If there is one question I have been asked more than any other in my entire career as a parent, it is this: “How is your baby sleeping?” Other forms of this question include, but are not limited to, the following:
“Is he a good sleeper?”
“Does she give you a hard time at night?”
“Is he sleeping through the night yet?”
The answer to these questions should be, “My baby sleeps exactly like a baby should.” But that’s not how I really answer, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. For some reason, these sleep questions evoke all kinds of insecurities in me, putting me (an otherwise confident mother) on the defensive and making me feel like I must explain why my baby sleeps…like a baby. A whole slew of excuses might tumble out of me, as I frantically try to convince the question-asker that my baby is actually really great and I am actually a decent mother, and there are just these outside circumstances that are preventing both of us from experiencing night time bliss.
In fact, now that I’m on my third baby, I’ve even surprised myself at how often I reply to these questions with long-winded, defensive answers. You’d think I’d be all confident and proud of my mothering skills at this point, but as it turns out, my self-esteem returns back up to a healthy level at about the same time as my baby sleeps through the night. Life is funny that way.
Well, listen in. If you were to follow around a mother like me during the first year of her baby’s life, not only would you get to hear just how often she is asked about her baby’s sleep habits, but you’d also get to enjoy the wide range of answers she gives.
All he does is sleep! I keep trying to wake him up to feed him and he’s just soooo sleepy he can’t even stay awake for two minutes. I’m supposed to fill out this feeding journal and make sure to practice his latch every two hours, but all he wants to do is sleep! I’m worried about building my milk supply, so I want to keep practicing, but I’m exhausted from labor and I think I’m just going to pass out and sleep, too. Wake me in 20 minutes.
He nurses every two hours, around the clock. I’m so tired! But he pretty much just sleeps the rest of the time. It’s great! He loves to sleep! I’m so blessed! As long as someone else takes care of the housecleaning, the cooking, the laundry, and the other children, I can catch up on some sleep here and there, right? Right?
Oh, he’s so predictable now, I can totally tell when he’s hungry or tired or just wants to be held. I mean, of course, we wake up a lot at night, and I haven’t slept more than an hour and a half at a time since he was born, but it could be worse. At least he doesn’t have colic! He just wants to sleep on my chest. He’s super sweet. Such a good baby. Plus he loves the swaddle.
Ohmygosh, I’m pretty sure he has colic. This is insane! Every night from like 4 pm until 9 pm he just screams and screams and there’s nothing anyone can do. Poor little guy! I feel like he must have some kind of food intolerance to something I’m eating, and if we could just figure that out then I’m sure he will be sleeping better.
There have been a few nights where he sleeps like six hours in a row! It’s amazing! Well, it’s not THAT great, because he goes down for the night at 6:30, so unless I go to bed with the sun still high in the sky then I’m not getting a long chunk of sleep yet. But he’s doing great! I think it’s because we’ve been doing a consistent bedtime routine and using white noise, and he just knows it’s time to sleep and does it! This baby sleep book I have told me all about it.
What. Is going. ON?! He was doing so great, sleeping a nice long stretch at the beginning of the night and then one shorter stretch after that. But for the past few days he has been screaming every 30 minutes all night long! I think he’s teething or something. Seriously, he has to be in pain to scream like that! Plus he keeps breaking out of his swaddle. I think I’ll stop swaddling him.
After consulting various online motherhood forums and baby sleep manuals, I’ve finally figured out that he is going through the Four Month Sleep Regression. Apparently it’s this time when babies have these huge cognitive leaps in development, and their brains are just so stimulated that they have a hard time settling down. It should be getting better soon. I’m totally fine with sleeping on the floor of his room next to his crib. If I make sure he gets the sleep he needs and doesn’t get overtired, then he will be rested enough to not fight sleep.
I think the Four Month Sleep Regression is just lasting a lot longer in my baby than others. It should be over soon. If it’s still going on by seven months, then we’re going to start sleep training. We get his six month shots next week, so I don’t want to start anything yet. Do they make swaddles big enough for him? Can I start swaddling him again? Is there any possible way he can just sleep on my chest safely?
Well, he just started crawling, which is super fun during the day, except at night he keeps waking up to practice! He crawls around his crib and bumps into the sides and gets mad. I have to keep going in to lay him back down! If it weren’t for that, I bet he’d be sleeping better.
I’ve tried everything! Cry it out, pat it out, rock it out, snuggle it out, walk around the house for an hour and a half and then spend 17 minutes laying him down a millimeter at a time only to have him start screaming when I lightly brush the door frame on the way out…I’m done. He can do whatever he wants. I’ll sleep next year, maybe.
I don’t know. I think he’s teething.
He slept 8 hours in a row! I’m like a new person! I scrubbed my kitchen floor and baked fresh bread and did three loads of laundry and gave my dog a bath, all before breakfast! I think it’s because he had such good naps yesterday! Or maybe it was because he ate so much food at supper. I bet it was the bath with lavender before bed. Tomorrow I will replicate this day exactly.
We’re fine! I’m doing great! I don’t want to talk about it anymore. He’s just teething again. I’m sure it will pass soon.
I’m a little hesitant to say this, but he’s been sleeping all night most of the time! It’s amazing! I don’t even remember how hard it was in the beginning. Well, I kind of remember it, but it was worth every second. He has a runny nose though…hopefully he’s not coming down with something!
Moral of the story? Babies don’t sleep through the night. They just don’t. And no one should expect them to. Babies aren’t bad for being “bad” sleepers. Mothers aren’t doing something wrong when their baby wakes frequently, and they certainly aren’t doing something wrong by tending to their frequently-waking baby.
Babies are wired to wake frequently and seek out their mother. Mothers are wired to respond to their baby’s cry and keep them safe and comfortable during all hours, no matter where the sun is in the sky. It is nature. It is biological. Expecting a baby to follow an adult pattern of sleep is unhealthy and unrealistic. Sure, some babies might sleep through the night at a young age. Some babies might still be waking during the night throughout toddlerhood and beyond. Both ends of the spectrum are normal, but YOU know your baby best, and what works for another family may not work for yours.
No matter how knowledgeable we become on infant sleep patterns, there will be times when we question ourselves. As long as we are mothers, we will worry about whether we are doing the right thing, whether we are ruining our children by our parenting choices, and whether it is our fault our child is not “easy” to parent. Wherever you are in your parenting journey, I hope you trust your instincts, find a handful of moms to connect with and support each other, and snag a nap any chance you get.
To be clear, I’m certainly not advocating for people to stop asking mothers how their babies are sleeping. Honestly, I am so grateful when others ask about my baby, or my bigger kids, or any aspect of my life, really. Motherhood is often lonely. Asking me how it’s going lets me know you are interested in my life, and I deeply appreciate those small connections that are made when we share our daily details. So please, keep asking me how my baby is sleeping. Just keep your laughing to a minimum when excuses and rationalizations are all I have to offer. I swear, he really is teething!
How old is your baby, and how do YOU answer the question, “How is your baby sleeping?”