Image credit: Sweet B Studio
I never let my babies cry themselves to sleep alone, which meant that I spent a significant amount of time mothering them to sleep in those days of caring for babies.
Nursing them down to sleep was the usual way–and no wonder they generally fell asleep easily that way–the rhythmic suckling, the nice warm milk and full tummy helped them sleep–that was plain to see. In those days, I did not know that the milk itself contains a soporific component. I did not know it, but I could see its action as the baby’s hands would relax, his eyes roll back in his head, and off to sleep he would go, like a little drunken sailor.
Indeed, by design the deck is stacked to help a tired, baby relax and fall asleep.
Two of my babies were pretty helpless against that potent combination, nursing to sleep easily, but one was quite resistant to giving up his hold on the ever-fascinating waking world, so if nursing did not put him to sleep, I would eventually break that connection and weave another one to help him drift the rest of the way to sleep. I would sing lullabies to him in the darkened room.
Sometimes I resented having to take the time to help my baby off to sleep, but I found that singing to him not only helped him cross the bridge from waking to sleeping, but helped quiet my restless desire to get up and “get something important done.” Singing lullabies kept me mindful that my current “something important” was mothering. You give of yourself and you take the time that it takes. And traditional lullabies connected to me to mothers down through the centuries, rocking babies and singing them to sleep.
Mothers are under a lot of pressure today in various ways, and that makes them vulnerable to parenting writers who play on their fears…if you don’t do this or that “the baby will never learn to be independent.” Babies aren’t designed for independence. That’s why God gives them mothers. You can relax and do the mothering things that mothers have always done for babies, knowing that in due time, the baby will grow older and need less from you.
I would have gladly added this beautiful lullaby to my repertoire–Alison Krauss sings it, accompanied by Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’conner.