Is your baby sleeping through the night?
This is a common question heard amongst first time moms when they congregate in parks, doctors’ offices, mommy and me classes, or play school admission offices.
Not only that but we lot ask other mommies who have babies older than ours on Facebook, ‘tell me, when did so and so start sleeping through the night?’ Many times a mom will say, oh my baby slept well from the beginning. And then some will say that their baby slept well from the textbook 4 or 5 months. Yet some will say when we stopped feeding in the night, and she will promptly advise you to stop feeding in the night too.
Then there are the rare moms who say – my one and a half-year old still gets up to nurse in the night. This is rare because this directly reflects on your parenting skills. Because by this age, parents should have taught their children to sleep at night, parents should have weaned their babies from night feeds or they are spoiling their babies.
I remember when my now 10 month old was 3 months, and a mom of a 14 month old told me she still feeds her son at least twice a night, I was shocked. I really thought I was nearing the end of my spectrum of night waking. Boy was I ever so wrong?
When at 4 months my decent sleeper began waking more than ever, I started Googling sleep sites and pouring over sleep books. I learnt about infant sleep, sleep regression, sleep training, etc. I started to think that something was wrong with what I was doing or with my baby. Every week I resolved that I would stop feeding him on demand in the night. Every time I failed.
Somehow over the course of months he started sleeping for longer stretches. When he turned 8 months though he started waking hourly. Again I freaked out. Then one day while lying in bed tossing and turning, not able to fall asleep, annoyed with myself for not resolving this ‘issue’ I hit upon this thought:
It’s funny that I write a blog about how to eat and move and sleep like we humans have evolved to, that I write about everything from an evolutionary perspective, and here I am expecting my infant to follow books and rules written by adult men today! It doesn’t add up.
Here I am obsessing about his sleep, when all he is doing is following his own instincts, waking up when he needs his mom, not only because he is hungry but because he may need me to settle him back to sleep.
He has not read these books. He does not know that by so many months he is not supposed to feel hungry, he is supposed to have learnt how to sleep on his own, he should not be so demanding.
Why do we expect the most vulnerable and dependent amongst us to get independent so quickly?
All through human history, traditionally babies have been attached to their moms, fed on demand, and slept with their caregivers for years. In fact most mammals keep their babies close until they are able to fend for themselves (kangaroos and monkeys for example).
Today with moms leaving home to work, having to leave their babies in the care of others, we expect the behaviour of babies to change to accommodate this. Babies are expected to sleep through the night, babies are expected to sleep on their own, and babies are expected to be independent.
But babies are oblivious to all this and they just want to be carried around by their caregivers, loved and cared for, night or day. They do not understand why they are not picked up when they ask, why they aren’t fed in the night when they want it.
I do understand that moms want things to go back to like how it was before (uninterrupted sleep for starters). But I for one started sleeping better when I accepted that my baby is not going to sleep through the night anytime soon.
I moved him into my bed (from his cot), I now nurse on demand at night, I smell and cuddle him at wee hours, and we all sleep well as there is no crying at night.
And as for sleeping through the night? He will one day surprise me that I know. I know that because today I don’t need someone to rock me to sleep, do you? It’s a milestone he will reach at his own pace (just like walking and talking).
I also understood that the reason I was getting affected by my baby’s night waking was because of the expectations. He was ‘expected’ to sleep through, I was not ‘expected’ to feed him and so on. When another mom raised her eyebrow and said ‘he is still waking up?’ I felt guilty.
As soon as I decided to do things that felt right for him and for me, I immediately felt relief and his night waking stopped affecting me at all.
So for anyone asking:
No my 10 month old son does not sleep through the night.
Yes I still nurse him twice a night.
Yes I know he may not be hungry. It does not matter.
No he will not nurse forever.
Yes when he stops/ I want the nursing relationship to end we will deal with it together.
No I do not believe I am spoiling him, just teaching him that he can always depend on his mamma and attending to his physiological needs.
Yes I’m in for the long haul of interrupted sleep. But since I am a mom now it comes with the territory.
Yes one day, he will sleep through the night, and when that night comes, I will miss it and miss the cuddles, as that phase will be gone too soon forever.
Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments, when did your baby start sleeping through the night?
Aloka Gambhir is a new mom (since October 2012). She is a fitness and nutrition enthusiast and a health and fitness blogger since 2011. She is a Mumbai mom following an alternative lifestyle called the paleo / primal or evolutionary lifestyle. She is passionate about helping fellow moms follow their instincts to a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their family by questioning the rules and conventional wisdom on her blog: www.wholesomemamma.in