Dirty little secrets parents don’t tell first-timers about sleep.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

Whatever.

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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4 Comments

  1. Oh Bethe I just love you! Thanks for being so honest and real about your experiences. Grayson is eight weeks and doesnt “sleep through the night” but i havent worries because babies this little should be eating every 2-3 hours right? He likes to fall asleep in my arms after nursing. I bet the book you burned would say I should not let him sleep in my arms but Ive been Getting sleep though by sleeping when he sleeps and letting him sleep in bed with me part of the night ( which I’m sure lots of people will hear and gasp). You really do whatever works best for you and baby. I walk around the house topless most of the time lately because it seems like i am feeding and nursing for what seems the whole day So I would not feel one bit bad about having to go to bed in the birthday suit. Please keep sharing your different experiences. It’s super encouraging!

    Reply

    1. Oh Nyree, I know what it’s like to feel like you’re nursing around the clock. Wrenn a grazer, so if she had her way, she would have nursed hourly. Since I couldn’t be a sane adult on that schedule, I had to give her a bottle before bed so she’d sleep better. However, during her colic, there were many nights she would nurse for comfort for 3-4 hours straight. Even though I was just laying there, it was exhausting. You just survive. But know that you’re not in it alone – we’ve all been there before! And some of the sweetest moments are when you’re nursing… it’s worth it!

      Now, if you could only drink a TON of coffee when you’re nursing. Now, THAT is the cruelest joke of all!

      Reply

  2. Hilarious and SO true! I hate to break it to you, but my 5 year old gets up almost as much as a newborn. Feeling sick, sleeping walking and bad dreams are all nasty culprits to our lack of sleep. For me, the sleep deprivation hasn’t gone away. I’ve just learned to deal with it. Sometimes I tell my husband I just want to go to a hotel, by myself, just to sleep. Ahhhh but, I wouldn’t trade any of it because I sure do love my little guys!

    Reply

    1. Jenny – I am plugging my ears and singing “LA LA LA LA LA” so that I don’t hear you! I spent my first few months dreaming of the days when my baby would sleep 12 hours at night. And for the most part, she sleeps 11-12 hours at night. I’m not sure why I’m still so tired… I think it’s all the extra brain space I use packing bags, washing bottles, planning… planning… and more planning.

      Reply

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