At 2:49am, I was awakened by my three-year-old crying. I ran to his room and found him sitting up in bed asking for his Lightning McQueen car. I’m sure he was dreaming because all I did was hush him a bit, hold him for a few minutes, and cuddle him (and myself) back to sleep. At 4:15am, I awoke in his bed (make that partially in his bed since the whole right side of my body was hanging off the edge), my neck cranked, my body freezing (he stole all the covers), and my left arm stuck underneath his pillow. I tried to gently free my arm without waking him so I could quietly head for the door and back to my own room. Success! Well sort of.
In a sleepy stupor, I was making my way down the hallway to my bedroom only to be met by my five-year-old doing the pee pee dance. I escorted her to the bathroom and then to her bedroom, tucked her back in and kissed her goodnight. Checked the clock (4:27am) and plopped my body back into my own bed. Oh good, the husband didn’t hear a thing. He is sleeping soundly. I’m so glad the kids didn’t wake him. Sigh.
If kids sleeping through the night is any indication of parenting success, I am a complete and utter failure. I’m not saying we’re up every night, but we’re definitely not where I’d like to be in the “Please Sleep Through the Night Challenge.” And my kids are three and five!
So when do babies start sleeping fully through the night?
I believe there is no set age for which a baby should be sleeping through the night. In fact, to me it sounds almost illogical that we as a society have put these demands on ourselves to “train” our children to sleep when really we have little control over the outcome. Yes, when they’re young we can make sure they are fed and changed. We can develop a night time routine of bathing and rocking to sooth and calm them. We can make sure they are warm enough or cool enough by dressing them appropriately. We can accept teething for what it is- a nightmarish disaster in terms of ruining the months of hard work we just put in!! And when they’re a wee bit older, we can make sure they get plenty of exercise during the day. We can continue to give them a warm bath and start reading them books before bed.
But the bottom line remains: All kids are different. All families are different. Some are breast feeding, some are bottle feeding. Some are co-sleeping, some are crib sleeping. The sleep/wake development of children is more nature than nurture. Personally, my kids have never been great sleepers. I used to compare myself to other moms, but no more. I have found that for some reason we take pride in having a “good” baby who quickly takes to sleeping through the night. The pediatrician congratulates you, society congratulates you. Yet we feel shame if our child is not. Apparently because they haven’t conformed to the “newborn baby rule book.” The pediatrician is sometimes quick to judge and others often express opinions about what you may be doing wrong.
Unless there is an underlying medical reason your child is not sleeping through the night, there is no need to worry. Do the best you can to accommodate the needs of your baby and your family. If you know you’re kids aren’t great sleepers, go to bed an hour earlier each night or try and sneak in a nap during the day (if possible).
And if tonight, I find myself semi-conscious, wandering the halls of my home at 2:00am with one kid in my arms and one by the hand- I’m beelining it back to my bedroom and telling the hubby it’s his turn. It’s only fair.
There is reason to worry in that research has shown that children who do not get enough REM cycles in their sleep often have issues with short term working memory and other executive functioning issues. while I think good sleep comes easier for some babies and children I do think it is important to use routines and get kids to bed as early as possible at night to Promote good sleep.
I agree that we can do our best to establish routines for our kids. Thanks!
THANK YOU for helping to relieve a little of the pressure young moms feel to “train” their babies. Nothing makes me nuttier than hearing someone say they’re putting their baby on a “schedule” and “training” them to sleep through the night. You can’t train babies. They’re not puppies. (And, for the record, anyone who’s tried to train a puppy can tell you, you can’t train them to sleep through the night or hold their water in a crate until they’re old enough, either.)
This foolish notion of being able to teach infants to conform to our schedule needs to go away. My mom used to say “You can’t spoil a baby under a year old by holding them too much. They need to be held and nothing changes that.” Best advice I ever got.
I hear ya!!
Thanks so much for this! I hear so often how well everyone’s kids sleep and mine just don’t! Except the oldest (5 1/2) the 4 YO, 2 1/2 YO AND 7 mo old seen to take turns as to who can get mommy up the most!! Also, my favorite mention of the husband being undisturbed! Is it mean to enjoy forcing him to get up when I’m nursing the baby as one of the others wanders inti the bedroom, because I do 😉
It is not mean at all. I enjoy it as well. hehehehe
(Chuckling) Oh yes, the hubby sleeps through it all… My husband hears almost everything, but wears a c-pap, so thinks he gets out of getting up. Our 2 year old daughter, who is a BIG Papa’s girl, has begun requesting that Papa and ONLY Papa puts her back in bed. I find myself chuckling as I roll over and go back to sleep. (Ahhh, yes, there is a little amusement in there Maura.)
Thanks to 15 years as a nanny, I learned the value in developing rituals that children seem to find so much comfort in. Perhaps that has helped, but our daughter also seems to be very adaptable to her environment. It’s a wonderful disposition to have in a child.
I have found that our daughter’s sleeping through the night ebbs and flows. She started sleeping through the night at six weeks, which I loved, of course. But it wasn’t due to anything I did. I just considered myself extra blessed! As time has gone by, we’ve noticed that she wakes crying whenever she’s teething. She has pretty regular nightmare type of crying just before she’s going to have some sort of big leap intellectually. Otherwise, unless she’s getting sick, she sleeps fine.
Thanks for writing this blog Lisa… It’s so nice to have a mother out there who’s sharing her experiences without looking down her nose at the rest of us. I think it’s wonderful when women can come together just to share and leave the judgement behind. Life is too darn short for that nonsense!
I forgot about right before they are sick! And definitely teething throws them off. You are so sweet, Annette. Thank you. ♥
This is by far one of the best blog posts I have ever read! Thank you!!!
Personally, I feel it is the parents responsibility to allow their baby to ” self soothe” this ability gives your baby the ability to soothe him/herself back to sleep.
I have 3 and a half year old twins and a 12 week old…the only one who sleeps through the night is the husband ; )
I don’t know what your pediatrician is like, but mine is not a judge. In fact, everytime I come in with some crazy question – the reply is that it is normal. I do think that you need to try to establish a routine to keep your child healthy. Sleep is a must in order to maintain your health. Kids need to have a good night sleep. I am not saying that they cannot wake because it is normal in all individuals to naturally awaken throughout the night, whether it is to use the bathroom or just because.
oh you are so right. I often feel like i have “failed” when I admit neither of my boys sleep through the night. And the whole good baby who sleeps all night right away makes my skin crawl. Of course my non sleeping baby is good! He is a baby!
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