sleep baby sleep

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.

dr. lisa