Intro

All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Lucky apes can't read!

Or this one would surely be worrying endlessly about the MASSIVE rod for her back being made huh?  No doubt she would have been advised to let him cry it out, long before the baby thought it was acceptable to go to sleep ON his mother?

How will this Ape ever learn good sleep habits?

Will he ever settle alone?

Perhaps instead of the nest mum and baby share for sleep, she should crack on and move him into his own nest - to ensure he's independent?  (Interestingly apes only begin sleeping alone once weaned, so perhaps she should introduce a bottle too?)

That behaviour in the picture is surely only going to make him clingy?

Mums are told repeatedly that holding/feeding/comforting/sleeping with their baby to sleep will result in (say it with me) "bad sleep habits".  The baby will wake for the breast, unable to self soothe and is perfectly set up for a potential lifetime of sleep issues.

Where is the evidence young infants should be able to self soothe?  Who assumed an infant completely reliant upon us for everything else, has the skills to put themselves to sleep?  How do parents decide if/when these skills have developed, or is the assumption that babies are born with this skill - because their sleep is so different in the early months and infants appear to self soothe then?

I began pondering this post around 1am on Monday.  I had crazy insomnia because I was very overtired - hectic weekend, not enough sleep generally and so although I had been in bed over an hour, I was wide awake, yet shattered!  I began thinking about the Apes I had watched years ago in Florida, we chuckled as the mum repeatedly tried to settle her baby - who was having far more fun performing for visitors.  Perhaps in hindsight I should have lobbed a parenting manual or two into the enclosure, just on the off chance.

Anyway luckily being an adult, I can get up and make a drink - perhaps some hot milk and read a little until my eyelids feel heavy; unfortunately for babies, they can only cry and hope someone comes.

Sometimes they cry so much they are sick - and if they're super unlucky they will have a parent who has read one of the "hardcore" sleep books and clears it away without a look, or a cuddle, or any wonder of why their infant can't sleep and is distressed to the point of vomiting.  A few nights ago I had an awful dream, and prodded my other half awake just to tell him it was awful and get a hug; so seemingly most babies are expected to have better sleep skills than I!

Despite years of reading I've found nothing to suggest babies should or indeed have these skills at a particular age - beyond some random (99% of the time completely unqualified) persons opinion.   In fact research suggests the opposite - this is from a page I really found quite disturbing:
In contrast, careful scientific studies have found that parenting methods do affect whether or not children wake and signal at night. Three separate studies have found that if parents follow simple steps in how they care for their babies, then their babies are more likely to stop signaling in the night by 12 weeks of age. Two other situations have been found to predict continuation of infant night waking and signaling. They are: breast-feeding (versus formula-feeding) and bed-sharing through the night (compared with an infant sleeping in a separate crib).
Right, so what this actually says is that breastfeeding and co-sleeping have been found to predict continuation of infant night waking and signaling. Given infants are without doubt meant to consume breastmilk as a basic norm - and a heap of evidence also suggests co-sleeping is as normal to humans as it is to those apes (our closest genetic match) and in turn increases breastfeeding success rates;  this actually confirms normal infant behaviour is to night signal and rouse. Not that I could find references for the three studies mentioned!

Therefore when veering from the norm, it's surely important to prove there are no risks to these changes?

That infants who are not breastfed and sole sleeping, and thus stop signalling at 12 weeks are not at increased risk of SIDS.  Do infants stop signalling because they learn there is no point?  what is the psychological impact of this? (much harder to measure, especially long term)  Or is it something lacking from formula, which in turn hinders their rouse/signal pattern?

Babies are born reliant on their parents for everything, and yes this includes help to go to sleep - in fact this may be a factor in protecting against SIDS.  Breastmilk changes composition so that at night it includes more "sleepy hormones" and helps to create circadian rhythms  - as my other half pointed out, why would they be there if babies didn't need help with sleep?
RESULTS: The tryptophan in the breast milk presented a circadian rhythm with acrophase at around 03:00. This affected the 6-sulfatoxymelatonin circadian rhythm with acrophase at 06:00 in the breast-fed infants, and also promoted nocturnal sleep. Assumed sleep, actual sleep, and sleep efficiency were significantly increased in the breast fed infants with respect the formula fed infants.
Most sleep literature seems to assume children don't want to sleep - that they will manipulate (not that they're capable) vomit, "tantrum", anything to avoid sleeping.  What's this assumption based on?   What if actually human infants, just like that Ape really do want to sleep, but find it is disturbed by everything from developmental bursts to teething to being separated from mum?  What if instead of "waking for the breast", they actually just wake and the breast is the perfect soothing tool they turn to?

The best kept parenting secret you won't find in any guru's book (because it doesn't make any money - people buy into sleep solving solutions) is that all infants will outgrow this need in their own time, without any "training"! Ultimately early security and responsiveness result in - guess what?  Healthy sleep habits!  Not for a week or a few months, but for a lifetime...

31 comments:

  1. Love this post! Brilliant!!!!!

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  2. LOVE THIS!!!!
    Got my head bitten off a few days ago when I mentioned to a new breastfeeding mum who was having trouble sleeping because everytime she put her baby down they woke up (baby was only a few days old) that I "personally" had found co-sleeping a big help in that respect. Wasn't saying she should try it just said I did it, another mum there said "don't tell her to co-sleep, its so dangerous, some people are lucky that nothing happens but you shouldn't ever do it. just put them in the moses basket and as long as they are fed and dry and not too hot or cold just let them cry so you can get some sleep (as if you could sleep while your baby screamed?) other wise your make bad habits for them and never get them out your bed" really feel like e-mailing this to her lol

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  3. <3 Love this! also love the picture :)

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  4. Fantastic article, thanks.
    My second baby wasn't ever put down for at least 2 weeks after being born, literally just passed from me to dad, a few cuddles with Grandparents as well. There is nothing nicer than waking up in the morning to the smile of a baby next to you.

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  5. Love, love, love this - so wish I had known about your blog in the month after my son was born - spent the first few weeks wondering what I was doing wrong. I've known for a while now the answer is absolutely nothing he needs, wants and relies on his mum and it is NORMAL- totally liberating and I have thrown my baby books by the "experts" in the bin.

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  6. Ah, you have outdone yourself and I know a mum, who would find this really helpful :-D

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  7. Adore this - it cracks me up/frustrates the heck out of me when people talk about babies sleeping on their own to encourage 'independence'. Who are they kidding? Independence? Really? I can't imagine what it would have been like NOT to cosleep and breastfeed. I have a confident, articulate, enthusiastic and bubbly 3 year old son - I can see its really caused him problems... NOT! Well done on your blog, brilliant :) Melissa

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  8. I love this! Agree with pretty much everything you said. I will just say though that contrary to some opinion, co sleeping doesn't solve sleep problems - my nearly 3 year old has always co slept but is a terrible sleeper! Granted, it would be much harder if he was in a separate bed/room, but he likes to sleep on me, much like the ape :) and picks all my moles all night!

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  9. Lovely picture. But it's a gorilla, not a chimp.

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  10. I absolutly love your Blog! And this post is just perfect! My oldest children are 8yrs ad 9 yrs old i parented them instinctively. I am now awaiting the birth of number 3 and have more money more time am more stable etc and am surprised to find the things I did because they made my family happier are so " controversial" LOL. I never considerd giving my babies formula we were poor minorities and breastmilk is the best. I have an obligation as mom to give the the best within my means. So I did. we co slept with breast feeding that meant mommy got to sleep. And a well rested mom is a functional mom. I used a carrier for my kids I had an infant and a toddler.. how else was i going to keep upith both of them with out loosing my mind? WOW who knew i should have children who can't sleep, who are clingy and dependent. :-D

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  11. I especially like your point about expecting baby to have better sleep skills than we do ourselves. The other night I woke up and my husband wasn't in bed and I just felt like I needed to be close to him, so I got up and went downstairs. Just for a few minutes, but it really doesn't make sense to expect a baby to not need the same thing.

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  12. Thanks all and yep agree with all the points.

    Gina shame on my typo lol changed!

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  13. And a kinda related share http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2011/0330/breaking24.html?sms_ss=facebook&at_xt=4d936cbf8e3b2dd8%2C0

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  14. I have similar feelings about 'potty training'. Our children are not forced vegetables. Let them grow and develop at their own pace in an environment suited to their evolutionary needs.

    Charlie, how do you explain all this to those who do not believe in Darwin? Mammalian needs are all fine and dandy, but if you believe humans are otherwise created...?

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  15. Excellent post. I've noted before how we seem to expect babies to be even more independent than we are, and to conform to ideals that we, as adults, cannot meet. I'm nearly 29, and I don't sleep through the night, waking either for the toilet or a snack or just because I had a bad dream or heard something. I detest sleeping alone. And I would surely feel abandoned if I had to cry myself to sleep, especially if someone could hear me crying and didn't come.

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  16. Excellent post. I see most mothers of toddlers complaining all the time after using cry to sleep methods, the infants start waking again after their quick fix, their behaviour is aggressive or clingy and insecure. Then they ask how my 2 year (and 3 month) old is so happy and secure - they don't like the answer though! Now she is self weaning, to a degree, she is going to her own bed in her own room and sleeping happily, she knows she can always come to mummy if she needs and has a bed against ours as well.

    Nature provides but people ignore.

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  17. I do not need convincing about the huge benefits that breastfeeding and co-sleeping bring. However, that is in an ideal world. Please can we accept that this does not work for everyone. I always get the impression reading articles like this that if you are not breastfeeding, co-sleeping etc for the long term, then you are not really up to scratch as a parent. I had to sleep all 3 of my babies in a moses basket right next to the bed as to have them in with me meant i just could not get any real sleep and that impacted hugely on my ability to care for them. None of them seemed to settle well whilst being held, even as a newborn, but settled immediately on being swaddled and laid down (but right by my side). I have never left a baby to cry, even for a few minutes, but still had babies that self soothed almost from day 1. If you are physically and emotionally right there for your child 24/7 there should be no discernable difference between a breastfed co-sleeper and a formula fed baby who sleeps in his own bed.

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  18. Yes yes yes yes YES! Several big fat YESes to everything above. THANK YOU.

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  19. It is interesting that once gorillas and chimpanzee babies are weaned, they are completely on their own. Human children are dependent on their parents and other carers for much longer than (other) apes.

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  20. Yes it also depends how you define wean as this suggests:

    By age four, orangutan juveniles are usually weaned, though they may still nurse during periods of stress until they are seven years old.

    Nooooooor :)

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  21. We are told not to co sleep with our babies yet cribs are being recalled every week. You will never hear "don't put your baby in a crib, they will get injured and suffocate" . The problem is that there are all these wonderful ideas for setting up a "nursery" or babies room with all these cute decorations, blankets, stuffed animals, musical mobiles to make them sleep. the baby doesn't know the difference between a cute decorated nursery and mom's bedroom. I worried about all this when I had my first. We had a one bedroom apartment and no room for a cute little nursery. I was afraid my baby was going to feel deprived. Well we brought him home from the hospital and he slept with us. it was wonderful to wake up every morning to a cooing smiling baby! No crying for mama at night because I was right there. As for the independence, he is now a 14 year old honor student who sleeps in his own room. (we have since bought a house and have two more children who I also co-slept with).

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  22. I COMPLETELY agree with everything you say but wonder quite when happily co-sleeping, breastfeeding children DO want to assert their independence and sleep alone. My 3 and a half yr old daughter is unimpressed with the pretty bed in the corner of our room though is happy to 'play' sleeping in it during the day, wanting instead to sleep in our bed because - and she is knows exactly the reason - she can have breastmilk in the night in our bed! I don't mind actually, I love co-sleeping and breastfeeding is as good at sending me to sleep as it is her (and I speak as a sometime insomniac) but I do wonder if she will still be there at 6? 8? 10? Any thoughts welcome!

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  23. This is great. Love the idea of the ape using a bottle. It's reassuring to be reminded that children do grow up and that, even without 'training,' our babies will in time develop independence with sleep. I personally have found that surrendering to the perfectly natural state of co-sleeping and breast feeding has meant that we have all slept well (even with baby attatched for the whole night at times).

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  24. Is Monkey Animals> stems from human or monkey stem News releases from Human

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  25. @Karen, Around 4yrs ish, (obviously different for all). In my experience and that of all the mums/friends I know it is around this age. My son is now 5 and sleeps in his own bed all night with no bother. He occasionally comes down in the night but its rare. Although he always comes down for a cuddle in the morning..nawh!

    @ AA I love your blog and have been closely following the debate with Tizzie Hall, thank you for insightful posts.

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  26. With my first I worried about her falling asleep during her feeds but as she would only scream, take an absolute age to settle and sometimes be sick if I tried the "expert's" advise, I gave up and let her sleep on me. It was easier and quicker and I got more rest. I didn't worry about it second time round and as I worry less, I am calmer and have a happier baby. Unfortunatly my first, now 2 and half, is struggling to settle herself despite being able to do so, so I am back to cuddling her at night!

    btw, your sentance "so seemingly most babies are expected to have better sleep skills than I!" should end with "than me!" !!!

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  27. Michele Kavanagh3 August 2011 at 21:21

    beautifully put again AA

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  28. People are still asking me if our 18 month old daughter sleeps through the night. Seriously?! She's so much more interesting than that! Honestly, no, she doesn't, but I haven't lost more than 2 hours sleep SINCE SHE WAS BORN because she sleeps with us most of the night. She wakes up around 2:00, I pick her up, and she is with us the rest of the night. I'm trying to night-wean her now because I'm 9 weeks pregnant, but I'm not rushing it. It's just so easy and intuitive to let them sleep with their parents when they are small!

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  29. Love, love, love this - so wish I had known about your blog in the month after my son was born - spent the first few weeks wondering what I was doing wrong. I've known for a while now the answer is absolutely nothing he needs, wants and relies on his mum and it is NORMAL- totally liberating and I have thrown my baby books by the "experts" in the bin.


    free standing toilet paper holder

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