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|Once we become parents it is easy to blame ourselves when our children's behavior seems out of control. The pervasive idea that we should be able to control sleep habits leads us too quickly to call night waking a "sleep disorder" and to wonder what we are doing wrong to cause it. Research gives no indication that anything parents do causes night waking. Babies whose cries are responded to rapidly are not more prone to it. Assuming that there is some method out there to treat sleep "disorders" undermines a parent's confidence. Despite the notion that "healthy, normal" babies sleep through the night, surveys of parents show that most babies do not sleep through the night, at least until all their teeth are in.
While waiting for our children to develop physically and emotionally to the point where they can realistically soothe themsleves to sleep, we need to work on our own development toward tolerance, patience, and acceptance of those aspects of parenting that are beyond our control. What remains in our control is the ability to continue to care for our children even though they are keeping us awake at night; to continue to hold to our own integrity as feeling people.
To embrace a philosophy that takes into account the individual needs of each child is not to ignore the unfortunate reality that we need sleep. We need to nurture ourselves in this process of raising children. The key to tolerance, and the natural passge through the nightwaking years, is to observe, accept, and work with your child's own inner rhythms and timetables, which can lead to the understanding that nurturing your child and nurturing yourself are not mutually exclusive enterprises.
'Natural Family Living' by Peggy O'Mara
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