The 4th month sleep ‘regression’ & beyond
As a first time mum parenting in Australia you are well warned about the “fourth month sleep regression”. You are encouraged by (most of) the council maternal child health nurses to BEWARE of the baby needing your help to sleep. DO NOT give into ‘bad sleeping habits’ such as feeding your baby to sleep or rocking your baby, they advise.
It’s not surprising, in a society built on British colonialism, that the dominant parenting culture encourages practices that promote early separation of mother and baby: controlled crying, formula feeding, early return to paid employment, breastfeeding on a timed schedule. This mindset has creeped into the psyche of nations & cultures invaded by the colonialists centuries past.
Maternal self care is touted by companies to encourage mother and baby separation in a capitalist culture where the act of motherhood is degraded and the support for women at this time (at all levels of society) is non existent.
Underlining this mindset is the belief that women are not enough: your body isn’t enough to nourish your baby, you are not productive unless you are contributing to society via paid employment, you are ‘just’ a mum. This idea is false & dangerous.
You only need to google the term ‘sleep regression’ to find out how you will ‘ruin’ your child’s sleep by responding to their biological needs as they are busy developing at an incredibly fast rate and behaving in a completely normal way. This term purely serves the sleep training profession.
Babies are not broken because their sleep/ feeding ‘schedule’/need for comfort changes. The are not REGRESSING. They are GROWING. Babies cry because they are COMMUNICATING and our culture encourages us to ignore them as soon as we birth them.
Zarinah was born out of my love for babywearing as it was (& still is at 16 months of age) a daily tool in my parenting toolbox to survive and ENJOY parenting. I design and sell handmade ring slings because I love and believe in them (& in babywearing) but the intention goes beyond that. It is a form of resisting the unnatural and at times inhumane ways we have come to regard babies and children. It is a conscious effort to depict representations of us: women of colour whose cultures have preserved the art of babywearing.
When I mentally submitted to the fact my baby needed me whenever he did and facilitated this: babywearing, bed sharing etc, the ‘regressions’ didn’t matter.
That realisation is actual liberation. It frees you. Your baby is not broken, they’re not a ‘bad’ sleeper, you are not ‘unproductive’ because you sat on the couch all day holding a sleeping baby, risking a UTI. You are enough, in fact, you are everything.
The truth is, most babies won’t fall asleep without you holding them. They will cry as soon as you put them down. They might hate the pram. They will wake as soon as you transfer them to the bassinet. Babies want to breastfeed all the time because it’s not only about food, it’s about comfort. This is all normal and it is all ok. Babies are ‘good’ babies even when they don’t sleep through the night (newsflash: sleeping ‘through the night’ probably isn’t happening for a good few years).
You can use a sling or carrier or a piece of material, as women all over the world & throughout centuries have taught us, to keep baby close, respond to their needs and you can have your hands to eat/ brush your teeth/ actually use the toilet.
It isn’t easy especially in a world where this kind of work isn’t regarded as important, but you got this Mama.