One of the most asked questions I get lately is, “Is baby sleeping through the night?” If it’s not that question then I hear, “How does baby sleep?” and I always have to answer back with “no” and “he’s not.” Those answers are always followed with a sad look in the questioners eyes like I just told them something they didn’t expect me to say.
Your baby sleeping through the night seems to be some sort of badge of parenthood — like you’re doing something right if they don’t sleep consistently within the first few weeks of life. It’s one that I have never achieved with any of my children within at least the first year, and I don’t expect to with Silver any time soon. I am okay with that now that I am parenting my fourth child, but this no-sleep thing was much harder on me when I was parenting my oldest and only child. We made a lot of mistakes along the way.
If you’re struggling to get your baby to sleep — here are three mistakes I made and what I’m doing differently now.
1. Stressed out about it
It might seem silly, but being asked those “Sleeping yet?” questions all the time made me feel like maybe I wasn’t doing a good job — that I wasn’t a good mother because my baby and I were lacking sleep. In the delicate postpartum period, especially for a first-time mom, I had no idea that it wasn’t really an expectation, and by stressing out about it I just made it a lot worse.
Now, I don’t stress about those sleep questions and answer honestly by saying I am not expecting to sleep any time soon and that is okay. Letting go of that stress helped me focus more on the positives and not let the kids’ lack of sleep define how good I was at being their mom.
2. Didn’t have a routine
I know that babies don’t really have predictable routines, especially in the first few weeks, but that doesn’t mean some routine can’t help. I didn’t have any sort of bedtime routine with my older child when he was a baby. When I chatted with other moms about his lack of sleeping, putting a sleep routine in place helped them.
Now with Silver, we have a very strict sleep routine, and while he doesn’t sleep for large amounts of time, at 3 months old he seems to recognize when it’s down time and nearing bed time. It doesn’t matter how tired we are or how packed our day is, if we don’t stick to the night time routine for Silver, he will sleep even less. Right now we start the routine with a warm epsom bath that he and I take in the tub (he uses the Angelcare Bath Tub Support, which works wonders for shared baths), then we nurse, swaddle, and cuddle in the rocking chair. He will drift off to sleep and I’ll place him in his bassinet set up right next to our bed.
3. Unrealistic expectations
Not only did I stress over my children not getting enough sleep, looking back I had really unrealistic expectations on what baby’s sleep looks like. I thought that he would have been sleeping for 8-12 hours at a time at night by 6 weeks. My oldest child didn’t start doing that until well into his third year of life. I had expectations that when we started on solid food he would sleep better, but when we tried all the “tricks” and nothing worked, I got even more frustrated.
Now, with Silver I don’t have those unrealistic expectations anymore. I know that it is healthy and normal for him to wake a handful of times at night in order to eat and that is okay. We do what we can to help him sleep better, like making sure his routine is there and he’s tightly swaddled (we use the Miracle Blanket now that he’s a bit older and he loves it). I know that even if those strangers who ask about his sleep look surprised that he’s not sleeping as much as an adult, I’m not going to expect that until he’s a teenager.
:: What does your baby’s sleep routine look like? Share in the comments! ::
Photo credits: © Devan McGuinness
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Devan is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and four kids. No, those aren’t her kids real names — they’re online pseudonyms. Read more from Devan on Babble and “like” Accustomed Chaos on Facebook!