Saturday, June 04, 2005

Baby's Sleep Environment

by Leanne Phillips

Children are extremely adaptable. They will adjust to their environments, whether that environment is one of peace and calm or one of chaos. Whatever environment your children become used to for sleeping, that is the environment in which they will learn to feel most comfortable. Placed in another environment, they may become irritable and fussy, have trouble sleeping and generally feel out of sorts.

It starts when they are just tiny babies. Some parents bring baby home from the hospital and welcome him to an environment of complete peace and quiet. They place signs on the door asking people not to knock or ring the doorbell because "baby is sleeping." They turn the ringer off on the telephone. They turn the television off. They dare not speak above a whisper for fear of waking the baby. As a result, baby becomes used to an environment that is completely devoid of sound and, eventually, he or she demands such an environment in order to sleep.

Other parents bring their children homes to an atmosphere of complete chaos and utter turmoil. The television is blaring, siblings are running around the house screaming at the top of their lungs, the phone is ringing off the hook at all hours, and mom and dad are in the middle of it all, yelling at Junior to stop pulling Sissy's hair and shouting to everyone to keep the noise down, all to no avail. In this environment, when baby starts to cry and is unable to sleep amidst the turmoil, poor baby's pitiful wails are drowned out by the rest of the chaos. Baby eventually learns that his or her need for peace and quiet will be ignored.

There is a middle ground. The very best environment is a peaceful one, where family and friends are respectful of each other's need for peace and quiet. Such an environment is not completely devoid of sound. During baby's naptime, life goes on, and the home continues to buzz around baby in a loving, comforting way. Family members may continue to carry on normal conversation in the next room at a reasonable level, with consideration for the fact that someone is trying to sleep. They do not whisper, but neither do they yell or scream. They are respectful of the fact that baby is sleeping, but expect also that baby will adjust to a reasonable volume of household noise. The television or stereo may still be on, but is turned down to a reasonable volume. Guests may knock at the door, but are expected to be polite and to knock at a reasonable level at all times, not to pound on the door disrespectfully. The ringer on the telephone does not need to be turned off, because it is always turned down to a reasonable level and baby has become used to it.

This middle ground is what every parent should strive for when baby comes home from the hospital. Very quickly, baby will adjust to a normal, reasonable level of household noise and will learn to sleep with some level of noise in his environment. In this environment, family members are happier, knowing that they do not have to whisper and tiptoe around the house every time baby goes down for a nap. In this environment, baby is happier, too. He will not be startled, frightened or awakened by every little sound. On the other hand, he will feel comfortable and secure, knowing that he is surrounded by a family who loves him and respects his need for a little peace and quiet at naptime.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Leni Leanne Phillips

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