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The feminist politics of baby sleep

The feminist politics of baby sleep
Written by Publishing Team

As pro-choice feminists, we have often been taken aback by the idea that in order to be a good feminist you absolutely must put your own needs above those of your child. We often hear it said that for women who leave home to work, the needs of children are bothersome and must be cut in order to serve a larger feminist purpose. It is also suggested that stay-at-home parents can cope better with nocturnal awakenings than parents who have to go out to do paid work.

In our collective experience of having done everything at different times – going out to an office to work, working from home, taking paid time off – we have found that children’s biological impulses remain the same no matter what your career choices are. Although the larger gender debate over the unfair burden of caregiving for women has demanded that the male parent take action, in practice it is often the responsibility of children to realign their needs and the co-parent simply does not stick. the distance. At any time during the first five years of your child’s life, the shift in priorities of both parents has a magical effect on your child’s well-being. What these shifting priorities look like… is a decision that must be made by every parent and family in the way that works best for them, but the basic rights of children must be kept in mind.

We believe that being aware of and respectful of a child’s developmental needs is important and not inferior to our professional concerns. Parenthood is never a one way trip and phases come and go. Investing time and energy during the early years – again, by both parents or multiple caregivers – in your baby’s sleep doesn’t mean that you are giving up your entire life to raise children. Children whether you like it or not become extremely independent on their own, allowing your career to become organically stronger, deeper, and more fulfilling as they grow older.

There is a historical context to our argument. The idea of ​​giving infant formula as a regular practice and sleep training gained traction during the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. Increasingly, there has been a philosophy over the decades that followed that women should fulfill their professional destinies, be financially independent and not be chained to the home and home. While this has led to a healthy dose of social justice and advancement for women, things have almost come full circle when it comes to motherhood in particular. Women born into a relatively freer world have, in fact, felt the oppression of the pressure to “have it all.”

With increasing research into the detrimental effects of sleep training and the benefits of meeting organic standards, mothers (and even fathers) tune in to their biological instincts and found it to be okay. against what society asked them to do with their babies. Learning to sleep, early weaning from the breast, early separation in an institutionalized daycare, negative discipline aimed at fostering early and unnatural independence began to seem dissonant to many parents. In this scenario, parents who choose to take the biologically normal approach, which may include one or both parents prioritizing child care over career, are often criticized for their seemingly “choices” anti-feminists ”.

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Sleep Like a Baby: The Art and Science of Soft Baby Sleep: Penguin Random House India, 288 pages, ??299


The point is that the way social and economic structures currently exist make it difficult for parents to meet the biological needs of their infants. Extended paternity and maternity leave, flexible working hours, office day nurseries, increased standardization of breastfeeding in public, easier options for moms or dads to return to work after a break would help them. parents to provide the kind of hands-on, connection-based care that young babies really need. Even so, a mother who follows her instincts and chooses to feed a baby for a period of time before returning to the workforce is actually making a choice. Making choices that are intimately tied to a woman’s body in a world built by men is never easy.

Who is he entitled to anyway?

Another burning issue to be addressed is the complex subject of childishness. Childhood is essentially a prejudice against children, treating them as if we own them and like being told what to do, while not respecting their natural needs, choices and instincts. It can be as simple as rejecting a baby’s request to be held or forcing a child to eat when it makes it clear that they are not hungry.

Cumulatively, when we think about how much we have towards children around the world – that they are manipulative, that they demand too much attention, that they are needy and clingy, and need to be berated or spanked to instill discipline, and so on – we find that it’s a whole culture built to think the worst of them. In fact, children come into the world absolutely perfectly equipped with all the tools they need to grow up. Everything is pretty much integrated and will germinate at the age it is intended for, with the right conditions and the right care.

They need our support, our guidance, our deep attachment and our security. It is their right to show the way, to give us clues as to what they need and what they are feeling. Setting limits for their safety and helping them understand right from wrong is also our job; However, it can be done in a respectful manner without trampling on their feelings so that the relationship and growth is a collaboration rather than a power struggle, which parenthood too often coagulates.

Childhood is no less offensive and problematic than sexism, racism and outright child abuse. The difference is that childishness, which is slightly more general in nature, can be almost impossible to identify for most parents because it is so ingrained in how we interact not only with our own children but with children in general. Few people know it exists. But realizing is the first step in rearranging the power equation between our children and all of us, the adults around them, so that they don’t feel subjugated and treated as less than adults.

How is this related to sleep? Sleep is not an isolated activity; it is linked to everything we do and experience during the day. In order to align your child’s sleep patterns with biological needs, we must stand up for our children at all times. Parenting can often be so overwhelming that often our own needs as adults go unmet, and when we are hurt, stressed, and frustrated by the conflict between reality and expectations, it’s hard to take the picture. of sight of your children. . We’ve been there too. Seeing it from afar now, we want to do our part to restore that balance to your home, if we can.

Extracted with permission from Sleep Like a Baby: The Art and Science of Soft Baby Sleep by Himani Dalmia and Neha Bhatt, published by Penguin Random House India

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