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There are 4 critical areas that need a parent’s attention and appropriate response when it comes to bringing out the best in our children:  rhythm, sleep, nutrition, and media exposure.

For many of us in the noble mother community we adhere to the principles of attachment parenting.

Many families have found that a period of co-sleeping works well for establishing good sleep from the beginning.

For some, however, it isn’t an easy formula. There is sleeplessness and overwhelm around the bedtime routine and sleeping habits that evolve as our babies turn into toddlers and preschoolers.

Mamas wonder if they have done more harm than good, especially when their wee ones sleep restlessly and night waking becomes a pattern well past the first year. Many parents share that they intuitively feel that sleeping with their baby worked for a time and then evolved into something that stopped working well.  These mamas don’t want their baby to cry by themselves but sometimes sleep is not coming easily for anyone in the house using the sure-fire tools of nursing on demand and co-sleeping.

At the time of my first baby it seemed there were two camps of opinion – co-sleeping and cry-it-out.

I remember the stressful, sleepless nights when my daughter was 9 months old.  She would wake every 30 minutes to nurse, to be re-settled into sleep.  I felt so overwhelmed and exhausted.  Motherhood was not a joy, it was an endless chore.  My lack of sleep dulled every experience with her.  I craved sleep.  I was just trying to survive.

“We live in a society that puts a lot of value on independence. This may be fine for adults but is not as fine for babies. It often leads us to expect babies and small children to be more independent than they are biologically ready to be. It also puts a lot of pressure on parents to push their children toward independence even when they are small babies and toddlers.”  ~ AP FAQ Quote

Clients frequently contact me for parent coaching support to help them find a nurturing way to get their children to sleep better.

If I could go back in time and do things better with my own two children around sleep when they were babies I would.  I’ve learned so much about development, expectations, needs, and emotions from both Waldorf and Aware Parenting philosophies.

Of course, from Waldorf, rhythm is critical to helping children sleep well. I can say that I was very predictable at bedtime for my children but naps were challenging, with my first especially.

The biggest key to better sleep is in the Aware Parenting philosophy. It’s very important for a new mother to know the different needs of her baby.  Babies sleep when they are tired, play when they want to learn, eat when they’re hungry, and cry when they need to release stress.

Babies, toddlers, and even preschoolers can become over-stimulated easily, especially in our culture today.  We have so many lights, sounds, smells, and temperature changes for a little body to take in.

Looking back, it is very clear to me that my first born, who was born via C-section, was never allowed to heal from her birth trauma through crying.  She was a very fussy baby for me and I did what any new mama would do, I nursed her, jiggled her, swayed her, rocked her, and walked with her to get her to stop crying.

Once a baby’s needs of hunger, cold/hot, sleep, and diaper changing have been met, moms can allow their baby or young child to cry to release their tensions from the day, birth trauma, or over-stimulation.

Babies and young children should not be left alone to cry.

Crying-in-arms or companioning your child through their emotional release is the goal.  With a baby or child who has never been allowed to cry their tensions or stress out, this can be a challenging time for both child and parent.  We don’t like to hear our children crying.

A fussy, whiny, or agitated baby or child is showing signs of needing to release stress.  Offering this young child the opportunity to nurse or to use a pacifier, is just shutting the needed stress release down and restless sleep will, more than likely, result.

I highly recommend that you read a full-length article on this topic here. We will continue to explore getting young children to sleep more in Part 2: Getting Wee Ones to Sleep.