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A Bad Night Is Not Always a Bad Thing

April 14, 2010

Fun Fact of the Week: Babies are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood only have 206 since they fuse together over time.

Amongst Alika’s many great qualities, we rate highly her ability to sleep for nine to ten hours through the night.

Our paediatrician reckons “this is just normal.” I am starting to suspect, however, this is his answer to everyone about anything. It may have to do with the fact that he also just had a baby, and is extremely sleep deprived because his child isn’t as gifted as ours in the sleep department.

Our child’s talent may be due to our amazing parenting skills, and we are thinking of cashing in on this with a few books and a video series on how to make your child sleep. It could also be plain good luck.

Or our child could be lazy – no guesses which side of the family she got THAT from – and maybe we shouldn’t be cultivating this part of her personality by allowing her sleep so much in the mornings. If she sleeps this much now, imagine what she’ll be like as a teenager.

Anyone childless reading this is probably thinking what’s the big deal, I always sleep 10 hours a day.

Amongst our friends with children, this much sleep is rare. An Italian couple we know with two kids told us that each child didn’t sleep through the night until they were two and a half years old. That’s five years without a proper night’s rest. I asked him if he wanted another baby – being the sensitive inquirer I am – and he said he would rather kill himself.

To illicit such a view shows how important sleep is not just to a baby’s brain development, but more so to the sanity of the parents. It’s no surprise then to find an immense amount of thought, theories, opinions, arguments, articles, experiments, anthropological compassions, books, CDs, videos, herbal substances, therapy groups, counsellors, and medical literature on this subject.  It’s as though a thousand chefs congregated in a tiny kitchen, each with a highly vocal opinion on how to boil an egg.

In more enlightened times, one hundred years ago, life was simpler and experts on childcare advocated strict feeding and sleeping regimens and discouraged parents from playing with their children.

Unfortunately, we live in a more complex time, but how best to get your child to sleep can generally be split into two schools of thought:

a) I’m not a cruel heartless bastard, I just think that a kid doesn’t need rushing to every time it makes a stupid noise at night and b) a kid should be comforted and smoothed to sleep no matter for how long, and no I’m not trying to compensate for my insecurities as a parent.

And then there are subgroups, such as if the child should sleep in the parents’ bed and for how long.

Overall, as any parent will tell you, the more information and tips the better. But from reading a number of online forums dedicated to this subject the views get highly defensive against opposing vicious attacks. It’s not a sharing experience anymore but a full on culture war, or a “mummy’s war.” And any tips given for sharing have the characteristic of an ultimatum rather than advice. I was surprised by the many views given that ended with “and now my children are happily adjusted adults” as if that alone proves their approach.

Each child will be different and requires its own approach depending on its temperament and what keeps the child awake. No one approach is better than the other and will not be a factor to how they behave as an adult, despite what many write in the forums. We have many chances to mess our kids up, but it’s not going to happen in the first few months.

I feel genes will play a bigger role in a child’s life than what methods we employ to get them to sleep. Each child born is already a “paragon of animals” and “infinite in faculties” and full of amazing potential.

Our simple role is not to improve them but, to misquote Philip Larkin, just not fuck them up.

And finally, here is a sentence about poo just for Mr Professor, because I was amazed last weekend when he was able to tell me exactly how many times I wrote about poo in the blog; a number hitherto unknown to me. It reminds me of the story about Samuel Johnson, creator of the Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

Mrs Watson: Dr Johnson, I am shocked by how many crude words you included in your dictionary.

Dr Johnson: Mrs Watson, I am shocked you were looking for them!

One Comment leave one →
  1. mandy permalink
    April 17, 2010 3:11 am

    What was the number for the nimber twos anyway?!

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