“Is he sleeping through the night?” A sentence many parents dread to hear. Sometimes getting your baby to sleep through the night feels like a lofty and unattainable goal.
When my daughter was a baby I struggled every night before bed, terrified that we would never sleep again, and we would be in a constant state of sleep deprivation. What was killing me more than the actual lack of sleep was the feeling of failure. It did not help that society, doctors, and especially other moms, were telling me my baby should be sleeping through the night by now. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t “fix” the issue. My baby wasn’t sleeping well and surely that meant I was a terrible mother. I was told that if I let my bay cry it out I was causing her life long trauma, but if I co-slept and nursed her to sleep through the night she would never learn to be independent. I cannot count how many nights I would lie awake crying at 3:00am because I felt lost and overwhelmed by the “right way” to get my baby to sleep; emotionally drained from spending hours and hours researching what to do and trying method after method.
There didn’t seem to be a good time to start sleep training. Between colds, teething and out of country travel there always seemed to be something disturbing her sleep. I was told to treasure those 2am feeds, but in all honesty, I was overcome by fear and failure to truly take those moments in.
Fast forward three years, and after my second baby was born those feelings started to rear their ugly head again. What happens if he never sleeps? (Even though I have a perfect and sweetly sleeping three year old in the room next to me). Why can’t I get it right? Maybe I am doing something wrong? Maybe if I had the perfect schedule like other moms tell me, or bottle fed instead of nursed?
I could feel myself starting to slip in to panic mode with the same old feelings of frustration and failure rising to the surface. After talking to a close friend I realized it wasn’t the lack of sleep that was overwhelming me (although yes, tiredness is real). I quit apologizing for the fact my baby doesn’t sleep, quit feeling bad about myself, quit feeling bad for my husband (we are in this together after all), and quit feeling bad when I tell people, “no, in fact my baby isn’t sleeping through the night.” And thats ok.
I may not have perfect sleep, but my baby is happy and healthy. I realized that although my baby may not be a perfect sleeper, it does not determine what kind of parent I am. The lack of sleep is not a measurement to be used to assess whether I am a good mother. We are just what we need to be for each other, even if that means we spend a lot more time together in the middle of the night than I prefer. I know one day I’ll miss it.