In those early months, after answering the questions on age, weight and name, mums often get asked, “Is your baby sleeping well?”
Then, there’s the conversation with other mums comparing how many hours your baby is sleeping with theirs.
And, as a result, mums often start to feel that your baby should be sleeping through. I know because I have been there and I have seen mums in tears because their baby is not ‘being good’ by doing what the other babies are doing – sleeping 7pm to 7am.
In the last week, Alex has just started to sleep between 11 and 13 hours a night. He is 16 and a half months old. That may seem very old to be sleeping through the night to some mums but I know of quite a number whose toddlers and older ones are not yet sleeping through the night, so I feel very blessed that I am getting unbroken sleep.
What was my secret to getting Alex to stop waking up? Sorry, but I don’t have one. I honestly feel that there is no magic formula. There are things that can encourage them – such as a regular bedtime, not letting them sleep after 3pm (if over 1 year), right room temperature etc. – but there is no trick that I can give you. If there was, I would be sharing my expert knowledge.
There are many out there that do claim to have the secret and are selling books and courses to mums who are desperate for sleep. I admit to have a couple upstairs and trying a few of their ideas with Nathaniel. What I learned from the experiences of reading and trying different techniques was that both Nathaniel and I ended up in tears night after night as I tried to get a baby to sleep who wasn’t ready to sleep for that length of time.
With Alex, I decided that I wasn’t going to read any books and just go with the flow. It has meant that he hasn’t slept through the night until 16 months but the nights have been far more bearable than with Nathaniel as I have given him what he wants and he has fallen asleep quicker, meaning better nights for us to both. Rather than being up three times a night for an hour a time trying to get Nathaniel to self-settle, I have been up three times a night for ten minutes a time feeding Alex.
Alex has taken nearly 17 months to go through the night but I believe that he would have taken this long no matter what books I read or sleep training technique that I used. The positive is that despite my sleep being broken, I haven’t spent one night stressing about Alex not sleeping through the night like other babies. As a mum with teenagers, I know that they all sleep through eventually and then you have the new problem or not being able to wake them up!
My children have all slept through at different ages despite doing the same before bed and during the night:
Michael – 8 weeks, Natasha – 7 weeks, Kaiya – 4 months, Hannah – 7 months, Nathaniel – 14 months and Alex – 16 months
Why? They are all different. As adults, we all have different sleep patterns – some of us need 6 hours and some need 9 hours, some of us are night owls and others early birds. If we are different, why is it so much of a surprise that babies are too. Some will sleep for long stretches and others in short stretches. Trying to force them to do what is not natural causes stress and tears for both mum and baby.
That said, I am obviously very happy to have had solid sleep for the last week. Although, I am realistic enough to know that a cold or new tooth and sleep will be out of the window again.
I hope that instead of making other mums feel as if they are doing something wrong or that there baby isn’t ‘good’, that mums can support each other. Being sleep deprived is hard enough as it is without feeling as though you should be doing something that you are not. So if you know a mum who has a non-sleeping baby, don’t judge, advise or criticise. Just be an ear or offer to help in a practical way. And, if you are a mum of a baby who likes to be awake during the night, be gentle with yourself – you are doing a great job.