Shortly after my daughter’s first birthday, I was chatting with a new mom. I remember the point in the conversation when she told me her daughter was sleeping 12 hours a night at three months old because, after hearing that, I’m pretty sure I tuned out the rest of the conversation as my thoughts started to spiral.
You see, I had read every article and book on how to get my baby to sleep. But no matter what I tried, she only wanted to sleep if she was close to me and woke up so often every night that no amount of coffee in the morning could save me from my grogginess. Heck, my daughter is five now and still wakes up sometimes in the middle of the night, even though she goes back to sleep right away.
The first time I heard that a friend’s baby sleeps through the night, I only heard one thing: “It’s my fault.” Surely, there was some magic formula I hadn’t discovered yet. If other moms could get their babies to sleep through the night, I must be doing something wrong. But as a more experienced mom now, I realize how far from the truth that was.
All Babies Are Different, and That’s Okay
As my second child rapidly approaches his first birthday, I’ve concluded that I only give birth to babies who don’t like to sleep. No amount of rocking, coaxing, or shushing will make them sleep on their own, and from the time they exit my womb, they’re smart enough to realize sleeping in a bed by themselves away from mom is no fun. They spent nine months inside me, so why would they want to sleep away from me now?
When you’re a new mom, and your baby won’t sleep, it’s hard to hear a friend tell you their baby is already asleep through the night. Envy may start to seep in, and a pang of guilt usually follows it, and you may even start to wonder if something is wrong with you.
When I had my second baby, a friend came over and swapped newborn stories. She mentioned that her baby was sleeping well in her bassinet at night, and when I told her my son would only sleep if I was holding him or he was at least near me, there was a look of shock on her face as she said, “I don’t know how you do it. I wouldn’t survive.” All my guilt and anxiety about whether it was something I did or did not do was erased at that moment because I finally realized something: it’s not my fault.
If Your Baby Doesn’t Sleep Well, It’s Not Your Fault
The friend whose baby sleeps through the night was a first-time mom. She had no experience, didn’t sleep train her baby, or did anything special. She just laid her baby in the bassinet, and her baby slept. At that moment, I realized some babies go to sleep quickly, and some don’t.
If you’re the mother of a baby or toddler who won’t sleep, let me reassure you that it’s not your fault. Yes, there are many sleep tips and ways to help your baby have a more restful night, and I encourage you to explore them. But it’s okay if you’ve tried everything and your baby only wants to be near you or to nurse several times a night. Try to find ways to keep yourself relaxed and rested, even if it means taking a nap during the day with your baby or going to bed earlier.
One Day, They’ll Use Their Strong Will for Good
It used to be typical for people to ask a new mom if their baby was a “good” baby, which usually means they’re quiet and sleep well. Unless your baby lives a life of crime, there’s no such thing as a “good” or “bad” baby. Some babies are easygoing, while others are stronger-willed. They can grow up to be kind, strong, and empathetic children.
My babies have taken after my husband—their determination, strong will, and stubbornness mean one day when they’re older, they won’t be afraid to stand up for what is right and courageously go after their dreams. I know I will appreciate this in the future, even if it’s pretty frustrating at bedtime. If you’re in a similar situation, remember that one day your little one will use all of that strength for something good.
The truth is, this challenging phase in your parenting journey won’t last forever, and before you know it, your little one will be sleeping through the night and going to bed on their own. But in the meantime, remember all babies are different, and that’s a good thing. No matter how difficult it may be to have a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night, you’re not alone!