When Sleeping through the Night Can Wait

When Sleeping through the Night Can Wait

I believe that sleep is a learned skill. That teaching your baby to sleep is a gift you are giving him — when he is well-rested, he is happier, more alert, better able to learn new skills, and fully present in the world around him. I am aware that my belief is rooted in my surroundings of a culture that promotes sleep independence and believes babies should sleep independently from an early age. And I am also aware that other cultures believe babies should sleep with their mothers for greater bonding, attachment, and overall well-being. Nevertheless, I still hold my beliefs that sleep independence is best for my babies and myself. I do not do well on little sleep, and have always been proud that my “secret” in life is getting enough sleep!

Enter motherhood. Sleep –particularly uninterrupted nighttime sleep– is now a valuable commodity. It is hard to come by and when it does come, it never seems to last for long. My response has been to deal with the sleep deprivation as long as I possibly can, and then to resort to drastic sleep training measures, that for me have had quick and easy results. The grand prize = the elusive “sleeping through the night.”

But after the training, after the fog of major sleep deprivation lifts, there are inevitably pockets of time where we find ourselves back at the beginning. Back to waking up multiple times a night with new problems — teething, illness, separation anxiety, travel, need for comfort, growth spurts, milk supply issues, and more. It is impossible to know the reason my baby is not sleeping, but one thing is for sure. He needs me.

In these moments when I decide that my baby needs me, there is no book or website that can tell me what to do or how to get him to sleep. I use my intuition as a mother and do what is best for my baby (and me) in that moment. Lately, I have found myself enjoying the snuggles, the late night feeds, the 2 AM bounces on the yoga ball, and I surprisingly consider myself lucky that for one more night my sweet baby will let me have those snuggles. Because sooner or later he will be too big for me to hold and rock and nurse in the middle of the night — my days with him as a baby are numbered — so for now, sleeping through the night can wait.

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