I Don’t Want My Baby to Sleep Through the Night

That annoying question that everyone inevitably asks new parents.

“How does he sleep at night?”

It is a very loaded question. It doesn’t take into account the fact that

a) it is none of their business

b) no two babies are the same

And most importantly…

c) maybe I don’t actually WANT my baby to sleep through the night.

Well, kind of. I miss sleep I really do. Gone are the days of sleeping in until I feel like rolling out of bed. Gone are the days of staying up late because I can. I have accepted and embraced this new (sleepless) life. I have evolved into a new kind of human who needs only a few hours of sleep every few days in order to fully function. I signed up for parenting, and this is just one part of my new appointment. The fact is, night nursing makes up for the extended time that we are forced to be apart during the day, while I am away at work. I have come to not only accept the night waking, but to really learn to appreciate it.

In this acceptance, I have learned to love these quiet nighttime moments between Baby J and I. In the middle of the night, when all the lights are out and the house is quiet, I sleepwalk (stumble) across the hall, to find him reaching up with his eyes closed. That sweet “mmm mmm” sound of calling out to mama. Wishing only to be cuddled close to my heart. The night is quiet and still. It is a scary place to wake up and find oneself all alone. He has not yet come to understand that he is not ever truly alone, and he never will be.

Until very recently, we loved co-sleeping. It was an amazing way to bond at night (for the whole family), and it allowed me to get more sleep because I never had to get out of bed. The minute J learned to crawl it was a game changer. He is a non-stop, all over the place, climbing, crawling, jumping, playing, little animal. I absolutely adore his curiosity. However, at this point allowing him to sleep in bed with us would be irresponsible. Which is what lead us to (reluctantly) put J back into his own crib.

After a few weeks “in-transition”, we have now gone from waking up every 2-3 hours to an 8 hour stretch followed by 3 more hours before waking up for the day, bright and early at 6:00 AM!

With this sleep milestone, I am very surprised about the emotions I have been feeling. I find myself waking up at night a number of times missing him. I get up to check on him often thinking of how quickly he is growing from a baby to a boy. Something I wanted so badly, a full night of sleep, turned out to actually be quite bittersweet.

Now, when he does wake in the middle of the night, I can think to myself “I will miss these moments”.

I will miss being awoken by his sweet cries. I will miss how he nuzzles into the crook of my neck with a soft sigh of relief when I scoop him up. I will miss the feeling of his body relaxing as I gently sway back and forth.

{shh shh shhhh}

I will miss his intent searching and the pucker of his lips. So dramatic, so determined. As he searches, eyes closed, like he is still in a dream, looking for the comfort of nursing in his mother’s arms.

I will miss his arms wrapping around me. His warm skin. I will miss our gentle embrace that brings assurance and calm. Mama is here, it’s OK to sleep. You are not alone.

I will miss the moment he softly drifts back to sleep. I wonder if he’s dreaming?  I lay him down, ever so lightly, so as not to disturb him. Never before have I seen a face so soft, so serene, so innocent. Completely content, completely secure. Lost in sleep, with a full belly.

Although there are moments I feel overwhelmed with exhaustion. I take in moments like these and sigh. I remind myself that this moment is fleeting. Soon he will grow from a baby to a boy, and a boy to a man. Soon he won’t cry for me at night. He won’t long for my presence when he finds himself alone in the dark. Soon his warm little body won’t fit perfectly like a puzzle piece in my arms.

We are led to believe that babies are “supposed” to sleep through the night. Everything we do as parents is in some way related to encouraging our babies to learn to live on our schedules. As a working mom, I get it. We are exhausted. Getting up multiple times a night, only to ultimately answer to our alarm clock screaming almost as loud as the baby is just a few short hours later, is brutal.Moms need sleep, to function, to work, to take care of our children. That is a fact. But at what cost? The attitude that our children can and should sleep through the night causes parents to feel like complete failures when they feel that their children are somehow not “normal”. Parents try everything from giving formula or solids, which could lead to an unwanted drop in milk supply, to questionable CIO practices encouraged by their own pediatricians, in an attempt to encourage them to sleep longer.

All of this anger, resentment, perceived failure. It all takes away from these precious moments we have with our children. It’s not always fun, and it is certainly not ever easy. But it is beautiful, and amazing, and a complete blessing. God does not gift us with life to take for granted. He wants us to find peace, and love, and joy even in the hardest moments.