Back up the truck. Please repeat. Let’s be clear;
you’re saying, at night-time her needs disappear?
Sure, she’s got to be clean, dry and fed
but with those bases covered, plonk her down in her bed?
‘Drowsy, but awake’, is the best state for learning,
and preload her with solids so she won’t be stirring.
Don’t breastfeed to sleep (that’s a habit to break),
and if the feed makes her sleep (God forbid), make her wake!
The correct schedule for babies is to feed, play, THEN sleep,
oh, and don’t you forget to pre-layer the sheets.
You see, these infants, they’re crafty, they’re sly;
they’ll vomit and soil to get you by their side.
But don’t waver, just change her with minimal fuss,
Remember: be boring, pat and shush if you must.
Don’t ‘over-handle’, don’t look in the eyes,
be strong, be consistent, they’re just ‘Protest’ cries.
And when screams turn to whimpers and silence ensues,
you’ve done it! You’ve won! She’s learned to self-soothe!
So, switch off the monitor, go Netflix and sleep!
Your needs are important; you’ve schedules to keep!
Don’t be inconvenienced by teething or leaps –
once bub is sleep trained she won’t make a peep!
Well, thank you Doctor/ Sleep trainer/ random/ Mother-in-law
for that helpful advice (and I’m sure you’ve got more),
but you see, there’s good reason that won’t Save Our Sleep:
what’s silence to you, is deafening to me;
the haunting echo of internalized screams;
Nobody is coming to me!
Take a minute, and really let that sink in.
She’s not learned to link cycles – she’s learned to give in.
That piercing quiet, your holy grail;
that sound is the loneliest sound in the world.
But it’s gentle! It’s responsive! you say.
Really? How would you like to be treated this way?
You’re tired and teary, you’ve had a hard day,
Hubby shushes you coldly whilst looking away.
He’ll stay for three minutes, but never for four,
and before you’re quite settled, he’s out through the door.
You say that broken sleep will harm her brain,
and if we fail to train her she’ll be delayed.
And yet, the human race survived ok,
without wailing babes in separate caves.
And while you’re busy teaching her to sleep,
what’s she learning about humanity?
That comfort and closeness aren’t genuine needs?
And all feelings are managed internally?
How can a baby learn to love and trust
when her primary caregiver leaves at dusk?
What you want me to do to my precious babe
by day is neglect, but at night it’s ok?
Now you say it’s only this sleep-thief I’m seeing,
not the harm of poor sleep to the parent’s wellbeing.
Well, I’ll tell you what harms it even more
is sobbing and rocking yourself on the floor,
in the shadow of a nurse who’s barring the door,
to your innocent babe, distraught to her core,
in the name of training her not to want more.
Don’t tell me the crying is good for her lungs,
or that you were sleep trained and it did you no harm;
the fact that you’d suggest this, suggests otherwise.
Besides, I’m a mother, my soul aches when she cries.
Don’t give me that chat about rods and backs –
my motherly wisdom runs deeper than that.
I’d take a thousand hits from illusory sticks
before leaving my babe so distressed that she’s sick.
She’s a baby! incapable of malicious intent,
and babies, by definition, aren’t independent.
She’ll sleep through the night when it’s developmentally right;
at 2 years, maybe 3 – there’s no battle to fight.
So thanks, total stranger on my Facebook feed
Don’t get in a Tizzie, save your speech,
I know this must seem completely absurd,
But I WANT my child to EXPECT to be heard,
to be held, to be soothed and boobed back to sleep,
to have every cry answered immediately.
You see, that’s the whole point of this parenting caper:
to be there, to show up, not just be a name on a paper.
And who knows, as she grows she might treat others this way,
and expect that those close to her do the same.
And in life when she’s burdened by one thing or another,
again, she’ll reach out to her mother and father
or her partner, her siblings, her colleagues, her friends
with this internalized frame of benevolence.
She’ll ask for and accept hugs and tissues,
instead of bottling up and pickling her issues.
And when you’re old and frail and dependent again
your kids might remember how you treated them:
lessons in tenderness and nurturing care,
or, darkness and silence and nobody there.
When it comes your turn to be reassured,
remember: they can’t speak a language they were never taught.
And thanks to you, Daddy’s work mates
for your infinite wisdom on ‘fixing’ our babe.
Claiming the ‘best thing you ever did’,
was to stop responding at night to your kid,
to get your baby weaned off the breast,
and step in to reclaim the marital bed.
But there’s just one minor part you’re missing:
self-sufficient infants are just wishful thinking.
Mama AND baby both need your support,
So, wake up and put on your big-boy shorts.
Go help you partner in the way that she’s asked,
because real men don’t put their babies last.
And thank you, random old man on the train,
for that lecture on how I’m spoiling my babe.
I’ll borrow your soap box now, if I may?
‘cause I feel I’ve also got something to say.
Brace yourself, ‘cause it’s a radical thought:
babies don’t spoil, and sleep can’t be taught.
And while we’re at it, come take a seat!
Let’s explore the realities of infant sleep;
it’s dynamic, it doesn’t just stay the same,
it doesn’t improve in a linear way,
it’s also affected by multiple things,
like the mental leaps that development brings,
and feelings, and illness, and tiredness, and light,
so *spoiler alert* babies don’t sleep through the night.
Except those bloody unicorn ones,
and the ones with Pinocchio mums,
and mums who’ve learned to be less forthright
when asked if baby sleeps through the night,
so as not to incite unwanted advice
about leaving their precious baby to cry.
So, if your babe catnaps in the day,
or wakes half-hourly ‘til you hit the hay,
or sleeps on you, attached at the nip,
Your baby is NORMAL, there’s nothing to ‘fix’.
I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s HARD and it’s testing –
But parenting littles, it stands to reason,
in the scheme of things is only a season,
so, let’s weather together when push comes to shove,
without doing harm to the littles we love.
Let’s allow them to gently lull into rest,
snuggled in close, entwined at the breast.
Hearing sweet melodies as they feed,
stroking their hair so tenderly,
committing this moment to memory,
this, THIS is our legacy.
Weaving love through the fibres of their soul,
honouring a promise untold.
Let the world stand still, and here we’ll linger,
her entire hand curled round my finger.
My heart heaves for those who’ve missed,
this truly precious and sacred gift.
So many pleasures they’ll never know,
and can’t get back once baby’s grown:
feeling bub’s whole body calm,
little ear prints on your arm,
Baby giggling in her dreams,
and waking you so playfully,
all gambled away so frivolously,
on a broken promise of unbroken sleep.
So, if you’re sick of this sleep training culture,
encircling new mums like a ravenous vulture,
waiting till she’s feeling tired and alone,
then destroying her nest to feather their own.
Convincing her that her instincts are ‘off’,
and turning her focus to schedules and clocks.
It’s time to lend your trembling voice
and speak up against this roaring chorus.
Be the voice for those silent babies we’re failing,
rise up and move #beyondsleeptraining
Whenever you’re pressured to sleep train your babe
hold your head high and proudly say:
No, I won’t leave my baby to cry in the dark,
thanks, but no thanks, I’ll follow my heart.
Having trouble reading the poem? Click here for a pdf version.