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Can We Stop Talking About How My Baby Doesn't Sleep Through the Night?

Photograph by Twenty20

Parents of newborns hate to be asked whether their baby is sleeping through the night. And yet: everyone asks. Everyone.

I'm no exception.

My daughter was breastfed and nursed on demand. Maybe it was the years of infertility that drove my anxiety up about this, but I always went to her when she needed me at night. At first it was every 2 hours around the clock, which stretched into 4 and, eventually, she was down to waking one to two times a night by her first birthday.

When she was around 3 months, I started being asked by well-meaning friends and family if she was sleeping through the night yet. Some were relatively new moms themselves, and I knew they were asking more out of solidarity than anything. But it seemed like others just wanted to ask in order to quickly follow with, “She's old enough now to go longer than that!”

My daughter was never one to want to spend her whole night sleeping with me, but if she wasn’t in bed with me, she was within arms reach for her first 7 months. It was so much easier to grab her at night and nurse her than it was to try and shush her back to sleep. When she moved into her crib in her own room, I continued to get up with her when she would cry. Usually it was just once, and nursing lulled her back to sleep, at which point I would go back to bed.

The truth is, I didn’t have the heart to implement any sort of sleep training.

Eventually my husband, saint that he is, would get up and bring her to me because he was one of those lucky people that would immediately fall back asleep. I would nurse her in bed, and then return her to her crib.

Along the way, the comments continued, and it honestly stressed me out. Not that I thought I was doing anything wrong by catering to my baby, but that because I wasn’t sleep training her. The message seemed to be that it was my fault when she would wake twice a night at 9 months old.

The truth is, I didn’t have the heart to implement any sort of sleep training. How could I deny her nursing when it was the easiest thing for both of us to be able to go right back to sleep?

“She doesn’t need the milk anymore at night.”

“You need to help her learn to comfort herself instead of nursing.”

“You’re creating a bad habit. You both need your sleep.”

I get it. Some babies are teeny tiny hellions, and sleep training is best for all parties. But I couldn’t do it. My daughter is almost 20 months, and I still can’t. I’ve always let her take the lead at night, and the only time she was denied her mother was when I spent the night away from her. (She wasn’t too happy about that.) Sure, some people are rolling their eyes at me. I get told all the time that I’m setting myself up for years of sleep issues.

I don’t care.

Maybe it was the years I spent struggling to even have a baby. Maybe it’s my anxiety. Whatever it is, I’m going to continue to meet her needs for comfort at night for as long as we are able to. Maybe that makes me a sucker, but really: my baby, my rules.

And I’ve stopped caring what others think when it comes to my night life. Eventually, she will sleep. Eventually, these nights of waking up to comfort her will be a thing of the past, and she will become a teenager who hates me anyways. So I’m going to cherish these midnight nursing sessions for as long as we need them.

Besides, I subscribe Amazon and get coffee deliveries every few months. Don't worry about me. I’m good.

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