On sleep

"Is he sleeping through the night yet?"

You have no idea how tired I am of that question. (The answer's No.) "Nighttime parenting" is something I've prioritized but not stressed over. We're all getting enough sleep. We're fine. I'm not a zombie during the day. Everyone's healthy & happy. I'm baffled at the number of strangers who seem to be concerned, though. Today's post on the NYT's parenting blog was so refreshing:
Over the years I’ve learned some practical things about sleep, but what I’ve really figured out is that teaching my children to sleep isn’t a litmus test for good babies or good mothering. Rather, teaching them to sleep is about establishing a relationship of care even when it is exhausting and difficult and I worry that it will never end. It is about sacrificing my desire to get back to “normal” life and relinquishing my hopes to conform my children to a set of rules I read in a book. 
Moreover, I trust that these moments are preparing me for the years ahead, when yet again I will realize that raising my children has less to do with getting it right and more to do with loving them well.
Read the whole thing. Please.

This Mother's Day weekend, I hope I remember this: The point isn't 'sleeping through the night'- it's responding to my son's needs and loving him well. I'm doing my best, and, so far, so good.


Whitney said...

People are just trying to make conversation ... there's not always a ton to ask about at this stage since babies aren't crawling, talking, teething ... so I don't think they mean it as a criticism about you (or sweet Elliot) at all. Just an innocent question:) He's a doll!

affectioknit said...

I totally agree...it really is all about loving our children well...We never let Scout cry himself back to sleep as some people suggested and he didn't sleep through the night until he was 13 1/2 months old (when he weaned himself from breastfeeding)...but I cherished all our time together nursing, cuddling, and rocking in the wee small hours...

Joanna said...

Whitney - I know people aren't being critical on purpose, I'm just hyper-aware that my answer isn't what they're expecting because I'm asked so often! We're obviously all happy and well-rested, so I'll let them draw their own conclusions :)

affectioknit- you're so sweet! I do cherish my time reconnecting with E overnight, since I'm away from him during the day.

Kacie said...

PFFT! First of all, medically "sleeping through the night" is defined as a 5-hour stretch. I think we have hit this milestone with Viv but I don't know for sure. I try not to pay attention to how many times I wake up or what time it is.

But I think most people think it means sleeping for 8+ hours.

It just isn't reasonable to expect a little baby to sleep that long. Breastmilk is digested quickly and they are probably hungry!

You might remember that Johnny was an old thing before he really slept from bedtime until after the sun came up. Sometimes it just takes awhile.

Out of all the babies born around the time Vivienne was born, I only know of 1 baby who sleeps for a really long stretch, and that isn't even every night. The rest of us are up.

But yeah I think people are trying to make conversation more than anything, since the babies don't do a whole lot yet.

Corinne said...

I just read a post on the "myth" of sleeping through the night. Argues that sleeping through the night is a cultural rather than a biological milestone. http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/the-myth-of-sleeping-through-the-night/

Joanna said...

Kacie - When people ask 'Is he sleeping through the night?', I've considered just answering Yes, since he gets a 5 hour stretch sometimes. Maybe the questions will stop after that :-P

Corinne- Yes! I know there's nothing WRONG with the fact we haven't tried to get E sleeping all night, it just seems so counter-cultural. Nothin' wrong with that, of course.

alissa said...

i always got slightly annoyed by that question with sam, mostly because i *was* a zombie during the day and people seemed to think that the issue was breastfeeding or co-sleeping, and if i would just wean him or put him in his crib in a room across the hall, all of my sleep issues would be solved. it annoyed me that i felt like people were insinuating that i was doing something *wrong* and if i weren't so stupid i could figure it out and get him to sleep "like a normal baby" (i.e. a crib-sleeping bottle-fed baby who was left to CIO at a young age). i *was* tired and i longed so much for some quality sleep but i also knew in my heart that i was doing what i needed to do to parent my little boy well, even though at times it really sucked. and i knew that a lot of it was just who he was a person, and not my parenting. even now as a 2 y.o. he fights sleep and wakes up at night and resists napping.

with henry i am a little more laid back when i am asked that question. i know that eventually he will sleep (and so will we) and that he is quite normal, despite what "the books" say.

i am a little spoiled by him though. in general he doesn't fight sleep nearly as much as sam did and he usually gives me a 4-5 hour stretch at night. he naps easily, too.

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

I love this post (and share the link on Facebook :-)). I got that question from strangers all the time, too. Once when I responded "not yet", one person told me to give her rice milk (at 2 months old). I appreciated their attempt to be friendly, but I do get tired of unsolicited parenting advice. :-)

AnneK said...

I came here from Ashely's link on fb. My son didn't "sleep through the night" until he was 16 months old. Till then, he slept with us (in the middle) on our bed. Then one day, just like that he slept in his own crib for 11 hours. Few people had advised me to let him cry it out, but that is not something I was comfortable with. I used to smile and thank for the advice, but always knew certain things would not be my mothering style. Even now at 21 months, if he cries in the night, I get him. To my memory, I have never complained about him not sleeping through the night and I do not regret getting up the many times I did through the months.

Your baby is adorable!


Stacy said...

You know I hate that question too...that and the "is she a good baby?" question. Yes people are probably just trying to make conversation...but we need to find new random questions. We rock, feed to sleep and other such "bad" things that all the books and dr. tells you not to do. We wake up about 2-4 times a night every 4 to 3 hours - 5 or more if we are lucky - not eyes really open or anything (on her part) just squirmy enough to eat and then knock back out thank goodness.


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