“How’s she sleeping? Is she sleeping through the night?” Another mom at baby gymnastics asked right around my daughter’s first birthday. “We’re still a bit all over the place, but it’s fine!” I replied, tempted to change the subject. Then it occurred to me . . . why should I change the subject? For moms like myself with babies (or, at this point, toddlers!) who are “still” waking through the night, questions and conversations regarding sleep can feel undeniably isolating. Time and time again, these topics dominate mom groups on Facebook, playdate discussions, doctor visits, and even Instagram feeds. Society expects tiny humans to sleep through the night from 7 pm to 7 am (or something along those lines) from mere months old. In reality, this isn’t always the case — and there’s nothing wrong with that!
As a 31-year-old grown woman living the life I’ve always dreamed of (in other words, I’m content and thriving in my day-to-day), I don’t even remember the last time I slept through the night. And I’m sure I can’t possibly be the only grown adult to wake for whatever reason I might. Whether to get a drink of water, use the restroom, adjust the AC, snuggle up to my husband, or simply toss and turn and let my mind wander. I don’t sleep through the night. So why should I pressure myself to ensure my tiny human does?!
Normalize Completely Normal Sleep (Or Lack Thereof!)
When it comes to my baby’s sleep habits, the truth is this: I have nothing to feel bad, awkward, or guilty about. She’s 15 months old now and hasn’t slept through the night since she was six months old. (We were blessed with a sound sleeper for the first several months of our parenthood journey, so I can’t complain!) And though it’s been months since my daughter has slept through the night, we’re still here, growing and thriving and smiling!
But for some reason, a toddler who is growing and thriving and smiling – clearly healthy and happy, well-adjusted and oh-so-bright – isn’t enough justification that I, as a mom, am doing things right. People often quickly assume I need advice to help me “fix” my child’s sleep habits. The truth is, I don’t!
We all have our parenting perspectives and styles. I smile for the moms whose little ones give them a full 10 to 12-hour stretch. Truly, that is wonderful! I was lucky enough to enjoy long stretches of sleep from when my daughter was eight weeks old up until that half-year mark (don’t ask me what changed because I don’t have that answer – sometimes, things just do). At the same time, I’m entirely content with meeting my daughter right where she is right now.
As a mom, I roll with the punches all day long. So why wouldn’t I roll with the punches nighttime brings (and, of course, all the kicks and snuggles, as a perfectly content bed-sharing mama with a tossy-turny toddler)? I don’t just clock out of mama duty when the clock strikes bedtime. Over time, I’ve learned to tune out all of the noise that tells me maybe I should.
Am I tired some days? Yes. Exhausted? Absolutely! But what mom isn’t, regardless of what her family’s sleep schedule looks like?! Almost a year and a half into motherhood, I’m still perfectly fine with my baby not sleeping through the night. Sure, I long for sleep. At the same time, I accept this as my new normal – at least for now. Because it is normal for babies (and toddlers!) to not sleep through the night.
Our Nighttime Routine is Just What We Need
Yes, we have a very consistent bedtime routine. Bath, pajamas, bottle, book, prayers, lullabies, and snuggles. Sometimes with a quick tickle war thrown in the mix . . . always with lots of belly laughs. When my baby girl is ready, she falls asleep in my arms. Some nights, we successfully transfer her to her pack and play. The crib is still a work in progress. Most nights, she stays where she’s most comfortable – right there against my chest, her tiny lips turning to a smile as she drifts into dreamland.
Often, it seems as though every hour on the dot, I’m woken by my daughter’s innocent, confident voice requesting “more” – in our after-hours world, that’s synonymous with either “water” or “paci.” Sometimes, she simply needs to squirm until she snuggles back into mama’s cozy embrace – one hand on my chest and one foot on my belly.
If I need to stumble to the bathroom, everyone is suddenly wide awake. Until I’m back, there’s no peace. Chaos ensues as I hear a desperate plea of “Mama! Mama!” from the next room over. But then, as soon as I return and scoop my daughter up again, all is well in her world. Honestly, it’s only then that all is well in my world, too.
We again find our groove together, and we doze off seamlessly, entwined in these sweet little moments that I know we won’t get back. Moms and babies were designed to be kept close, so I soak up this chapter of our story. Sleep, wake. Sleep, wake. Repeat until 6:30 am when my tiny human’s heart-melting grin and wide eyes find mine, tired and heavy yet grateful and at ease.
My family’s sleep system may not work for everyone. Some days, I question how I’m still functioning after months and months of the aforementioned. Add in the fact that 95% of our naps are still contact naps, and I question how this household stays running half the time.
Even still, I don’t need tips. I’ve probably already tried or heard them all. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to work for my family, and there’s nothing wrong with that! I don’t need pity, either. I love tending to my child through the night (and through her naps). I was made to be mama to my baby girl, and I know these days are fleeting. I dreamed of these days. I prayed for this life, full of baby snuggles and being needed and turned to and depended on.
Stop With the Unsolicited Advice
“Just set her down drowsy but awake. She’ll be OK.”
“Make sure the room is pitch black, slightly cool, with your sound machine at volume 20.”
“Lay beside her while she dozes off, then sneak out.”
“Have you tried this sleep sack? It really will work!”
“Try adjusting her bedtime routine. Bath, book, lights out.”
And the dreaded “just let her cry it out.” (No, thank you. That’s not for our family.)
. . . and so on and so forth. The comments are never-ending. The opinions are relentless.
While I’m sure well-meaning, the people voicing those “suggestions” don’t realize that none of those “tried and true” tidbits are what my baby girl needs. And that there’s a difference between giving advice and making a mom feel guilty and self-conscious about her child’s sleep habits.
Trust me when I say this: for now, my baby just needs me. Mom. Her safe space. Her home. Her security. She won’t need me to hold her, comfort her, and respond to her through the night forever. But for now, she does. And I will gladly do my part to ensure those needs are met.
There’s More to My Baby Than Her Sleep Schedule
For when she rises, my daughter thrives. She is unstoppable. At 15 months old, my daughter has a vocabulary of 50+ words. She even occasionally speaks in two-to-three word sentences! She signs and runs and dances and explores. She socializes like there’s no tomorrow. She eats like a champ. She eagerly partakes in household tasks like tossing dirty clothes down the laundry chute, picking up toys, and watering flowers. She’s steady on her growth chart. She’s rarely without a smile.
My baby “still” doesn’t sleep through the night. Yet even still, she’s so very clever, bright, loving, and joyful. Not to toot my own horn, but my child is pretty wonderful! She’s exceeding milestones and continuing to flourish into her little happy, beautiful self. I must still be a good mom, right?
I wouldn’t change anything about my baby, so why would I feel the need to change how she rests at night? We’re doing just fine. Actually, we’re doing much better than just fine. She’s still an incredible baby. And, yes, I’m still a good mom.
You’re Doing It All Right, Mama
You, mama, are still a good mom, too, even if your baby still doesn’t sleep through the night. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Your baby loves you for loving them, comforting them, and accepting them just as they are. Right here and now . . . and that’s all that truly matters. Tomorrow will come soon enough. Your little one will sleep independently when the time is right. One day, they will sleep through the night (or maybe they won’t if they’re anything like me).
For now, relish this moment. You’re raising a baby who knows they are loved. Your baby is right on track. You’re doing everything right, mama, I promise you. The truth is, your baby simply may not be sleeping through the night . . . and that’s completely fine. Trust me, mama: you’re still an incredible mom.