Sleepless Nights

Dear yayas,

My baby is not sleeping through the night. He is five months old. I have a lot of friends with babies under age two and I feel like people ask me all the time if my baby is “sleeping through the night.” He’s not. In fact, he’s up quite a few times, nurses, and goes back to sleep. When I share this with people who ask me about his sleep, I get a weird reaction from them. Many people tell me I’m doing it wrong and make me feel like a bad mom because my kid isn’t sleeping for 8 hours straight. Am I doing it wrong? And why am I suddenly a bad mom because my kid won’t sleep? I feel like it has less to do with me and more with him…

– Sleepless in Seattle (literally)

My second son didn’t sleep through the night until he was 14 months old. My friends and family felt sorry for me that I wasn’t getting a full night’s sleep. But, I loved waking up with him in the middle of the night. The house would be quiet with sleep except for the two of us. For me, it was a really special time with him with no distractions. So, don’t worry. If you feel fine about his relationship with sleep then don’t worry he’ll be sleeping through the night soon enough. – Karen

The first thing I would say, I treasured those precious nighttimes with baby. This is a time to treasure. It doesn’t last very long and your baby will respond when you pick them up and change and feed them and talk to them. Sometimes little ones don’t get enough at a feeding or need to burp. There is a reason they wake up. And no one has the right to tell you about them waking up at night. Soon enough babies sleep all night, so make those times dear to you and baby. I still treasure that with all my kids. Sometimes the next littlest would wake up and sit with us, too! It’s the most wonderful, rewarding time and no one has the right to tell you that you’re not doing the right thing. You’re doing the right thing. No one can tell a mother how to understand their baby. It’s a connection you have. It’s a precious time. – Grama Claire Bear

Sleepless in Seattle, YOU are a wonderful mom! How many hours your child sleeps without waking is in no way evidence towards the type of momma you are-so shake that thought off today! (Cue Taylor Swift’s song!) Now, your baby is 5 months and I cannot imagine either of my kids sleeping through the night at that age. My oldest did not STTN until age 3! There were longer stretches, sure, but I was up regularly at least once a night until then. I think there are folks placing unrealistic ideals on you. Sometimes babies do sleep more, but I would wager most babies do not sleep through the night at 5 months. To give you a reason to feel good about your babe waking, I have read waking frequently helps prevent SIDS. Also, remember a baby has a tiny belly and they need to eat frequently still at this age. I absolutely advocate to respond to your baby when he wakes. I’m not a CIO supporter and think that though your nights may be long now, you are already teaching your baby that you will respond to his cues, help him feel safe and cared for, and comfort him when he needs it. You’re doing wonderful momma, keep on taking care of your sweet baby and I promise–some day–you can answer that your child does indeed sleep through the night! For now, I’d probably smile and nod and just say “He sleeps as I expect him to.” – Cortney

Dear Sleepless, This whole random “sleeping through the night goal” talk has gotten out of control. It’s vague, it’s unfair, and it’s (in my opinion) a myth. Getting a baby to sleep for a solid, zero wake-ups 8-10 hour stretch shouldn’t be the focus for a mom of young kids. Why? Because there are SO MANY FACTORS that come into play when a child is growing at such a fast rate in the early years. Here is a short list of things that could cause a child to wake in the night in the first 3 years of life: hunger, thirst, teething, sickness, overstimulation, being overly tired, separation anxiety, night terrors, growth spurts, noises, needing a diaper change, potty training, developmental leaps, and on and on. It’s ridiculous to expect a child’s sleep to look exactly the same every night given all of these factors. Forget everyone who asks you about your own kid’s sleep habits. You don’t have to answer. Change the subject. Or turn it on them…ask them if they are sleeping through the night, their toilet habits, their eating habits, etc. Hahaha. To me it’s the same amount of ridiculous. In all seriousness, you really don’t have to answer and can just turn the subject to something non-baby. I know many people are just trying to make conversation, but it’s time that casual conversation turned to something more productive than topics that send mothers into swirls of doubt. I’m 100% sure that your baby’s varying sleep habits are normal, a work in progress, only your business, and have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you’re an awesome mom! – Lori Beth

Everything you describe sounds totally normal to me, from both sides of the equation. Sleep is a pretty typical topic of conversation for parents of young children, so rest easy knowing that you and your son are just fine. No one method or strategy works for every caregiver/child relationship, and you’ll figure out what’s best for the two of you. If you feel like something isn’t working, you’ll seek advice and ideas at that point. Otherwise, keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got this! – Diana

Dear Sleepless nights, you are not doing anything wrong! Every baby is unique in their development. Your baby will sleep through the night eventually! Every baby does. In the meantime, you are giving your baby what he needs. And this is a gift to you both at a time when your baby is in the big outside world. You know your baby better than anyone, so do not listen to any “timelines” or judgments. Trust in the love and knowing you have of your baby. Find a lullaby that soothes both of you and sing/hum over and over. Sweet dreams! – Taren

Dear Sleepless Nights, First of all, it is amazing that you know people who have little ones that sleep through the night consistently at 5 months. My first child had a week long stretch of sleeping through the night at 9 weeks. I thought I had the night sleep routine down. Ha! I was so wrong. A week later he was up every two hours. He only started consistently sleeping through the night at three. Sleep regression stages are very real and still take full effect even after sleep training. Hang in there and take other peoples’ comments about your baby’s sleep pattern in stride. You know your baby best and have the intuition as to what your baby needs. Enjoy the midnight cuddles. They slip away before you know it. – Bernie

Hello Sleepless in Seattle, Every child develops their sleep patterns differently and I know a lot of moms who have experienced what you are experiencing. My daughter, who is now four, has gone through waves of waking up throughout the night. It is very common and it will pass with time as your child gets older. I would not blame yourself at all and although challenging just brush off others comments. You are definitely not doing anything wrong and know that this will not last forever. – Nadia

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