Self-contained individualism and the cultural construction of infant sleep. Gordon, M. D., 2008 (Posted soon. Please email for copy).
America, the characterization and construction of infant sleep both
reflects and reproduces the notion of self-contained individualism
(Sampson, 1988) as a trait necessary and desired virtually from birth.
Prevailing sleep advice indeed clearly advocates prolonged, solitary,
uninterrupted bouts of nighttime sleep to be established as early as
possible in an effort to promote independence and self-reliance (Cohen,
2003; Sammons, 1989; Weissbluth, 1999). It is suggested that training
an infant to sleep alone and through the night promotes the acquisition
of skills like self-soothing and discourages of the use of crutches
(like rocking or nursing to sleep) that impair the childs ability to
fall asleep or stay asleep without the help of a parent (Sammons, 1989;
Weissbluth, 1999). Unfortunately, this style of sleep does not often
fit well with an infants developmentally- and biologically-based need
for parental presence and soothing. It has been suggested that this
mismatch has resulted in existing high levels of parental concern and
anxiety that exist around infant sleep (Small, 1999; Stearns,
Giarnella, & Rowland, 1999). This paper examines the
sociohistorical roots of current cultural values encoded in
contemporary sleep management discourse.