Sleeping like a baby. People keep using that phrase, but I do not think it means what they think it means. In our house sleeping like a baby meant napping for 20 minutes at a time, never at the same time of day, and waking up in the night every two to three hours well beyond the age of two (and okay, maybe three…)
But I lived to tell about it, and if you are currently discovering that your life revolves around sleep (lack of it, getting baby to do it, getting baby back to it, people asking about it…), you will too. I promise. Here are some random things I wish I could go back and tell stressed out, sleepless, new-mom-me:
1. Go ahead and rock that baby.
I roll my eyes now every time I read yet another article advising against the horrors of rocking your baby to sleep. These articles never say what will happen if you do it anyway. But I will tell you: nothing. Nothing will happen. Oh, you may find you are rocking your baby to sleep for the next little while, but I say, do what works now.
Here are a few of the things we did to get our kids to sleep, or back to sleep: nursing, rocking, bouncing, swaddling, babywearing, dancing, co-sleeping, soother, infant swing, white noise machine, stroller, car rides, bedtime stories. Basically, we broke all the rules. And you know what? The boys grew out of each and every one of these “bad habits”.
These days, BB#1 reads to himself, gets up, turns off his own light at the appointed time, and goes to sleep. And stays asleep until I wake him up the next morning. BB#2 still likes someone to stay with him while he falls asleep (usually about 10 minutes), and you know what we don’t have as a result? Bedtime battles. When parents complain about the hours it takes to get their kids to bed and the meltdowns that usually occur, I can’t relate. Because it simply doesn’t happen here.
Conclusion: we didn’t wreck them by meeting their needs! In fact, I’d say our approach has resulted in sleep being a positive experience for all involved.
So go ahead and pick up your baby because this stage, like so many others, is temporary, and it goes by fast. I know like his brother before him, BB#2 will one day tell me he doesn’t need me to stay with him. And I’ll miss the cuddles.
2. Babies don’t care about schedules.
Before I had a baby of my own, I had this impression that if they woke up in the night, it was at predictable times—I’d heard something about two a.m. feedings? Maybe you can count on yours to wake at regularly scheduled intervals, but all I knew was that mine would be up, and often.
3. Babies make great alarm clocks.
Many new parents seem really, really surprised that their days of sleeping in on weekends are over. My kids were generally ready to play around five-thirty or six a.m. every day of the week. Particularly cruel when I’d been up with them every two or three hours the whole night. I’d like to say I wisely started going to bed when they did, or napped when they napped, but that wouldn’t be true. Let’s just say I started fantasizing about the next morning’s coffee the afternoon before.
4. Parenting is not shift work.
You don’t work 12 hours, get 12 hours off. Even when your children start sleeping long stretches, you aren’t off the hook. They do get sick sometimes or have nightmares or get teeth, or just need a hug [even the writing of this post was interrupted by post-tonsillectomy BB#2 waking up in need of pain medication]. If you never wanted to be disturbed in the night, you should have gone for that goldfish.
5. Two hour naps are a myth.
Okay they probably aren’t myth, but they sure didn’t happen in my home. I eventually had to accept the fact that my happy, healthy, normally developing children were getting enough sleep for them, even if it never seemed like enough for me!
6. Weaning doesn’t guarantee your child will start sleeping through the night.
And it might mean you now have one less tool to get him back to sleep. So nightwean if and when it works for you and your child, but ignore anyone who claims your sleep woes will be completely resolved by cutting out night nursing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
7. The only thing to get used to in the first year is change.
Yes, I’ve said this before, but it’s true. Don’t fret if your baby sleeps through the night at one point, and doesn’t a few months later. In fact I’d say count on it.
8. When people ask how the baby is sleeping…
…tell them “like a baby”. You’ll know what you mean, and they’ll think that they do. And if they persist in the “isn’t she sleeping through the night YET?!” comments, don’t take it personally. There is nothing wrong with your child, there is nothing wrong with you. (And ask yourself if the person inquiring is possibly too old to remember what caring for a baby is really like.)