I’d taught myself that my son could only sleep “properly” under certain conditions, and in doing so, I had isolated myself from friends and family. I had left events early, I had declined invitations, I had missed out on opportunities and experiences because I placed more value on a period of daytime sleep in a dark room, than on our freedom to fully experience these precious days together as mother and son.
I knew I didn’t want to – and wouldn’t be able to! – operate under the same conditions when the second baby arrived. I wouldn’t have the time to lay for hours with my daughter, while my 3-year-old was still needing and deserving my presence and involvement in his daily activities.
I knew I needed to embrace the fact that my days did not NEED hours of dark room sleep time.
I didn’t need it, and my baby didn’t need it.
What we needed, was to be living our lives.
So from the day she was born, our second child has slept wrapped in a baby carrier while we get on with our day. Or in the car on the go. Or sometimes, snuggled in my arms while my son and I watch a movie. She can sleep in just about any environment, through all sorts of noise, almost all the time. If she has a more unsettled day, I can feed her to sleep in the carrier, or I can use the vacuum! (My children have always slept well to the sounds of white noise.) On particularly unsettled days, if we don’t feel like going out, my older child and I turn on music, dance around the lounge room together with baby tucked to my body in her wrap, and before the first song is even finished, she is fast asleep.
There is so much joy in this new freedom.
We are flexible. We have rhythms and rituals to our days, but we don’t need to adhere to a strict routine based on shuteye time. And every day, my daughter gets the rest she needs, safely and comfortably, and my son and I are able to be fully present in our lives.
My youngest child has never had a problem differentiating night from day – something that took my son weeks, if not months, to grasp. Her circadian rhythms have fallen, naturally, into these patterns, because we have never tried to mimic nighttime, during the day.
I know now that sleep doesn’t need to happen at a certain time, for a certain period, in a certain place. I know now that my child will regulate themselves to get the sleep they need, through each stage of their development. I know they’ll have the trust to allow me to support their sleep, meeting them where they’re at and helping to guide them to where they want to be.
I know now, that life is so much richer, when we allow our children, and ourselves, to live fully – present, and awake.
Samantha Johnson is a writer, mother and fan of facts, fiction, feminism and families. You can find more of her articles over at The Huffington Post and follow her on Twitter. Make sure to follow her Samantha Johnson Storyteller Facebook page.