Your needs matter too: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs & mothers sleep

29 Dec
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So as humans we love labels in our current society. Maybe as our communities are so fractured it helps us feel a sense of belonging maybe..?

Anyway, when I got pregnant with Josh, like many first time parents, James and I did lots of reading and discussing about what “kind” of parents we might be.

All scientific evidence and literature (we are fundamentally a scientist and a researcher respectively- we approaches this “new subject matter” the same) suggested “being attached” and having strong bonds built by being responsive to your children as individuals was fundamental.

It is. It’s totally fundamental to healthy and balanced adults.

BUT, does that mean we truly “fit in” with this whole “attachment parenting” label and do we wish to be?


Ummm, I’m not sure and probably not.


So what “kind” of parenting philosophy do we follow?

The one that works best for all of us in that situation/time/scenario.

See all parents, and I’m pretty sure it’s all of us I am yet to have one tell me otherwise, is just trying to do the best they can with the resources they have available.

Resources could include information/experience and support for the record which I think are commonly overlooked as many of us jump to consider money. Sure money can buy you those things but money doesn’t equate to happiness – some of the most financially rich people I know or have meet have been the most “happiness poor”..

But there are aspects of the label “attachment parenting” that kind of don’t sit well for me. And that may be unfair even to that label-there are aspects of the modern concept of “mothering” in some circles that can be detrimental to us as people I think.

Like night-time parenting and the holy grail- SLEEP.

So to explain what I mean, because I don’t want anyone to misconstrue or misinterpret what I am saying here, I want to introduce you to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…

This is an old psychology theory from Maslow (1943) which is widely used in many professions. I learned a lot about using this in business settings when it comes to making staff happy and motivating them as part of my International Business and Human Resources papers at uni.

But it was actually brought up on the first day of our Slingababy consultant training when I ruined the exercise for my group (sorry guys haha) by asking too many questions about the vague group discussion exercise and working out Lorette was trying to get us to understand the same theory in application to having successful learning environments. (I had actually done a similar exercise in a special interest paper at uni “How people learn” so it is clearly a great exercise and I was cheating a bit, sorry Lorette :P).

So before I started writing this I did the good old “google it” and of course others have already applied this to parenting and presented and explained it much better than I could do it justice.

But basically, Maslow stated that there is a fundamental hierarchy to our needs as humans. Our “bottom” needs have to be meet for us to “move on” to the next. In other words, the bottom needs are the most important. Those as our physical needs. Then come our needs for security, social interactions, esteem and self-actualisation respectively.



Intersecting Mothers and Children’s Needs – PHD in Parenting & Megan Francis (


Included in this diagram from PHD in Parenting are the “child’s hierarchy of needs” as well which makes the sleep example a perfect one.

So we co-sleep as a family because in order to meet our need for sleep and our kid’s needs to feel safety and security in terms of how we as a family approach night time parenting, this is what we worked out to be the best solution for us.

So the boys each have bedrooms and beds of their own and for daytime sleeps or if they had fallen asleep in the car say, we would transfer them to their own beds.

Sometimes they even sleep in them at night! I think Josh did once last week for the first time in probably a month!

So to make this work in our house, we have like a massive “family bed”, with mattresses directly on the floor “dorm styles”.



Kids would say, “preferably insert parent in this gap” haha 😉 But even each others company in the dark is reassuring to them & now Jai’s older it is safe as he can well and truly hold his own and there is more risk of him squishing his brother than the other day round..



Seriously, most of our master bedroom is bed. It’s a king size mattress and king single next to each other. And most nights lately the boys both want to sleep in there. Partly because for a while now, Jai doesn’t want me to hold him captive in a darkened room boobing him to sleep when he can hear his dad and brother having bedtime stories – he wants to be like the big boys and read chapter books.

And it works for us to have James be strongly involved in the bedtime process too. Obviously I am usually ‘on hand’ for back up and still sometimes have to come in to “boob the baby” after the stories finish but not every time anymore. Not tonight for example.



Another risk of cosleeping is you may lose your spot if you get up to pee… 😉


This works for us too as James doesn’t have the same “lighter sleep patterns” with the kids in the bed. It’s like another one of those instinctive, cave man things. In fact, it’s in all the safe co-sleeping guidelines that babies are safest sleeping not in the middle of mum and dad in the bed but on mum’s side.

Because we as mums don’t really sleep the same when they are there. Especially if you are breastfeeding which is again one of those “safe co-sleeping” guidelines.

But my “baby” in this story is 20 months old.

He kicks, wriggles, squirms – they both do, they are restless sleepers. Like his big brother at his age, we have made attempts to get Jai sleeping in his own room.

But what are “little stir” in the big family bed with someone else nearby, are massive cries and resettles when he is in a dark room alone. So this time around, we haven’t really pushed it.





But lately this “unsettled stirrer” is making my ‘light sleep patterns’ an issue for my busy brain. When he stirs it wakes me, he’s asleep in a second but I take half hour to get back to sleep, usually promptly timed with yet another small stir and self-settle.

And all that stirring and sleeplessness meant my basic physiological need for sleep has been depleted and even if I have food, safety, financially stability, experience and education to draw on etc etc, I can’t interchange any of those for sleep.

So if I feel excessively sleep deprived for long periods of time, then I am likely not going to be able to meet my child’s “social needs” for loving interaction myself. Depending on the resources at my disposal as a parent, my personal history or background and/or the context or scenario, hypothetically I might not be able to meet their needs for safety and security, “free from abuse or neglect” (hello me losing the plot and screaming) or maybe even physiological needs, “human touch” (let me introduce you to my good friend, “being touched out”)…



And as hypothesised in the great outline of Maslow’s Hierarchy applied to parenting and outlines in PHD in Parenting’s post, it is probably more important to meet our kid’s needs in a physiological, safety and security sense, which I fundamentally need to do the same for myself, before we consider anyone’s need for esteem or self-actualisation.

That means if I want to write, meaning self-actualisation in my pyramid as I need time to both ‘think and create’ I need to a) make sure I have some down time and uninterrupted sleep at least for a few hours a night if I can and, b) make sure I balance that (or try to!) with my kids and husbands pyramid’s respectively.

And that is a constant balancing act.

We have a unique situation to many others. My husband is currently having a turn at being the “primary caregiver” for our kids after me covering myself in paint and sand at Playcentre was my primary focus for the last four years. But obviously I don’t want to “blow the top off” his pyramid and he too still needs ‘time to think’ and his other own self actualisation needs meet.

But more than this, he is still working on the side. I am just currently doing more hours than him. But that means he also needs time to “create and write” just like I do. And obviously sleep and everything else…

But as I already mentioned, he doesn’t have the same light sleep patterns that I do with the kids in bed. Dads are wired differently.

I remember my mum telling me when I was just a new mum myself that my Dad was the one who shared a night time sleeping surface with me as a baby as she felt he handled it better. She said actually more something like “I just couldn’t deal with it”.

At the time I thought, wow that’s strange… My dad had to go to work running his own business in the morning, Mum helped at the office obviously but was the primary caregiver and “stay at home mum”. Modern parenting approach had lead me to initially assume, she was the one not working right? Doesn’t that mean that all of that responsibility was hers? Surely I couldn’t do the same with James (who was working fulltime at the time) especially as I didn’t even help in the office…?

So it may have taken me 4+ years but a few weeks ago I was like, “I think she might have been onto something here!” haha

My mother would be the least surprised to hear it has taken me that long to listen to her advice properly by the way 😉

So I now spend at least the first part of the night, at least a few hours if I can, sleeping in Jai’s bed which is also a mattress on the floor.

The boys cuddle into their dad while he snores his head off (he’s pretty proud that something I have been complaining about at night for years, is actually something that soothes the kids-great free white noise haha) and I get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep-hopefully. Sometimes anyway 😉

Now I am not saying our solution right not the “holy grail of sleep” should be yours. I mean if it works, cool. But at other times we have taken different approaches…

We have done the old “take shifts” approach in the past as well as the adage “catch it when you can” and nap when my babies do. But the PHD in parenting article really highlights how important our “tribe” and need for support from others in with this parenting gig.

Bethany from @bigblisshoney is quoted in the article saying “I just did something really hard. I communicated my limits and asked for help. Urgh”

James and I had to collectively do this recently and sent out a few “SOS calls” saying “Shit. We need help” a few times in recent weeks and his parents have come to ‘save us’. We are very thankful to have family in the same country as us after all these years of both being in NZ “alone” with family off shore so we can now do that.

But it is hard.

It’s hard to stick up your hand and say “over here!! We need some help!!” It’s even hard to take your own advice sometimes 😛

It’s hard to make the constant juggle work. It’s hard to balance everything and not “blow the top off” someone’s pyramid in the process.

And while we are fortunate, it is particularly hard being ‘self employed’ and juggling both parents essentially “co-sharing’ child care roles and having contract work too. It is really hard to balance it all.

And I don’t think anyone gets it right all of the time. It’s a constant reshuffle and juggle of everything.

But we had a ‘family meeting’ today and one of the things we talked about modelling to our kids is that it is ok to get it wrong. “Mistakes” is another word for “learning” or “growth”. We don’t want our kids to be scared of making them.

But we also want to model that we need to work together to meet everyone’s needs as a family.

And we won’t get that balance “right” all the time. And that’s ok too. But we do need to be respectful and considerate of each other’s needs and pyramids and we also need to talk and plan together to make sure we all have a say, the kids included.

Who knows how well this “monthly family meeting” plan will actually go or how well we will even “stick to plan” but either way, bring on 2017.

Here’s to more attempts from us to ‘work together to achieve balance for everyone’ in our family (the “heart” of our families planning model).


Much love and have a safe and happy new year’s <3




Safe Co-sleeping information…


La Leche Leauge –



Mumanu Safe Co-Sleeping Guidelines –

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