Let’s Talk About Sleep

One day, a couple months after Potato was born, I was standing in line at the Post Office waiting to pick up a package. Potato was in the stroller, and I was happily minding my own business, like most normal citizens of this country do while in public. Then it happened:

“Ohhh, he’s so cute! How old is he?”

I quickly snapped out of my daze, smiled, and answered this strangers question.

But that wasn’t the end of it. She then went on to ask me if he was breastfeeding, if his Dad was happy to have a boy, and the golden question that still to this day drives me nuts-

“How is he/she sleeping?” 

 Being inexperienced with such questions, I quickly said, “Um, okay, I guess”.  Let me tell you something, THAT is absolutely the wrong thing to say. This perfect stranger went on a rant about making sure I let him “cry a healthy” amount, that I should NEVER nurse him to sleep, and heaven forbid I even think about rocking him to sleep at night. 
I realized that mentioning that we were co-sleeping was probably a terrible idea, so I smiled, nodded, and cursed the inefficiency of Canada Post. 
We continued to be asked that question until Potato slept through the night. Then no one cared anymore. No one asks me how he is sleeping anymore, because well, he sleeps fine, and there isn’t an opportunity to tell me a) The Hubby and I are doing something wrong, or b) insert random, unnecessary advice, or what sleep training book/method we should look at. 
Potato’s sleep issues, like I had always said eleventy billion times over, were something that no amount of crying it out, or sleep training would have solved. He actually had a medical “condition” that needed to be repaired. I had several doctors confirm that his night wakings were more then likely connected to the pain he was in. 
Potato sleeping in his jumper after waking up at a ridiculous hour.
Can you imagine HOW happy I was to know that I was NOT the problem with my troublesome sleeper? I wanted to go find every stranger, friend or family member who had accused me of being the reason why he wasn’t sleeping or told me he never would if I didn’t train him to sleep. I wanted to laugh at them and say, “SEE! My Mommy instincts were right! HA!” 
Of course, I didn’t do that, as much as I wanted to 😉
Now Girlie is here. Would you believe not even 12 hours after she was born, I was asked “how she was sleeping?” I actually laughed at the person asking, and just said, I had no idea since she was born not even 24 hours prior. Even my 15 year old brother, who has NO experience with babies, and sleeping, asks me how she is sleeping.  I don’t think he even really cares, but he seems to think this is the best question to ask when talking to me about Girlie.
The question comes frequently. Especially from those who know how much we struggled with sleep issues with Potato. If you ever asked me this question when Potato was younger, you would have gotten a novel of an answer. I felt this strange need to explain myself, because deep down, because of all the opinions, and advice that came flying at me, I felt like I was doing something wrong. I wanted everyone to know it wasn’t my fault, and we were just letting him do his own thing. This time, I’ve evolved. I don’t feel compelled to explain to the random stranger in the grocery store how my baby is sleeping and why.
I simply answer, “Oh, she’s sleeping like a baby.” Clever, right? I mean, the saying really indicates that she is sleeping well, soundly, and fabulous, but let’s be serious, that quote only furthers the stereotype that babies sleep perfectly. Girlie does not sleep perfectly- she sleeps like a baby. Like a REAL baby.
My Girlie sleeps EXACTLY how a breastfed baby should sleep…Wait, delete that. She sleeps exactly how SHE should sleep.
She wakes up frequently to feed for a length of time, then goes back to sleep, and is up again after a short while. Some nights the wakings are more frequent, but I assume, she is in need of comfort, or food.  Which is all baby’s are capable of doing, really. Eating, snuggling, pooping, and sleeping.
Our society is obsessed with baby sleep habits. No one asks grown adults, on a daily basis, with pity in their eyes, how they slept the night before, or if they slept through the night. It’s just the babies we’re obsessed with in terms of sleep. It’s like someone decided that all babies should come out of the womb knowing how to sleep, and if they don’t we need to train them, or there is something wrong with them. Reality is, babies are supposed to wake more frequently through the night. Their tummies are smaller, and especially with breastfed babies, the nutrients are absorbed into the body quite efficiently.
Picture taken courtesy of Lorelei Hoffarth Photography
BUT, go to your local bookstore, go to the baby book section, and you will find it lined with sleep training books. All of them claiming their method will work to make your baby sleep, all of them claiming your baby needs to be trained to sleep, all of them making sleep deprived mothers salivate at the mouth, fantasizing about 12 full hours of sleep (even pre-baby I never got that amount of sleep)! Reality is, it’s a business, and these “experts”, realized there was a market for sleep deprived parents, who wanted yet another book to tell them what to do with their baby. Forget trusting your instincts, we’ll tell you what to do with your baby that we’ve never seen, met, and don’t know as intimately as you do…but it comes with a price (literally). Then when this works, go tell all your friends about this method, and make those friends who don’t want to buy our books feel like crap for choosing not to “help” their baby sleep.
Add to that the constant stream of advice from well meaning family members, friends and strangers. No wonder Mom’s feel so crappy about their baby’s sleep habits. People are making them feel like it’s their fault, like it’s something they did. When really, babies sleeping in small increments is built into them, it’s instinctual, and biological. Has society really blinded us to the point where we truly believes baby’s should all sleep the way adults do? Or really, even better then we do?
Someone I know once said that there should be a book about the benefits of not sleep training, of allowing your baby to figure it out on your own, and I couldn’t have agreed more. The truth is, this period of time, this lack of sleep is just but a fleeting moment. I know when Potato finally started sleeping through the night, I found myself missing him, missing those quiet moments in the middle of the night when he would snuggle me, and sigh gently. It all goes by so fast, and they, those non-sleeping, normal babies, really do figure it out eventually. 
Girlie is sleeping like she should be. Like we did with  Potato, we will co-sleep. She won’t ever cry it out, nor will she be sleep “trained”. We will rock her, she will be nursed to sleep if she needs it, and I will wake up with her when she needs to wake up in the middle of the night.
The next time you see a new mom, don’t ask her about her baby’s sleep habits. Ask her how she is enjoying motherhood, or how she is enjoying her new little baby. Leave the sleep questions out of it, and maybe we’ll all sleep better at night 😉

2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sleep

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