In my Mommy Musings series, I answer questions from other moms. I would love to hear your thoughts as well, if you’ve been through something similar! Today’s question is about sleep, one of my favorite topics because I think I can bring some loving reality to attachment parents who are drowning in a sea of Ferberizing advice.
“Could we talk about babies and sleep? I am wondering if we are really way off the charts here. Some people have found our situation so unusual they started sleep training advice.
My beautiful son is 7 months old today and is a frequent feeder and a poor napper compared to other babies I know (who have usually been Ferberized). I feed him to sleep for naps where he’ll sleep for 20 minutes, then wake up, and sometimes go back to sleep after I nurse him. I also feed for every night waking (every 2 hours or so). He is usually calm throughout this and goes down with a minimum of fuss, but my sleep is VERY interrupted.
We have tried having my husband settle him without me feeding, but either he works himself up into a full-fledged meltdown (at which point I feed him), or he wakes up completely and needs 20-30 mins of rocking to go back down (which is way more exhausting than just feeding in the first place).
Ah, sleep. Everyone warns you about poopy diapers and childbirth, and no one tells you about sleep (except for the first few months). Well, in my experience, my boys started pooping in the toilet at 6 months, and the 2nd time around, childbirth was a walk in the park. But sleep? Forget it. My first boy, Franklin, was the worst sleeper in the world. Naps were 15 minutes, and he’d wake every 30 minutes at night. You can read all about it in my High Needs Baby series.
My second boy, Nicholas, was a sweetheart of a baby who would fall asleep while I’d gently run my hand over his hair and down to his eyes to get them to close. I’d watch him fall asleep on the bed unassisted — what a change after my first high needs child! But, at 6 weeks, he hit the fussy stage, and wouldn’t sleep unless he was rocked. I knew by now that all the “he will never learn to sleep on his own” and “he will get hooked on the swinging” horror stories were complete crap. Sorry, but my poor sleeper now goes to sleep after a story and a kiss, in his own bed. I don’t nurse him, or swing him, or rock him, or anything at all. Often, daddy does the whole routine on his own because I’m busy with baby. Moms, don’t believe all the scary anecdotes people tell you. If they have so much free time that they can stand around giving advice, they might as well clean your floors. Give them a vacuum cleaner, and watch while your nurse your baby.
Nicholas, my easy baby, starting to feel separation anxiety at around 6 months, and wanted to touch everything, put everything in his mouth, and had ideas of his own he couldn’t quite express. He was frustrated. As a result, it was harder for him to settle down, and he would wake up more frequently at night to make sure I’m there (and then he wanted the boob).
And you know what? I think it’s perfectly normal. Anthropological studies found that children don’t sleep through the night for the first 3 years or so of their life. They also breastfeed for that long. Hmm… Interesting coincidence. Or is it? I remember a Facebook post by a mom who was wondering when her 13 months old daughter would sleep through the night. She mentioned that they coslept and breastfed on demand. I typed: “I don’t know a single child who cosleeps and breastfeeds, and sleeps through the night. Not that I’d do it any other way!”. 2 minutes later, I already had 25 Likes.
Yes, sure, you can teach your child that when he’s in his crib, and the lights are off, then you’re off duty. You can tell yourself that parenting is something we do during the day, and not during the night, or that having your children sleep all night at 6 months is part of parenting. Honestly, we all have different lives, different environments, different challenges. I’m not saying there’s one way of doing things for every mom. But for this mom, cosleeping, breastfeeding, and not sleeping through the night are par for the course.
Yes, it sucks, sometimes. I was reading a story to my 4 year old today, and was yawning every 3 pages. I’m not always like that, but we had a party at the house last night to celebrate my husband’s birthday, and when I went to bed, I still had to Google the finale for How I Met Your Mother (because Marshall and Lilly got pregnant in 2010, which is when I gave birth, and I watched them have their baby in 2015. I told you my first baby was difficult!).
Usually, though, I do just fine. How? Because I don’t want to punish my baby for being a baby. He needs to nurse and be with me. That’s how it is. If I’m tired, my solution isn’t to sleep train my baby. I need to change the world around my baby to accommodate his needs. He’s developing at lightning speed, and he’s a priority right now. He won’t be small for ever.
Every 2 weeks, a housekeeping team cleans my house. I go grocery shopping once a week to save time. I simplify my life. I eat really well. Mama, take care of yourself. Read a book when baby does sleep. When he’s awake, put him in a sling and walk in nature. Get together with other moms, and laugh about how crazy it all is. Baby might be a bit fussy, but you’ll be talking to women who get you, and it will all be easier than if you were at home with the same fussy baby. Have your partner or a friend do your dishes, or cook for you. Get take out. Take a bath. Go to bed at 7 pm with your baby, and ignore all the people who tell you you have no life.
In a few years, your child won’t be breastfeeding. He won’t be sleeping with you anymore. It’s exactly what happened with Franklin. And, like his brother, I know Nicholas will grow up to be a confident, strong boy. It will all pay off. I know it will, because it did the first time around. I’m so glad I followed my heart. And, no matter what you do, please follow yours. It’s the only thing that will matter when your kids are grown.