If I had a euro for every time I’ve been asked that question in the past four and a half months I’d be worth more than Richard Branson. Everyone and their nanny seems to wants to know all about his sleeping habits and how ‘good’ a baby he is when it comes to night-time.
I’m sure their questions are well-intended; people showing they care about how I’m coping, maybe they’re just not sure what to be saying to a new mum and it’s an easy topic to bring up. But for me it’s the question I dread hearing.
Sleeping through the night seems to be the holy grail of parenting. It’s as if the bar has been set and once you reach sleeping through status then you’ve made it. That’s all well and good if you have a baby who goes down easy and sleeps great. But what if you don’t? No, my baby isn’t sleeping through. Should he? Why isn’t he? What’s wrong with him? What am I doing wrong? Self-doubt and worry creeps in and before you know it you’re frantically searching google to find out what you’ve done to have caused you to fail so miserably at the first hurdle.
On top of the worry comes all the advice on how to get him to sleep through. Give him a few extra ounces in his last bottle. Give him a dream feed before you go to bed. Put some baby rice in his bottle. Get him started on solids. Let him cry it out so he learns. This sudden obsession that we have with babies sleeping through has made for a lot of experts out there let me tell you! All the natural instincts that I’ve been taking my lead from confidently, I was suddenly questioning. Am I doing the right thing? Should I be doing things differently?
What people don’t seem to realise is that sleeping through the night for a baby is defined as five hours. That’s right, not a twelve-hour 8pm-8am stint, not even a ten-hour stint. Five hours. Of course it would be blissful if babies slept from early evening until morning, who wouldn’t want that? But it’s reassuring to know that a stretch like that isn’t actually the norm for babies. Hell I don’t even sleep for 8 hours solid. I wake up at least once a night to go to the bathroom, as well as plenty of short wakenings when I’m tossing and turning trying to get comfy. And don’t get me started if I’m too hot or too cold. If I don’t manage to sleep a long stretch solidly without wakening, why should I expect my baby to?
Dylan is about as predictable as a Scottish summer. At the start he was fantastic, I thought we had it nailed straight away. Then out of no-where he started wakening during the night. Was it a growth spurt? Teething? Hunger? A wonder week? Who knows. But my previously angelic baby had become the devil child literally overnight, determined to break me. After a few weeks of what I can only describe as pure torture, things started to regain a bit of normality. Some nights were fantastic and we couldn’t believe our luck, but then just as we smugly thought we had got our perfect baby back, BOOM; he brought us back to reality with a bang!
At the moment we’re in a good phase. For the past few days he’s going down relatively easily (I think our bedtime routine helps with this) and he’s sleeping for a solid 8 hours. How long will this last? I’ve no idea. One thing I’ve learnt, as with most of this parenting malarkey, is that we’re winging it. We’re taking things a day at a time and seeing how it pans out. Babies change all the time – there’s no use in trying to predict it or control it.
And instead of stressing about what’s normal and comparing myself to other mums and babies, I’ve decided to relax my attitudes and expectations. Every baby is different. They have different personalities, likes, dislikes, needs, and therefore also different sleeping patterns.
Is he sleeping through the night? At the moment, yes. But that might (and probably will!) change in a few days/weeks/months. And if it does, so be it. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad baby, or that I’m failing as a mum. That’s just life; and knowing & accepting that makes things so much easier!