Is it really natural? Gentle sleep practices -> no sleep for some - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 05:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK, this might be a debate thread, I don't know. I'm hoping we can all be open to various thoughts and have an INTERESTING and not heated discussion.

Many of us here practice what I'll refer to as "gentle sleep" - just a combination of a variety of things, such as cosleeping, no CIO, BFing through the night, that sort of thing.

Some - not all - of us are also suffering with sleep problems. There's a huge variation on that, with some feeling very satisfied and waking up refreshed, and others feeling like zombies day after day after day. Number of hours slept/number of times woken up isn't important; how rested everyone feels is.

So if "gentle sleep" is really natural, does it mean that in our most natural state, women were meant to suffer from lack of sleep for a huge portion - perhaps even majority - of their lives?

My DD is 17 months. While I usually feel like I have "adequate" sleep, "adequate" is the BEST I can describe my sleep for nearly 1.5 years. And it's quite common - maybe 1/3 of the time - that I feel I got LESS than adequate sleep. Sometimes I believe I have as little as 1-2 hours of sleep, though it's difficult to quantify.

If we were talking about a totally "natural" situation, a woman would be pregnant I think about every couple of years from late teens all the way up to the end of fertility - right? So would that mean that a woman's ability to sleep would END upon the birth of her first child? For maybe 20 YEARS?

Were we made to do that?

Are there other factors we're missing?

Are we doing something wrong?

Am I just a crybaby? Am I getting plenty of sleep but just b*tchin' cause I don't wake up wanting to climb K2?

EDIT: This is not, in any possible way, a CIO thread. I didn't mention CIO but upon re-reading, it may seem that I am saying that by questioning if "gentle sleep" is really the natural/best way. I was actually wondering if there was some other factor that we weren't incorporating into our modern lives - and that factor would NOT be CIO. But rather something that needs to be added to gentle sleep practices.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#2 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 05:15 PM
 
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I don't know about "natural" or not, and really, who cares? Natural is a word. The real bottom line is that AP practices are supposed to create happy parents and happy babies. It should be *mutually agreeable,* not you sacrificing EVERYTHING, FOREVER, in favor of your child.

Of course, we all make sacrifices for our children. But in general your lifestyle should be agreeable to everyone involved! Even Dr. Sears discusses this in reference to both sleep practices and extended breastfeeding.

More important than whether or not anything you are doing can be labelled "natural," IMO, is whether or not your *family* (which includes YOU) are having their needs met in a way that is most agreeable to everyone.
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#3 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 05:24 PM
 
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One thought, off the top of my head, is that historically, humans have gone to bed with the sun most of the time. They also have not had time constraints that they do these days. So moms (and everyone else) would go into parenthood with a sleep surplus and be able to catch up here and there with infants as they slept. Mid-day naps were traditional in many early societies.

-Angela
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#4 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 05:26 PM
 
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Interesting. Any archaeologists out there?

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If we were talking about a totally "natural" situation, a woman would be pregnant I think about every couple of years from late teens all the way up to the end of fertility - right? So would that mean that a woman's ability to sleep would END upon the birth of her first child? For maybe 20 YEARS?
Three things I could think of re the above quote although I am not claiming any validity.

1. Humans weren't meant to live this long, biologically. I mean, at least not until menopause, right? So, wouldn't fertility not have lasted so long as well?
2. It used to be that offspring would die much more often due to disease, environment, etc... so humans didn't have so many babies all at once.
3. Were we really biologically intended to have so many babies so close in age? I always wonder why we get our period and/or continue to be fertile even when we're still exclusively breastfeeding. Maybe this didn't used to be the case? Aren't chimps only fertile a couple times a year? Actually, isn't the natural child spacing of chimps something like 4-5 years?
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#5 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 05:29 PM
 
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I guess that if naturally women are not isolated, then naturally they could catch a nap when a female relative is looking after their baby. How many of us actually go to bed at night at the same time as our kids? Not so many, judging by computer usage!
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#6 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 05:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by alegna View Post
One thought, off the top of my head, is that historically, humans have gone to bed with the sun most of the time. They also have not had time constraints that they do these days. So moms (and everyone else) would go into parenthood with a sleep surplus and be able to catch up here and there with infants as they slept. Mid-day naps were traditional in many early societies.

-Angela
I was totally thinking the same thing. DH and I have been watching Lost on DVD and I find myself fantasizing of being on an island where all I have to do is take care of my baby and go to sleep when the sun sets. Thatd be a good 10-12 hours depending on location and time of year!! The most I can HOPE for is 7 hours. Interesting thread.
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#7 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 06:05 PM
 
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I guess that if naturally women are not isolated, then naturally they could catch a nap when a female relative is looking after their baby. How many of us actually go to bed at night at the same time as our kids? Not so many, judging by computer usage!
I believe this is key.

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#8 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 06:13 PM
 
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I also believe that 'natural' child spacing would be greater than a couple of years...I also think I've read that 4 years is average for non-industrialized, more primitive-living societies. And I don't think that a 20 year span of fertility is very realistic without modern medicine, nutrition, etc.

My suggestion for 'what are we doing wrong' is probably trying to do too much during the day. My daughter goes through periods of waking often, but she manages to get in almost 14 hours of sleep per day and she is generally quite rested and perky. What am I doing that's so important that I'm barely eeking by with 5 or 6?
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#9 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 06:27 PM
 
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Yup, totally natural. I don't think we would have made it this long as a species if we didn't sleep with our babies close and respond to their cries.

What I imagine to be unnatural is the fact that we live such solitary, nuclear family lives. We don't have Mom, Sister, Aunt, Neice living across the courtyard to lend a hand. And we have more pressure from the outside world if we work or go to school, or have older children that participate in sports and lessons.
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#10 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 06:29 PM
 
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We are so far removed from what older more primitive societies practiced. They went to bed with the sun and got up with it, that's far more sleep then what we do now. The whole family lived in a small area, I could see the entire family heading to bed together, once the sun went down there wasn't much else to do. Women for the most part did not have babies back to back, a woman would have 3-4 children, spaced out naturally 3-4 years by breastfeeding. Women's fertility returns much faster now days in our age of enough food for many. Many cultures do take a midday nap, although those same cultures usually tend to stay up later. Women weren't always lacking in sleep, and if they were, who's to say that they really cared or knew differently. It's not like Ezzo existed then to say that they could get a full night's sleep if they only sleep trained. And many had more pressing things to worry about besides sleeping at night.

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#11 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 06:31 PM
 
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I think that artificial lighting is a big thing that our bodies were not really designed to handle. Yes, there have been fires and then candles, but the bright electric lights of modern civilization are very very recent, evolutionarily speaking. I think that not only do the impact when we go to bed, as Angela mentioned, but also how our bodies' overall rhythms are set and influenced.

I think that family and community support is another piece of this. We're in a highly individualistic society and everyone has his/her own "job" rather than everyone contributing to the overall well-being of the family & community.

Combine those two factors, and you have a big difference between life as it influenced evolution, and life today.

Kash, homeschooling mommy to Gillian (8/5/00) and Jacob (3/23/05)
and Brigid Eleanor (11/20/08)
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#12 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 06:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't know about "natural" or not, and really, who cares? Natural is a word. The real bottom line is that AP practices are supposed to create happy parents and happy babies.
I totally agree that natural is just a guiding principal. I do think it's relevant here, though, because this is the community for "Natural Family Living." I assume that the community was founded on the belief that we were built to do certain things and behave certain ways, and that we are happiest and healthiest if we follow those ways. Of course each of us vary quite a bit in terms of how much we follow the "natural" guidelines, and it goes without saying that we are very removed from any real natural living.

The principal is worth exploring, IMHO, since we try to follow it in other practices:

- Cosleeping is natural, and we believe it is best.
- Birthing in a squatting position or similar position (not flat on our backs) is natural, and we believe it is best.
- Males naturally have foreskins, and we believe we should not remove them.
- Breastfeeding is natural, formula is not, we believe breastfeeding is best.
- Child-led weaning, however, is debatable as to whether is it natural...

So if we generally believe the natural practice is best, I thought it was worth exploring what would be natural in terms of sleeping.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#13 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 07:52 PM
 
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What's unnatural is having only one or two people to do the night time parenting. Children are not meant to be raised by one or two people in isolation. That's not how we evolved.
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#14 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 08:04 PM
 
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I agree with most of what people have said. Our societal evolution has far outstripped our biological evolution. So if we are talking natural, in the biological sense, our bodies and that of our babies are meant to cosleep, yet our society often doesn't allow us to do so to the extent that mommies are actually reaping as much of the benefits as babies. But, hey, evolutionarily, we want what is best for our offspring, so....

 
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#15 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 08:10 PM
 
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What's unnatural is having only one or two people to do the night time parenting. Children are not meant to be raised by one or two people in isolation. That's not how we evolved.
yep! natural would be living with/near extended family, having grandmas, mothers, aunts, sisters, etc around to help with child rearing. you'd be awake and working in the daytime and sleep after dark.
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#16 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 08:22 PM
 
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wouldnt kids be running around and playing outside more too? rather than cooped up ALL . DAY. LONG..

i think being outside, especially when the sun is high helps to regulate their melatonin levels..

i'm actually working on have a schedule more like what our prophetic traditions suggest.which is getting up a little before sunrise, napping noonish and sleeping soon after sunset..the past 2 days it's been better with the kids sleeping..we're allrefreshed by the time dh comes home rather than at the end of our rope ..

dont know if that makes sense..we've had a rough couple months in the sleep department

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#17 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 08:37 PM
 
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DH and I have been watching Lost on DVD and I find myself fantasizing of being on an island where all I have to do is take care of my baby and go to sleep when the sun sets.
That is so funny that you mentioned that. I thought I was the only one thinking about this when I watched Claire on Lost. All she really has to do is take care of the baby. She has tons of people around to basically take care of most everything else and to help out with the baby whenever she needs it. She is not driving around town all day running errands to gather food and supplies, taking baby to playgroup and gymboree for some social interaction that is sorely lacking at home, trying to maintain her household all by herself, or staying up late at night watching tv and surfing the net. She and the rest of the survivors are basically living a much more natural and normal lifestyle from an evolutionary standpoint. I was thinking it might be kind of nice. Ok so there are creepy mysterious things in the jungle that kill people, and some crazy people kidnapped her too, but that is a different story. Also, they never show her nursing the baby or I've completely missed it if they have. She even left him to go on an adventure for like a couple of days. How does this kid eat?

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#18 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 09:05 PM
 
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If I don't go to bed when my son does, I do wake up feeling groggy and crabby. A longer total time in bed makes up for inturrupted sleep, for me at least!
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#19 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 09:12 PM
 
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Well, I could go on and on about how much we sacrificed to stay by family... DH is an architect, we have always been well to do, blah blah, have always had chances to move out of state and so on, but we don't. Our family is first and foremost. I'd never say we have to really do without, but for a short while we weren't even sure if we'd be employed!! We have an IDEAL living arangement for children:

We live barely a 10 min drive from my parents, and about equal from my 2 year younger sister and her boyfriend. DH leaves the house for work about 10:30-11 and gets home at about 7:30 (now has a long commute but we're building a house and he'll be home a little earlier after that). My mom works till 4:30 and comes over every single day till about 6:30-7. My dad comes for a lunch break sometime between 12 and 1 for an hour. I always have time to fix meals/put down baby for nap without leaving the other.

Now mind you we ALL make sacrifices/live maybe a slightly different "quality" of life as some may call it, then we really have to given our education and financial qualifications. By we I mean my family specifically...not people in general. Family is number one to us, period. DH and I share night stuff. DS is very stuck to me at night, so he gets up with the littlest most the time.

We love our lifestyle. Yeah sometimes we stay up a little too late because we miss one on one time together, but that's not too much. Then on the weekends sometimes I go to mom and dad's with kids and DH sleeps in a little on saturday.

I think a lot of people could be in the position to live more "natural," in the family sort of sense....but it does require sacrifice and sometimes not being able to fix your hair or watch much TV.
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#20 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 09:20 PM
 
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What we are lacking in this society is a sense of community. We don't have a house/village full of extended family all taking care of the children. How many women here take care of their babies AND older children, PLUS go grocery shopping, cook the meals, take care of the home, etc? THAT is not natural. We are not meant to do everything, and of course, we pay for it with our lack of sleep.

Having sleep issues wouldn't be so bad if I could rest assured that when I got up in the morning that grandma was going to take the baby while I did laundry and took a nap. But alas, that ain't gunna happen. :

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#21 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 09:40 PM
 
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I have idly thought about this, too, even though I have two pretty good sleepers.

Really awesome points about historically going to sleep with the sun and having others to watch after our children, though. That makes a lot of sense to me.

Sounds pretty natural to me.
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#22 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 09:41 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Hoopin' Mama View Post
Yup, totally natural. I don't think we would have made it this long as a species if we didn't sleep with our babies close and respond to their cries.

What I imagine to be unnatural is the fact that we live such solitary, nuclear family lives. We don't have Mom, Sister, Aunt, Neice living across the courtyard to lend a hand. And we have more pressure from the outside world if we work or go to school, or have older children that participate in sports and lessons.
I think this is the key factor in why we feel so totally exhausted most of the time. Yes, sleep deprivation hits very hard, but not having any support with the children is what really drives in the fatigue.

I love this thread and I really appreciate the OP starting it. I, too, have a hard time with the sleep deprivation and NEVER wake up feeling rested. My husband is very involved and helps a lot, but the baby really wants me in the middle of the night (particularly now that he's at the 9 month, separation anxiety mark) so sometimes having my husband take him only keeps us all up more.

I'm very interested in what others have to say about any possible factors we might be missing with our gentle sleep methods.
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#23 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 09:52 PM
 
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I was also going to mention that even for some with family nearby, the support is severely lacking. My MIL is going to move here next year and I'm so interested to see how much help I get then...unfortunately, I doubt very much. I think she feels that she should enjoy her grandchildren, not have to do anymore than she wants to do. I have to respect that, but I know my attitude will be much different if/when my children have children...this is the hardest work I've ever done and if I could have some help it would make such a big difference in my level of exhaustion.

It seems we can all point out very interested factors that contribute to our issues with sleep. I'm very interested in what folks feel we might do to alter things a bit given the lack of support we have in parenting and for those of us who are suffering a good bit of the time from lack of sleep. Unfortunately, I'm completely out of ideas. I won't CIO and the gentle methods we use buy me very little extra sleep at night.

What I do know will help things is time...it's just getting through the rough patches that's so hard.
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#24 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 10:28 PM
 
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I fully agree with the others. I live a thousand miles away from my family, my husband is traveling so I'm completely alone on baby duty right now, I work full-time, and I was out the door two hours before the sun rose this morning. *That* is not natural. I know I'd be more rested if I could co-nap and rely on my mom and family for support day-to-day. But it's just not the lifestyle we're living. However, I've decided that I'd rather sacrifice my own rest than make my daughter sacrifice (by CIO, etc.) since it's not her choice that I'm living a quite unnatural lifestyle.

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#25 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 10:48 PM
 
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I've also read (and been disappointed) by the fact that it IS just a coincidence that our periods happen to be monthly and connected to the moon. It probably has nothing to do with it. Women have periods when they are healthy and of child-bearing age. In the "old days", if there was a famine, illness, environmental stress, etc., then the woman didn't have her period. The body's way of saying, "hey, not time to have a baby now". Although I'm sure that didn't happen all of the time....

So there just had to be some years in there where they got some sleep.

Thanks for this thread....I was beginning to wonder the same thing.

Jenny, mother of two boys; 7-25-06 and 7-27-08. Loving wife to Cole. I love birth! :
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#26 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 10:54 PM
 
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I have given up trying to have a DECENT night sleep. It is a part of MOTHERHOOD because not many dads paticipate in nighttime parenting unless they are apart of the male lactating movement. Sorry, that is just how I have come to look at it. Yes sometimes I am bitter but at least I can acknowledge it

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#27 of 54 Old 01-25-2007, 10:56 PM
 
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I've been wondering about this a lot lately, as I marvel at how functional I actually am with the amount and quality of sleep I've been getting. I'm realizing how adaptable I really am. Apparently we mothers are designed to do this the way we do. Fathers I think are less so. My dh has a MUCH harder time with thte sleep we are getting than I do. The ability of mothers and babies to tune in to each others' sleep cycles seems to help make it possible to adjust to this newly interrupted sleep.

Which makes me wonder... did early humans sleep in such long, uninterrupted stretches as we were used to before children? Is it possible that there wasn't as big a difference between the quality of sleep before babies and after? Maybe it wasn't such a drastic shift ot something. Maybe we slept too well before and now we are doing too much now and the change is more than our bodies can handle sometimes.
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#28 of 54 Old 01-26-2007, 02:29 PM
 
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I've been wondering about this a lot lately, as I marvel at how functional I actually am with the amount and quality of sleep I've been getting. I'm realizing how adaptable I really am. Apparently we mothers are designed to do this the way we do. Fathers I think are less so. My dh has a MUCH harder time with thte sleep we are getting than I do. The ability of mothers and babies to tune in to each others' sleep cycles seems to help make it possible to adjust to this newly interrupted sleep.
I've found this surprising in myself, too. Before ds was born, I needed 9 hours of sleep or I got sick. Since ds was born three years ago I haven't had a full night's sleep--yet I remain pretty healthy. I'm still a zombie most days, but at least I'm fairly healthy and can function. Dh, on the other hand, doesn't do well with little sleep, which is part of the reason why I've had nighttime parenting duties for three years now (other part being, of course, bfing).

One thing that concerns me about my lack of sleep is the long-term health consequences. I've done a bit of reading on the connection between health and sleep and have learned how intimately tied they are--you can eat the most healthful foods and exercise and generally take care of your body, but if you don't sleep your body will suffer the consequences since it heals itself during sleep. I'm already an older mama and I worry about the lack of sleep taking its toll . . .

That said, i could go to sleep with ds every night at 7, but that would mean no time spent with dh and no time for myself, which I admit is my main priority. Being an introvert, I need time to myself and if I don't get it I get very grumpy.

I also wanted to comment on the pp who said she and dh have made sacrifices to be near family. I also think that's important, but your family has to be tuned into the "village" mentality, too. We live near family, and we've had grandparents come stay for extended periods of time, but they are not interested in helping in any significant way. They're the types who think it's fun to have a grandchild, fun to play with them for a little while, but then they want to give them back and go home. Not much of a village. In fact, spending time with them usually means more work for me rather than less.
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#29 of 54 Old 01-26-2007, 03:18 PM
 
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This is really frustrating to me though, because, there is no way I will ever have that network of support that enables me to get the sleep I need as a mother. And my kid(s) [#2 due any day now] *do* suffer from a grouchy unrested mother. I'm a bit stressed about the newborn sleep phase that is approaching. Last night the baby (in utero) was bopping around and wiggling and kicking from 2-6 am - not letting me sleep.

I'm not sure how to compromise the ancient "natural" with the realities I cannot change about life in the modern world. Will evolution catch up with us on this? Me sacrificing my sleep for the baby means that the rest of the family suffers, but there *is* no one else to take it on - however glorious that sounds. So how do we take this and do anything with it other than try to be more super-human?
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#30 of 54 Old 01-26-2007, 03:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post
What we are lacking in this society is a sense of community. We don't have a house/village full of extended family all taking care of the children. How many women here take care of their babies AND older children, PLUS go grocery shopping, cook the meals, take care of the home, etc? THAT is not natural. We are not meant to do everything, and of course, we pay for it with our lack of sleep.

Having sleep issues wouldn't be so bad if I could rest assured that when I got up in the morning that grandma was going to take the baby while I did laundry and took a nap. But alas, that ain't gunna happen. :
Exactly. When my mom was visiting to help it was all do-able. If someone else is cooking for you or watching your older kids, then you can nap with baby. Pushing through the day all day long with multiple kids and doing all the cleaning and cooking for a family is what is "unnatural." In Taiwan, where my mom is from, she would traditionally move in with me to help out when I had my kids. Since she immigrated to the states we are isolated in the way that most families here are. She can't afford to quit work and move across country to live with me. If we were both in Taiwan, our extended family would be so large that it wouldn't be a problem. It would be an expectation that family would reconfigure itself to help out.
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