We’ve all had the question whether from people we know or strangers who stop us to admire our babies, usually it starts getting asked at around the three month mark “so do they sleep through the night?” I’ve always hated being asked that question and as I’m sure I’m not alone in finding out, when your answer is no the advice flows all to freely from people’s mouths. “Give them water, let them cry, reduce the amount of milk each night” or in some cases no advise and simply an unhelpful comment like “oh they should be by now, mine did/do”.
Well I sit writing this post at 3.30am having just given my 14 months old twins a night feed and listening to one now scream for no apparent reason. Does this mean that I have failed? Being asked the ‘sleeping through the night’ question by every Tom Dick and Harry for over a year would imply that it is pretty much a corner stone to people’s view of successful parenting or a ‘well behaved’ baby. This expectation that all babies should sleep through the night by at the latest a few months old has certainly given me sleepless nights and often made me feel like I must be doing something wrong.
In the past I have made excuses for my babies, like they were doing something that needed excusing! These have included the fact they were premature and so really are two-three months behind, the fact they are teething, the fact one has bad ears and so is often in pain, the fact they co sleep together so one wakes the other and whatever else I thought a plausible reason at the time. I have felt under pressure to explain myself and my babies and as the months rolled by I felt ashamed to say no they don’t.
This is complete and utter madness! All babies are totally different and undoubtedly lots are in solid routines and sleep through on a pretty consistent basis from a couple of months old, this was the case for most of my friends, But a lot don’t. I’ts taken me three and a half years to find out that I’m far from alone in my night feed nightmare and in fact I meet more and more mums who’s babies still don’t sleep through.
In the past the feeling of failure and to be honest sheer exhaustion has gotten so bad that I have tried peoples advice in an attempt to make them sleep through. I’ve given less milk and then water and I’ve let the boys cry, but when I couldn’t stand hearing them scream any longer and when I couldn’t bear being awake a second more I fed them and they settled straight away. Feeling I’ve failed yet again I’ve taken to parenting support groups only to be told by some mums “I didn’t let them cry long enough” or I “didn’t try hard enough” it was at this point I realised did it really matter?
I am the one getting up in the night not the stranger on the bus or the family member who keeps on asking! These are my babies and if they want a bottle whether through hunger or just comfort or simply down to routine then they can have it, I cannot and will not leave my babies to scream simply because I am exhausted. My view is that children aren’t easy, they aren’t made to fit neatly into our lives and routines and so if they don’t sleep well or want a bottle then that’s just life, trying to force them into my routine or what suites me personally isn’t something I feel able to do.
I hold onto the beliefs that they will get there when they are good and ready, my eldest did when he was 13 months with no prompting from us. Of course it’s hard me and my husband are knackered and frustrated but it doesn’t mean we have failed as parents or that our babies are badly behaved, they are simply babies.
So now when people ask me if the boys sleep through I simply say “no and that’s ok”.