permanently increases their stress hormones and causes them to emotionally disconnect from you since their cries now inhibit a response from you. If you choose to sleep train, you are sending a clear message that their voice does not hold significance. If you cannot even respond to their night cries as an infant, what makes you think that they will feel safe enough to come to you with their needs as a teenager?
It’s often forgotten that children are not even developmentally ready to sleep through the entire night until they are several years old. The expectation for a child to sleep a full night without waking is beyond ridiculous – I don’t even know many adults who don’t wake up at least once. It’s our job as parents to selflessly sacrifice our sleep to comfort, protect, and nurture our children. The sleep that is taken from us is worthless in comparison to beautiful gift and privilege of having these babies.
God calls us to be gentle shepherds to our children and there isn’t any way that you would be able to convince me that sleep training is not harsh. Gentleness and sleep training cannot flagrantly co-exist when one is following Jesus. There is no place for seeing your child as an inconvenience to you – regarding sleep or any other area for that matter. We are called beyond our selfishness to choose our children over a mere eight hours of rest. Yes, it can be super hard. I’m living it. My almost one year old has consistently woken up at least every two hours every night of his life (sometimes more, rarely less). But, this is God’s calling on my life and I want to embrace it and choose to be joyful even in the hard moments. And there are often hard moments. God uses hard moments to break our selfishness and refine us into parents who better reflect all of the goodness that He is. There is so much reward in sleep deprivation.
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