Before I got pregnant, I was an extremely heavy sleeper. Vivid dreams filled my nights and, as they sometimes do, a nightmare or two would creep up on me. I remember one in particular: I was being chased. But, the ground was like an extremely thick mud, and I could barely move. The panic and fear rushed over me as my eyes sprang open – scanning my surroundings. As if instinctively, big A reached out and pulled me close to him. His breathing slowing my heart until I was asleep once again.
At this point in my life, if I could get all the sleep I wanted, I think I would feel best at around 7-8 hours of sleep. Before little A was born, it was typical of me to wake up at least once or twice throughout the night to go to the bathroom or get a drink. Once my need was met, I easily drifted back into dreamland. Now, there have been times when I’ve been so exhausted that I slept a solid 8 hours without waking even once. But honestly, when I sleep that heavy, I tend to wake up feeling stiff and groggy. Not my favorite.
Now that little A is getting a bit older, at 5 months old, people tend to be more interested in his sleeping habits. Questions like: “How long does he sleep?” “How many times does he wake up to nurse?” and “Do you let him fall asleep on his own?” bombard me. I’m guessing it’s because this is the typical age when sleep training begins, according to the Ferber Method (cry-it-out). But, it really had me wondering if I should start forcing my son to sleep alone and all night long.
The other night, I watched a documentary on orangutans – who may actually be our closest relative. Orangutan mothers actually carry their babies for the first one or two years. When I say carry, I mean they literally always move as one. After age two, depending on the mother’s preference, they either continue to carry their baby around, or they use buddy travel (always holding hands) until age 5. Baby orangutans typically don’t reach puberty until the age of 8, and they continue to sleep in the nest (their mother’s bed) and breastfeed until then.
Now, that’s not to say that little A is going to be breastfeeding until he reaches puberty. But, I think some things can be learned by nature and not taught by science. No one tells the mama orangutans how to raise their babies. They listen to their baby’s needs, and they respond accordingly.
Baby orangutans (actually, any baby animals really) don’t cry like human infants. They can’t. Their survival depends on them remaining quiet in case any predators are nearby. And what’s the difference? We’re reading a book on how to raise our babies, and the animals are reading their babies.
I do understand the need to have your baby sleep through the night, though. Because of our civilized lifestyle, our survival depends on our ability to provide for our family, we have to have babies who sleep through the night, because we have to sleep through the night. I have been lucky enough to stay home with little A, but we all get our best sleep when we co-sleep!
I think we, as mothers, need to stop listening to what the rest of the world is telling us, and start listening to what our babies and bodies are telling us.
And my heart physically aches at the sound of my little guy’s cry. My son is not spoiled. He’s not TOO dependent on me. And, my 5-month-old is definitely not manipulating me.
He’s calling me. He’s contacting my heart.
And it’s only natural to listen.
Until next time,