Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Argument for Rocking Your Child to Sleep

Disclaimer- I'm mostly writing about infants in this post. I know once you reach the toddler years more complicated sleep problems can arise- not staying in bed, etc. Although I don't feel like those problems are  necessarily related to rocking a child to sleep, I'm mostly referencing infants in this post.

How many books have I read and how many "sleep" experts have I heard say that babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own. They warn parents against rocking their children to sleep. Put the kiddo in bed, and let him fight it out with himself. Let him learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own. Why? One reason. If he falls asleep on his own initially, he'll be more likely to fall asleep on his own when he wakes in the middle of the night.

I'm a new mom. I don't have all the answers. The only answers I have are ones that concern my child- and sometimes I don't even have those. But when it comes to my child, I know one thing. I rock him to sleep. I'll continue to rock him to sleep 1) as long as it works and 2) as long as he wants me to. What's the main reason people argue against rocking? It all boils down to time. It takes time away from your schedule as an adult to rock your child to sleep. When they're tiny, it takes time away from your sleep to rock them back to sleep should they wake in the night. Again, the only point of reference I have is my kiddo. And we were very fortunate that he awoke only once nightly from the day he was born until about seven weeks when he started sleeping through the night.

I have a few problems with the No Rocking theory. First, children with healthy sleep patterns usually only awake consistently in the middle of the night when they are very young infants. This is expected. All new parents have the experience of waking up in the middle of the night with tiny, little ones. No expert in their right minds would tell you not to soothe your newborn back to sleep when they awake. Around four months "sleep training" should start. By four months, aren't the majority of babies (given that they are fed and well rested during the day on a consistent basis) sleeping through the night with only that rare occasion of waking? So how does the logic fit, that we shouldn't rock them to sleep initially to keep from rocking them in the middle of the night? They're already sleeping in the middle of the night by this point, right? So I'm more inclined to think that the No Rocking theory has less to do with middle of the night wakefulness and more to do with some expert thinking children need sets of rules to go by at bedtime and that parents need a break from rocking kids at bed time.

It feels completely counter intuitive to me. I was thinking as I was rocking kiddo to sleep tonight (at five months), "I'm probably not supposed to be doing this. I really should just put him down and let him figure it out in his crib." Then I stopped and thought, "Why?" And I couldn't come up with a single reason except that it would let me get downstairs faster so I could finish watching So You Think You Can Dance- that I was already DVRing anyway.


So I looked at his sweet little drowsy face in my arms and thought to myself that this is more than likely the only child I will ever have. This is the only day that he will be four months and twenty-four days old. There is no place I have to be or nothing that I have to do that is more important than being in this moment with him in my arms right now. And I've heard people say, "Well, you'll be rocking him to sleep til he's in kindergarten." Guess what. That's perfectly okay with me. Do you know why? Because that ensures that absolutely no matter how our day has been or how hectic life gets or what's going on around us, I'm going to have at least ten or fifteen quiet, uninterrupted minutes with my child in my arms- where I can feel the weight of his tiny body on mine and feel his warm baby breath on my skin and be deeply and infinitely thankful for the life I've been entrusted with. And if I get that time with him every night until he's in kindergarten, I can't see how that's a bad thing.

As adults, sometimes we have let ourselves be slowed down. Our babies need us. They need that comforting relationship with their parents. And I'm 100% sure the more comfortable, confident, and secure they feel during the day time, the better they'll sleep at night. And the more rest we'll all get.

And that's what works for me.