“How’s she sleeping? Is she sleeping through the night?” Another mom at baby gymnastics asked right around my daughter’s first birthday. “We’re still a bit all over the place, but it’s fine!” I replied, tempted to change the subject. Then it occurred to me: why should I change the subject? For moms like myself with babies (or, at this point, toddlers!) who are “still” waking through the night, questions and conversations regarding sleep can feel undeniably isolating. Time and time again, these topics dominate mom groups on Facebook, playdate discussions, doctor visits, and even Instagram feeds. Society expects tiny humans to sleep through the night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (or something along those lines) from mere months old. In reality, this isn’t the case — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
As a 31-year-old woman living the life I’ve always dreamed of (in other words, I’m content and thriving in my day-to-day), I don’t even remember the last time I slept through the night. And I’m sure I can’t possibly be the only adult to wake up for different reasons. Whether to get a drink of water, use the bathroom, adjust the AC, snuggle up to my husband, or toss and turn and let my mind wander. I don’t sleep through the night. So why should I pressure myself to ensure my tiny human does?
Normalize Completely Normal Sleep (Or Lack Thereof)
When it comes to my baby’s sleep habits, the truth is this: I have nothing to feel bad, awkward, or guilty about. She’s 15 months old and hasn’t slept through the night since she was six months. (She was a sound sleeper for the first several months of our parenthood journey, so I can’t complain.) And though it’s been months since my daughter has slept through the night, we’re still here, growing and thriving and smiling!
But for some reason, a toddler who is growing and thriving and smiling — clearly healthy and happy, well-adjusted and oh-so-bright — isn’t enough justification that I am doing things right. People often assume I need advice to help me “fix” my child’s sleep habits. The truth is, I don’t.
She Slept for Long Periods Early On
We all have our parenting perspectives and styles. I smile for the moms whose little ones give them a full 10- to 12-hour stretch. Indeed, that is wonderful! I was lucky enough to enjoy long periods of sleep from when my daughter was eight weeks old until that half-year mark (don’t ask me what changed because I don’t have that answer – sometimes, things just do). At the same time, I’m entirely content with meeting my daughter right where she is.
As a mom, I roll with the punches all day. So why wouldn’t I roll with the punches nighttime brings (and, of course, all the kicks and snuggles, as a perfectly content bed-sharing mama with a tossy-turny toddler)? I don’t just clock out of mama duty when the clock strikes bedtime. Over time, I’ve learned to tune out all of the noise that tells me maybe I should.
Am I tired some days? Yes. Exhausted? Absolutely! But what mom isn’t, regardless of her family’s sleep schedule? Almost a year and a half into motherhood, I’m still perfectly fine with my baby not sleeping through the night. Sure, I long to sleep. At the same time, I accept this as my new normal — at least for now, because it is normal for babies (and toddlers!) not to sleep through the night.
Our Nighttime Routine is Just What We Need
Yes, we have a consistent bedtime routine—bath, pajamas, bottle, book, prayers, lullabies, and snuggles. Sometimes with a quick tickle war thrown in the mix, and always with lots of belly laughs. When my baby girl is ready, she falls asleep in my arms. Some nights, we successfully transfer her to her pack-and-play. The crib is still a work in progress. She stays where she’s most comfortable most nights — right there against my chest, her tiny lips turning to a smile as she drifts into dreamland.
Often, it seems as though every hour on the dot, I’m woken by my daughter’s innocent, confident voice requesting “more” — in our after-hours world, that’s synonymous with either “water” or “paci.” Sometimes, she needs to squirm until she snuggles back into mama’s cozy embrace — one hand on my chest and one foot on my belly.
If I need to stumble to the bathroom, everyone is suddenly wide awake. Until I’m back, there’s no peace. Chaos ensues as I hear a desperate plea of “Mama! Mama!” from the next room. But, as soon as I return and scoop my daughter up, all is well.
Sleep, Wake, Repeat
We again find our groove together, and we doze off seamlessly, entwined in these sweet little moments that I know we won’t get back. Moms and babies are designed to be close, so I soak up this chapter of our story. Sleep, wake. Sleep, wake. Repeat until 6:30 a.m. when my tiny human’s heart-melting grin and wide eyes find mine, tired and heavy yet grateful and at ease.
My family’s sleep system may not work for everyone. Some days, I question how I’m still functioning after months of this routine. Add in the fact that 95% of our naps are still contact naps, and I question how this household stays running half the time.
Even still, I don’t need tips. I’ve probably tried or heard them all. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to work for my family, and there’s nothing wrong with that! I don’t need pity, either. I love tending to my child through the night (and through her naps) because I dreamed of these days and prayed for this life, full of baby snuggles and being needed and turned to and depended on.
Stop With the Unsolicited Advice
“Just set her down drowsy but awake. She’ll be OK.”
“Make sure the room is pitch black, slightly cool, with your sound machine at volume 20.”
“Lay beside her while she dozes off, then sneak out.”
“Have you tried this sleep sack? It really will work!”
“Try adjusting her bedtime routine. Bath, book, lights out.”
And the dreaded “just let her cry it out.” (No, thank you. That’s not for our family.)
And so on. The comments are never-ending. The opinions are relentless.
While I’m sure well-meaning, the people voicing those “suggestions” don’t realize that none of those “tried and true” tidbits are what my baby girl needs. And that there’s a difference between giving advice and making a mom feel guilty and self-conscious about her child’s sleep habits.
Trust me when I say this: for now, my baby just needs me. Mom. Her safe space. Her home and her security. She won’t need me to hold her, comfort her, and respond to her through the night forever. But for now, she does. And I will gladly do my part to ensure I meet those needs.
There’s More to My Baby Than Her Sleep Schedule
For when she rises, my daughter thrives. She is unstoppable. At 15 months, my daughter has a vocabulary of 50+ words. She even occasionally speaks in two-to-three-word sentences! She uses baby sign language, runs, dances, explores, and socializes like there’s no tomorrow and eats like a champ. She eagerly partakes in household tasks like tossing dirty clothes down the laundry chute, picking up toys, and watering flowers. She’s steady on her growth chart. She’s rarely without a smile.
My baby “still” doesn’t sleep through the night. Yet she’s so very clever, bright, loving, and joyful. Not to toot my own horn, but my child is pretty incredible! She’s exceeding milestones and flourishing into her little happy, beautiful self. I must still be a good mom, right?
I wouldn’t change anything about my baby, so why would I change how she rests at night? We’re doing just fine. She’s an incredible baby, and I’m still a good mom.
You’re Doing It All Right, Mama
You, mama, are a good mom, too, even if your baby still doesn’t sleep through the night. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Your baby loves you for loving them, comforting them, and accepting them just as they are. Right here and now, that’s all that truly matters. Tomorrow will come soon enough. Your little one will sleep independently when the time is right. One day, they will sleep through the night (or maybe they won’t if they’re anything like me).
For now, relish this moment. You’re raising a baby who knows they are loved. Your baby is right on track. You’re doing everything right, mama, I promise you. The truth is, your baby simply may not be sleeping through the night, and that’s completely fine. Trust me: you’re still an incredible mom.