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Why I'm Not Sleep Training My Toddler

"Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?" It's like a motherhood rite of passage to be able to proudly reply, "Yes, he sleeps eight hours every night."

At the age of 31, I have had two children and I feel like I have changed more in the four years between those two children than in the previous 27. My beliefs about what makes a good parent have changed radically. So, by necessity, my approach to motherhood has also changed.

After the birth of my oldest child, who is now five, I quickly gave up co-sleeping when he seemed to wake too often in the night. And so the sleep training began.

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I downloaded an app for my phone and tracked every nursing session, every nap, every time he woke up in the night. I was ready to fire back statistics at every Well Check. "Yes, Doctor, he averages 5.3 wet diapers every day." The training went well, and at six weeks he gave me my first night of seven hours' straight sleep. I felt very much in control of our schedule, and I was exhausted. I got used to having lots of sleep, and counted on it, so if he did wake in the night or take a shorter nap than usual, it really messed me up.

So even though I'm waking up all night long, the sleep I do get is deeper and more peaceful.

When our second baby arrived 18 months ago, we tried co-sleeping again. This time, we were both able to sleep comfortably and the night wakings didn't feel like a big issue. In fact, I woke up feeling far more rested after nursing her several times in the night than I did when I had a sleep-trained baby.

I'm sure part of that is just that I don't wake up in the night listening hard to the monitor to make sure my baby is still alive. She's lying right next to me, so I can feel her stomach rising and falling. I don't have to worry about technology malfunctioning. So even though I'm waking up all night long, the sleep I do get is deeper and more peaceful. People give me the side eye when they hear that my toddler still sleeps with me and nurses throughout the night. But seriously, being mentally prepared to roll with the punches and tend to her whenever she needs it has proved far more restful for me than to create a schedule for an infant and insist they stick with it.

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I have no idea when I will get another solid night's sleep. And honestly I don't really care. I never knew that a family could be so happy with an arrangement like this, but we are. And I do know for sure that one day I will miss these nights of spontaneous snuggles, so I refuse to wish them away. Every baby is different, and every mother is different. If you and your baby are not enjoying the arrangement you've got going, maybe it's time for a change.

Image via Sarah Kovac

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