what do you mean, she’s not sleeping through the night?


Here is Maddie, sleeping peacefully and giving me (hopefully) half an hour to write before her brothers get home from school. Note to Sanctimommies: please hold your emails about how I shouldn’t let her have a doll, a crib bumper, or a blanket in there with her. If that doll was a killer, she would have made her move by now.

Here’s what I do want to talk about. This conversation, repeated numerous times in recent weeks:

WHOEVER: Awww. How old is she?
ME: Three months. Well, three and a half.
WHOEVER: Awww. She sleeping at night for ya?
ME: (chuckle) No.

Pause.

WHOEVER: She’s NOT?
ME: Um, no, not really.

Uncomfortable pause, until WHOEVER walks away, rejecting both of us utterly.

This happens to me all the time. ALL THE TIME. And I’m really not sure what is happening. In whose world is it unusual for an infant to get up at night?

I can attribute some of these strange reactions to “Whoever” being a guy, and/or from the Rice Cereal in the Bottle As Soon As Possible Generation, or to having memories grown fuzzy with the passage of time.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s a mom, as in a currently-with-young mom, who asks me if Maddie’s sleeping through the night. And when I say “No,” as in, “Of course not,” I still expect the knowing nod and a wink in return, the “I been there, sister!” sort of thing. Instead, I get this vaguely aghast stunned silence thing.

“Is YOUR baby sleeping through?” I finally asked one harried-looking first-time mother, in response.

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “My baby nurse has him going nine to nine, for a couple of weeks now.”

WHAT?

“Don’t tell my husband that,” I tittered nervously. But he was already at my elbow.

“Twelve hours a NIGHT?!” he said. “Amy! You have GOT to get Maggie on a schedule!”

“Her baby drinks FORMULA,” I hissed to him in the car on the way home, when he decided to revisit the topic of this Wonderful Mom and her Incredible Sleeping Baby. “It is NOT the same thing. And, if you ask me,” I sniffed, “twelve hours is much too long for a three-month-old, anyhow.”

But these are weak arguments, in my husband’s eyes. And, I must confess, in mine as well. If other babies are sleeping, then my baby could and should be also. So now I find myself in the same place I have been twice before: on top of getting up with the baby at night, I also have to feel bad about it.

My first child didn’t sleep through the night until he was ten months old. He had reflux, we got off to a bad start, and despite reading one hundred “how to get your baby to sleep through the night” books, despite rather concerted efforts on my part, that was how long it took. After about six months, I was actually embarrassed. When the pediatrician asked how he was sleeping, I lied and said, “Great,” so I wouldn’t get the eye roll. When everyone at playgroup talked about how great it was to be sleeping eight hours a night again, I avoided eye contact. At least strangers stopped asking me. By the time your baby is wearing 12-18’s, no one asks if he is sleeping through, since every other baby in the WORLD is by that age. I did nothing to correct that assumption.

Inside, however, I was screaming, “I was up four times with him last night! I was literally awake more than I was asleep! Do you want to see the chart?!” I wanted someone to pat me on the back for my hard work, to give me a little sympathy. A little comfort. A little “He will be sleeping soon. Why don’t you go take a nap?” Not “Overly wakeful children are the result of overindulgent parenting,” and all the other stuff the books were telling me.

I now KNOW that isn’t true. Because my second child was a champion sleeper, comparatively. And now my third sucks, comparatively. Having nursed three different babies, I should finally accept the lesson that each child is different, and the one common denominator is that they, and not I, are in charge.

But I’m getting pretty tired. And Babywise and “Ferberize” and The No-Cry Sleep Solution are calling to me from the bookshelf. I might just thumb through a couple of them and see what they say.

Somebody stop me.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

kgilgenberg February 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

I’m with you, sister! My baby didn’t sleep through the night either. You are not alone. Every baby is different and you’ll know what is best for her. Without doubt, people will have lots of advice, even if you don’t ask for it. Just trust yourself and take care of yourself. She will fall into a pattern eventually even though it may seem like forever. Please take care of yourself and try to rest when she does does off. Here’s my unsolicited advice, no dishes, no email, no anything. When she’s asleep, just lie down yourself, breathe and remember how lucky you are to have such a precious child. People will always have their judgments, but the only opinion that really matters is yours. You seem to be doing you best and that’s a very good thing.

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ayelet February 25, 2008 at 12:24 am

my son started sleeping through the night at 12 months but still wakes up betwen 4:30-5am….

i am soooooooooooo tired

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Amy February 27, 2008 at 7:44 pm

thank you both! We went to the pediatrician today and her doctor said, “Well, she’s big enough. When you’re ready, just close the door and don’t go back in till morning.” Then she added, “It can be hard.” Well, yeah, I thought, try heartrending. “Because you live in an apartment,” she continued. “People who live in houses have no problem at all.” Huh. I’m not going to tell my husband that the doctor said any of that. But I’m letting her cry, right now, while going down for a nap. It’s a start.

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Mollie April 30, 2008 at 3:22 pm

FYI: You missed a name substitution in this one.

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