Friday, November 12, 2010
A Letter to Mommies and Daddies About Sleep
Dear Mommies and Daddies,
Some time ago I saw a promotion for a breastmilk substitute that will help your baby sleep through the night. Sounds like magic, right? According to the formula maker's website (I kind of hate to link to it) this product is "Designed to gently thicken in baby's tummy and digests slowly for a natural way to help keep baby feeling satisfied." Doesn't that sound so perfect? If their dinner gently thickens in their tummy as they are sleeping, they won't feel hungry and won't wake up to eat and you, mom and dad, might actually get to sleep through the night! Hallelujah! Parents everywhere rejoice, you don't have to be sleep deprived!
Wait a second; gently thickens in their tummy? What does that even mean?
It means that there is a thickening agent in this product that actually bulks up the longer it is in your little one's tummy causing an artificial feeling of fullness, blocking the trigger between the tummy and the brain that says "WAKE UP! We need more nutrients, more energy, more food so start crying and get those big people to fill us up again!" While normal infant nutrition (AKA breastmilk) breaks down quickly making it easy for the body to absorb all it's nutrients and make quick use of the fuel needed to, well, grow, this product will keep junior feeling full hopefully for the entire night. So with this stuff sitting in their tummies getting thicker they won't get the signal that they need more nutrients and fuel for growing, instead, maybe they will actually let mommy and daddy get some decent shut-eye. Instead of waking their parents to feed them they'll sleep right through the times when they need to eat! YAY!
How the heck can that be good?
If your baby is waking often at night to feed it is because he/she needs to, needs the comfort, needs the nutrition, needs you and needs to wake up. I know it is hard but you can do this without filling your baby's tummy with nutritionally empty fillers so you can get more sleep. Babies that sleep through the night have an increased risk for SIDS. A baby that wakes often avoids staying long in the deepest part of their sleep cycle where they are mostly likely to stop breathing. The baby that wakes often is the one most likely to wake up at all. Read more about that from Dr. William Sears in New Beginnings, Vol. 16 No. 3, May-June 1999, pp. 68-70. Please note that I'm not saying it is a guarantee, just an increase in risk for babies that sleep through the night.
I get wanting a good night's sleep, I really do. When you're just so tired that you feel sick, on the brink of going crazy and you would do just about anything for a nap. When you worry that you can't be a good parent, spouse, worker, friend or anything else and you question if you should even be driving or left alone with your baby due to the overwhelming fatigue. In those times you need to get help, explore co-sleeping or bedsharing, get a sitter, take shifts but ask for help when you feel that tired. And hear this, it will get better. Some day, not as far away as you might think, you will look back and vaguely remember the sleep deprivation like a bad dream during one of the most beautiful times of your life. You know this already but I have to say it anyway: there are more important things than sleeping through the night. By all means, if it seems as if something is wrong such as your baby behaving as though they are in pain, then have your baby checked out and get her/him real help but don't mask a potential problem with an artificially full tummy. Eventually they will stop waking so often and you will get the sleep you so desperately need.
Another Sleep deprived mommy,
The Leaky B@@b