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The Baby Sleep Wars

2962863996_80e5bf5b0c_mThe bedtime battle is as old as parenting. You want to sleep. Your kid wants to stay up all night watching cartoons and eating sugary cereal from the box, which is what he’s sure you do after bedtime.

It’s not just babies vs. parents anymore at bedtime. Moms (and dads) have opened up a new battlefield in the infamous Mommy Wars, and are tearing each other apart over whether – and how – to train their babes to sleep.

Sleep is such a fraught issue for new parents, many of whom are sleep deprived and perhaps a little testy. I’ve been told I’m abusing my kids by cosleeping with them, and seen the cry-it-out approach scorned as child abuse.

A few weeks ago I wrote an innocent little post here about a study that found parents were more likely to succeed at the cry-it-out approach to sleep training if they thought it would work and felt comfortable doing it.

The comments exploded with exactly the kinds of judgemental parenting ‘advice’ Ada Calhoun refers to in her piece on Salon.

I’m not a practitioner of the cry-it-out approach, but as I said in my own recent blog post on the topic, I’ve often wished I could be. It disturbs me to see parents judging each other over this decision. It bothers me even more to see different approaches to it labeled as child abuse.

So many children are victims of abuse. I can’t help but feel that the needed attention and help for their plight is diluted by parents blithely throwing the term around. I may not like the choices some parents make, but I can’t believe that a baby whose parents are invested in her health and safety is being abused because her dad leaves her to cry at bedtime, just like I can’t believe my kids are being abused because I let them sleep in my bed.

Can’t we all just get along? Whether we co-sleep or cry-it-out or something in between, almost none of us are getting enough sleep. We’re working too many hours, parenting with too little support from our communities and governments, and giving up the fun stuff for a few hours sleep where we can get it.

Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, we could turn some of that angry energy towards a government that still provides the worst family benefits and protections of any developed country, and a corporate culture that expects parents to work inflexibly as if their kids didn’t exist.

Or we could all just take a nap.

Photo: Sean Mcgee

More by Sierra Black:

Working Parents Exhausted

Mean Girls on the Playground

Honey, Don’t Bother the Gray Lady. She’s Busy Angering Mommy Bloggers

Should You Have Kids?

Sleep Training Success Depends on Parents’ Attitudes

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