Is your baby sleeping through the night yet? This is the single most common question new parents get. (Not to be confused with the “treasure every moment, it goes by so fast” unsolicited advice that, while true, makes a sleep-deprived parent want to punch that well-rested parent in the face.)
There’s a few dirty little secrets about sleep that these more experienced parents aren’t telling you…
1. The “Sleeping Through the Night” milestone isn’t a permanent one.
My baby girl started sleeping through the night at just seven weeks old. She had colic and screamed for three hours every evening, and I really think she simply wore herself out, making her a great sleeper from the very beginning. On that seventh week, my sleep-deprived husband and I high-fived each other and celebrated that we had MADE IT. Whew. No more sleepless nights for us.
Yeah, that’s a joke. Turns out, my precious little girl slept through the night at seven weeks. And then a few weeks later, she got sick for the first time, and woke up every hour for a few nights. Once she was better, it took her another week or two to get back to sleeping through the night. And then we went on vacation, and threw her schedule off again, taking another week or two to get back on track. And then she started teething. And then something else came up, and then something else came up… and now at 11 months, she always sleeps through the night, unless we’re traveling, or she’s sick, or teething (kind of the same as me, come to think of it). So instead of asking each other, “When did your baby start sleeping through the night?” I think we should instead ask, “When did your baby kind of/sort of/most of the time start sleeping through the night?”
2. Those grand plans you had for how you would – or would not – get your baby to sleep may get replaced with something we like to call… SURVIVAL.
My husband and I read a few baby books, and because we’re (a) one of the last in our friend group to have a baby, so we’ve had plenty of time to judge everybody else’s parenting skills, and (b) huge planners and schedules make sense to us, we were determined to adopt one of those rigid parenting theories for how we would get our child to sleep… on a schedule. You know, the sleep/eat/play/sleep schedule.
And then we met our baby and realized that she’s not much of a schedule girl. And, we were very tired new parents. The book told us things like letting your child fall asleep after she nurses will basically ruin her for life. But our baby was a wonderful sleeper and preferred to sleep right after eating, no matter how hard we tried to make her change. And so, we finally gave up and decided to do what worked best with our baby girl, and she turned out to be a champion napper and sleeper. (Did I mention she slept through the night at seven weeks?)
And so we burned the book. Whatever.
3. As a new mom, you will sleep in things you never dreamed would be acceptable.
I think you just make weird decisions when you’re really tired. The other night, I went to bed in my birthday suit. Not because I was feeling frisky, but because my sick baby vomited all over me while I was up rocking her for the second time that night. And I was just too tired to find new pajamas.
Despite all those dirty little secrets that experienced moms may not be telling you, the one thing I will tell you is that those precious babies are worth every sleepless night, every vomit-covered pair of pajamas, and every cup of coffee you have to drink to fool your body into thinking you got enough sleep.
Sweet dreams, my friends.
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