When you have a newborn you expect them to wake up throughout the night. You see it to be ‘normal’. You know it won’t last forever and you expect it’ll improve within a couple of months. You make it through those sleepless nights with lots of caffeine on hand and picture the night in the near future that your baby gives you more than 5 hours solid sleep.
You witness other new mums post online about how their babies have slept through and so you compare their ages and then feel hopeful that it won’t be long until you’re in their situation too.
But it never happens.
People kindly suggest things for you to try; white noise, a massage before bed, a dummy, a muslin that smells of you.
But nothing works.
By 4 months when things are still no different, you blame ‘sleep regression’ and again become hopeful that when it’s over, your baby will miraculously sleep through the night. Or longer than 3 hours at least.
But it comes and goes and still, no changes.
You see products in the shops; dummies and baby bath soaps which have been ‘proven’ to help babies sleep. So you purchase them.
But it doesn’t work and you sit there looking at that big shiny ‘proven to work’ sticker thinking, “yeah right…..bullshit”.
You try it all.
Then one night, they do it. They sleep longer than 5 hours. You get your hopes up, you think you’ve cracked it. You let your friends and family know and excitedly post on social media. You think this is the start of something.
But the following night they’re back to their normal ways, waking every 1, 2 or 3 hours.
It’s just a one off.
Back to no sleep. Back to relying on caffeine to make it through your day.
By 6 months when you’ve given up hope and are trying to accept the fact that you’re one of the unfortunate ones with a baby who doesn’t sleep well, you then stupidly find yourself on google search and read that by 6 months your baby should be sleeping better.
You question what you’re doing so wrong and feel like you’re failing as a parent.
And the advice continues.
You bite your tongue as you listen to people tell you how to parent your own child, telling you what you should be feeding them to make them sleep better. You get told your baby isn’t normal because ‘so and so’s baby’ was sleeping through by now. “He’s using you as a dummy”, or “it’s because he’s still breastfed”. But what they don’t know is that you’ve tried a dummy and you’ve tried formula before bed, with no success.
It frustrates you, even more so because you’re tired. So tired. You confuse irritability and being emotional with depression. But it’s just sleep deprivation. It makes you feel that bad some days. You totally understand why it was used as a form of torture back in the day.
You look at the housework. You know it needs doing but you can’t find the motivation nor energy to get up and do it. But you somehow end up doing it anyway because if you sit on the sofa for to long you’ll fall asleep, and you can’t do that when you have to look after your baby.
You get on with it, because, well, what else do you do? It seems like everyones baby sleeps better than yours.
But then one day, after you’ve been told to put a Farley’s rusk in your babies bottle for the third time, you stop and question – ‘why is there so much pressure on my baby sleeping through the night?’.
Why is it one of the first questions people ask? Why are people so obsessed with it? Why do people gawp at you in shock when you tell them your baby is still waking?
Science says that babies have short sleep cycles, and that this actually works as a natural defence mechanism against SIDS. They aren’t designed to sleep through the night. Yet society is drumming it into us that these tiny babies should be in stable routines and sleeping through from such a young age.
Some babies DO sleep through the night, some right from the earliest weeks of life and that is perfectly normal. But for other babies the months go by and they still wake throughout the night, and that is also perfectly normal.
Every baby is different. They’re little humans, just like us – some of us sleep well as adults, some of us not so well. A lot of us, if not most of us still wake throughout the night now, the only difference is that we don’t need to be comforted back to sleep. Our little babies want us as their caregivers to comfort them. And that is completely natural.
You’re tired, exhausted even, and it’s hard work! But you’re not alone and you’re definitely not unfortunate.
We’re fortunate and we’re lucky. (yeah fu&*ing right I hear you say).
But put it this way;
When our babies are grown and their little bodies are no longer able to easily sit up on our laps, when they no longer want to cuddle into you, when they no longer need help to get dressed or feed themselves, you will look back and be so grateful for all those extra cuddles that you got to share together.
When you watch them walk through the school gates and into their classroom for the first time, you will look back at all those times you were awake throughout the night and feel lucky that you got to spend that little bit of extra time with your baby. No matter how exhausted you are, it will feel so worth it.
Your baby won’t be this small forever, we all know how quickly time passes by and how fast they grow. Ignore society. We don’t need to feel like we’re the unlucky ones, because we’re far from it. Lack of sleep is hard, there’s no denying it, but don’t let the societal pressures stop you from enjoying those precious snuggles with your baby.
It’s normal – your baby is normal, and as a society, the whole ‘is your baby sleeping through the night’ question shouldn’t be one of the first questions we ask a new mum. Let them know that sleep will improve, (cause lets be honest I can’t say I felt the need to wake at night as a teenager), and that they’re doing a good job. Parenting is hard enough as it is, without the added pressure.
Let’s stop assuming that babies should sleep through the night. We’re only setting ourselves up for inescapable defeat and frustration.
To all those mama’s reading who can relate – I am with you & we’ve got this!!
Much love, Shannon xoxox