Sleep Crutch

Restless. She cries and sits up, reaching over for me. Alex rolls her over his body into my arms. She melts onto my chest, her head in the dip of my collarbone, her little face turned towards mine. The heat of her arms around my shoulders, the heat of her face against my skin, and /that/ smell on her breath. Fever. I need no thermometer to know it is high enough but not too high. She coughs, squirms, tries to be comfortable. Rolls onto the bed beside me, then climbs back to the place where she spent so many hours as a young baby. One leg falling to either side of me, her head against my right shoulder, her heart fluttering away opposite my own.

Sleep crutch. A child that sleeps through the night every night, now. That falls asleep in her own space after nursing and snuggles have filled her with peace that she carries with her to her sidecarred crib and to a pillow of her own.

But here she is, needing those old familiar ‘sleep crutches’ from her smallest days.

The feeling that sleep trainers hope to impart with the term “crutch” is that a baby relies on a crutch in order to do something that they are perfectly able to do on their own. Like alcoholism being a social crutch.

It is a crutch, I guess. Like crutches for a person that cannot walk. Inconvenient things that a person uses out of necessity until they no longer need them.

She grew out of her need for closeness at night. She grew out of her need to nurse at night. Like a person with a sprained ankle, the crutches stopped helping her once she no longer needed them. And she left them behind because they slowed her down.

She has picked them up again tonight. These old familiar things. These things left behind as her ability to self regulate at night kicked in and made them inconvenient for her rather than comforting. Now? The need for them is here again and instead of sleeping fitfully and crying she has found peace in my arms for the night.

Fever hot and fitful. Peace does not come easy, I know this. But peace is what she has found.

We don’t scoff at crutches used when they are used for a need. Yes. All the holding and all the nursing and the bouncing.. They were crutches that were outgrown.

What am I supposed to do when I hear that phrase? Look upon them with scorn and toss my child’s crutches away while there is a need?

It is easy to see, now. Now that she sleeps at night on her own and independently. When she was tiny, though? Oh did the phrase “sleep crutch” sow all kinds of seeds of doubt.

  1 comment for “Sleep Crutch

  1. Simone
    June 30, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I so agree! My son is a bit older than your daughter and yet (maybe because he’s my first?) he is not as independant a sleeper as she is. And yet, let me tell you that when he had a fever on and off for most of last week, he needed more “crutches” and comfort than usual for sure!

    One of the things I now know and think and try to calmly tell people with newborns who are not sleep training and hearing stories of their friends getting so much sleep is this: the sleeping through the night stuff comes and goes with teething, colds, developmental leaps and so on. Frankly, I think it’s probably easier to just “never get any good sleep” than to “know what it’s like and then have it taken away repeatedly”! LOL. I truly believe that though…

    Hugs & I hope the fever didn’t last almost a week like with our little guy…

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