Sleep Deprivation: The Essential Attachment Parenting Experience

I don’t know what’s been going on lately, but I have been getting less and less sleep over the last few weeks. Part of it is that I have so many different projects and ideas buzzing around in my head, but much of it is little folk issues. Last night, 4am, G- was pestering Linda to nurse and she wanted to sleep, so I groggily said “no worries, I’ll get him something to drink”.

The little guy promptly pops up and says “I want to go to the kitchen with you.” So we trudge downstairs to the kitchen in the dark, he gets a cup of rice milk and we go back to bed. Then, seemingly just moments later, in the midst of a deep sleep, Linda nudges me awake: “it’s 8am! We need to get A- to school!” so I snap awake, make breakfast and motor off to school.

I wasn’t too together, though: it’s 45F and raining outside and I left the house in shorts. Brr…

But in the midst of a sort of haze today (I tried to lay down for a nap but couldn’t fall back asleep) I can’t help think about how the idea of “lights off, sleep through for eight hours” is so foreign as a parent. It’s one of those things that people joke about, but, really, if you’re about to become a parent, kiss a good night of sleep goodbye for… who knows how long. Years.

There are parenting approaches that use progressive desensitization to teach babies to sleep through the night solo, but that’s not at all what we’re doing and that’s not how our hearts lead us in this parenting effort. Instead, we cuddle up with our little guy in our family bed (actually, he has “the sidecar”, a small bed I built that’s immediately adjacent to our big bed) and he gets to know where we are, and we get to know where he is too. Frankly, I’m baffled why so many parents have babies then immediately begin pushing them away, as if independence is such an overriding need that depersonalization and internalization are acceptable additional results. From cribs to bottles to nursery care and separate rooms when they’re a year old, why have a child if you don’t want to fully enfold them into your life?

The last few nights have been funny too: in a dream state, G- has more than once burst into fits of giggles, which is just amazingly entertaining. It’s something I don’t at all mind being awoken by, and I just lay there in bed, half-awake, smiling and feeling the warm layer of love covering us all. I also figure that our kids are having a pretty nice childhood if their dreams cause them to giggle rather than cry out!

So, no deep thoughts here in this entry, just an observation that parenting is tiring in many ways, that the concept of recharging with a good, long, deep night of sleep is oft elusive, particularly when they’re young, and that it’s all worth it and I wouldn’t have things any other way.

10 comments on “Sleep Deprivation: The Essential Attachment Parenting Experience

  1. As a mom who caught herself pressing her car-unlock button trying to open the front door this morning -it’s heartening to know there are other sleep-deprived parents out there.
    While I just moved my youngest (2yo) out of my bed, I am summoned (at least once) nightly and end up sleeping with her in her twin bed… However inconvenient of being awakened, (and who said parenting was supposed to be convenient????) I will never regret soothing my children and then watching them sleep.
    With my first dd, I let myself be convinced that the only safe place for her was in a crib in her own room (after the 6-week grace period in the Pack’n’Play in my room). Then after a couple of weeks of running up the stairs multiple times a night for feedings, (once I swear I didn’t fully wake up until I was halfway up) I gave up and would bring her into the guestroom, where we could continue through the night more peacefully. With my second dd, I went straight to co-sleeping with a Pack’n’Play next to the bed for when I wasn’t in it. Never did use the crib again – what a waste of money. While most of my friends think I’m crazy for letting this go on: “let her cry herself out,” I do what brings peace to my family. I think in the long run it’s the best for all of us, even if mornings are pretty tough. But as my understanding pediatrician once told me, “if you think you don’t get sleep now, wait until she’s 16.”

  2. Wait until she’s 16? Oh God, help me. I’ve just had one of those nap-time struggles that makes me understand why my mother gave up trying to get any of her kids to nap after a few years. Of course she had 11 children and I have one, but she’s a better person than me and likely to enter heaven with no problems.
    My daughter is 2 and although I always lay down with her to help her sleep, the naps are getting tougher and tougher. And I stay up later and later to have some time to myself, although that’s usually just to do housework or watch tv so it’s kind of pointless.
    Today, after trying to get my daughter to sleep for an hour, I put her in the crib that we never use and shut the door for 15 minutes. Just as all my friends who don’t practice attachment parenting told me, it worked, but I feel like a monster. She cried the entire time, she somehow found a way out of the crib and banged on the door and said “where is my mommy? I want my mommy.” She was sobbing when the timer went off and I opened the door, crying myself. The only reason I did it was because I was so tired myself. We laid down together and she fell asleep in 5 minutes, obviously worn out from this stupid little experiment. So what if she’s sleeping far longer than she ever does right now? I’m not doing that again. I’ll give up naps first, just like my mother did. Looks like I might make it into heaven after all.

  3. Hello there. I’d love it if you’d get in touch. I have a question for you related to sleep deprivation. I’m a mom of three and a freelance writer.

  4. I feel like I am entering the dangerous zones of sleep deprevation. My daughter, eight months old, seems to want to eat every one or two hours lately. Then I have to get up at 6 and go teach 20 seven year olds! And I’m in grad school! I’m just counting down the days until summer vacation when I can catch some naps during the day! And to think that I want another one whenever he or she is ready to come. I still love being a mother, though.

  5. hi there, i am looking for advice….
    My wee girl is 5months now but for the past couple of months, she has been semi-waking, eyes not open, but body writhing and wriggling and occasional grunting from about 5am. I have tried fedding, winding, legs in air to fart, sitting her up, talking gently in her ear….all to no avail. its is beginning to upset me as it is keeping me awake and making me ratty and saying she has to go into her own room (which i dont really want).
    any advice? she has also started feeding more at night, feels like every two hours from 3/4am.

  6. Sleep deprivation certainly has a chain reaction. You know that saying when momma isn’t happy, no one is happy. I know all to well how when I am constantly running on drained batteries that the rest of my family suffers too.

  7. Oh God, it’s so reasurring to hear these other comments. My 6 month old daughter and I have been co-sleeping since day 1. It was going very well until about 3 weeks ago. Now she seems to wake every 2 hours for a feeding, and stays awake for 1-2 hrs. I’m so tired!! I hear myself saying to her “I’m going to start putting you in your crib soon. Mommy really needs some sleep”. I know she doesn’t understand, and I really don’t want that anyway. I love our time together snuggled in our warm family bed. It’s just so hard some nights.

  8. Oh my goodness thank you all so much! It is saving my sanity in the middle of the night to find others in similar situations. It is 1:30 am, my five month old has been awake since 11:30, having gone to sleep at 9.Until a couple of weeks ago she was what I consider a decent sleeper, often sleeping a stretch of five or even six hours at the beginning of the night, and then quickly and easily nursing back to sleep.
    No more. Now she is up for hours at a time, several times a night. It’s like she’s back to the early newborn stage where she doesn’t know the difference between night and day but now she is old enough to stay awake longer.
    For the first time tonight I decided to just stop trying to nurse her back to sleep. It was making me feel crazy and not working. So I gave her a toy to play with, turned on a gentle light, and turned on the computer…and found you all. Thank you!

  9. Oh my god!!Are you people for real, just reading through your posts and I saw the comment why have a child if you don’t want to enfold them in your life, I have 4 children all who have been in a cot from day one in a different room all who have slept through 8 hours or more by 8 weeks and 13 hours by six months, you are doing your selves and your children a disjustice, Do you think your husbands are happy with babies taking over your life and bed I think not!! not very sexy is it ladies. Get your self and let your children have a life.

  10. but I think you should start to not pamper them. planting in children requires a habit if you do not immediately start to change then it will take effect for your child. teach him to not be afraid and give them an understanding

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