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The Wonders of Sleep

The Wonders of Sleep

I have a secret to share. When my new granddaughter comes to visit, I am so glad that I do not have to get up at night with her. I love playing with her, feeding her sweet potatoes, and putting her in a baby carrier and walking around the block to put her to sleep. But please don’t make me get up with her in the middle of the night!

I think my husband worried that I would never stop having children. We stopped after four – mostly because time ran out. We were in our early 40’s when our last baby was born. But there was a time I could not imagine being done having babies. Now, I am ever so thankful that someone else gets up with my granddaughter in the middle of the night.

I babysat for the Miami football game. Baby Olivia may live in the Orange State, but she and her parents are true Huskers at heart. I put her to bed, read for a bit and closed my eyes. The next thing I knew it was 6 am. I panicked. It felt like when one of my babies slept through the night and I thought something bad had happened. I checked the refrigerator. The bottles of pumped milk were still there. Luckily I saw her father’s shoes in the kitchen. I knew that mom and dad were home and Olivia was safe. But why did I not hear her cry in the middle of the night? And why was I secretly relieved that I got a good night’s sleep?

Biology works in unusual ways. Mothers are biologically programmed to respond to their baby’s cry. Increased blood flows to a mother’s breasts and creates a “pick up and nurse” response. Breastfeeding causes a surge in prolactin, a hormone that appears to form the biological basis for a mother’s intuition. Oxytocin, the hormone that causes milk to let down, brings feelings of relaxation and pleasure. So when a mother responds to her baby’s cry, it makes her feel good. As for grandmothers, waking in the middle of the night just makes us feel as though we are missing out on sleep!

Maybe this is why I was okay with my own babies waking in the middle of the night until they were at least nine months old. I got an extra boost of a feel good hormone. It may also explain why a mother who does not breastfeed her baby, may not be able to relate to the concept of a good feeling in the middle of the night.

Aw, the wonders of sleep and the blessings of being a grandmother. Good night, Olivia. Tell your mom thanks for getting up with you. May both of you enjoy the bliss of a middle of the night snack!