June 27, 2009

Hooray for sleep!

"A baby who enjoys this style of nighttime parenting learns that sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a secure state to remain in. Therein lies the key to nighttime parenting." -- Dr. Sears

One of the questions most often asked by new parents is, "When is my baby going to sleep through the night?" Of course, we asked this too with Robotson, but we soon fell into a workable routine where I was able to nurse him while sleeping. I remember when the pediatrician would ask me how many times he was nursing at night, or if he was sleeping through the night, my answer was "I don't know." I slept through it all. Around 18 months, I noticed he had stopped nursing at night and was finally sleeping through.

To make this work, we co-slept. I'd heard all the reasons why we shouldn't. My parents were some of the most vocal about it, but I couldn't imagine not sleeping together. First of all, I was working 10 hour days. Sleeping curled up next to my little boy for eight hours at night was a way to reconnect after a long absence. I wouldn't have given that up for the world. One year stretched into two, and on and on, until he was four years old and still sleeping in our bed. When we got pregnant with Funny Girl, talk started about getting him into his own room. Talk is cheap though and they were soon both snuggled up with us at night. Eventually, he was just too big and moved to a futon in our bedroom. Funny Girl wasn't a good sleeper. She spent the first year of her life screaming until 3am. It wasn't colic, there was no reason. She just didn't like sleeping. Even after naps, she would scream and scream. I found myself wondering again, if she would ever sleep through the night. After that first year, it was much easier at night but she was still waking up to nurse. I never got the hang of sleeping through her nursing like I did with Robotson. She didn't keep me up, but I did wake up. I soon got pregnant with Dimples and shortly before she was born, FG stopped nursing at night. I was running really low on milk that late in my pregnancy anyway.

Dimples will be two years old next month. She has just this week begun sleeping through the night. Only in the last two months have she and Funny Girl been sleeping in their own beds, in their own room. Most nights they still end up in bed with us. By the way, Robotson finally ended up in his own room for good after Dimples was born. He wasn't happy about it, but the time was right.

So to new parents who ask when their babies are going to sleep through the night, I say it depends. If you co-sleep and practice child led nursing, it could be a couple of years. I've had parents look at me in horror when I've said that, but I don't think it was a nightmare. I'm a little sad that Dimples doesn't need me at night anymore. The first time she slept in her room all night long, I woke up several times. I even went down to check on her, afraid there was something wrong. I checked on her again last night too. She's ready to grow up, but I think it's going to take me a few more weeks.


  1. I love Dr. Sears. The point at which I was just about ready to lose my sanity from sleep deprivation (at least the first time), I stumbled across Dr. Sears' "Nighttime Parenting". Gosh, what a life saver that was. After that, no more trying to force Brother Bear to sleep in a crib in another room, no more getting up three or four times a night to feed/check on him. And, when my SIL showed me how to nurse lying down...well, I thought I'd died and gone to heavan. I still can't think of a better place for a little one to sleep than snuggled contentedly between their parents. Survival-level comfort. Can't do much better than that in raising up confident kids.

  2. I am the opposite of you. I am not a cuddler and need my space when I sleep. Anna was in her own crib in her own room from day one. Despite this, it also took about 18 months before she slept through the night. I was getting up to nurse 3 times at first, then it dwindled to once, then she simply outgrew it. I am not complaining - like you said, it worked for me. Luckily, she is a decent sleeper now - it's rare that she wants to be cuddled in the middle of the night, and even then all the cuddling happens in her room. Oh, and in response to the previous comment, she looks like a confident and attached child to me, just introverted like myself.

  3. I think there are many different and good ways of bringing up children. I've read stories about parents that wanted to sleep with their babies, but the baby couldn't sleep. They ended up with them in a side sleeper or crib, etc.

    I think what's important is finding something that works for both mom and baby. My mom didn't nurse, she practiced CIO, and worried I was spoiled. I don't get the impression that I was a happy baby from what my parents tell me. Perhaps I could have used a little bit of cuddling and that's why I chose the path I did.

  4. I just wish people wouldn't poke their noses in so much. It didn't take me long to stop answering any questions about my parenting because people are so judgmental about it. I still get shit for only having one but you don't hear me going off on people with a whole brood (well, not often anyway). We had no plans of co-sleeping but that first night home we just wanted to watch our daughter all night and kept her in our bed. That turned into six months. By then she was practicing martial arts in her sleep and we moved her to her crib. We over-thought the whole thing thinking it would be this big transition and she just rolled over and went to sleep. To each their own. The only time I question anyone's parenting is when they yell at or hit their kids in my presence or when it comes to medical care (not a fan of the antivax crowd). Other than that I take a don't ask/don't tell approach. Part of it stems from my wife's inability to breast feed, despite her desire to do so and all the crap we got from people--even friends--who kept commenting on the bottles. There are more than one wayto raise your children!

  5. Teacherninja--I hope you didn't get the impression I was giving anyone a hard time for not co-sleeping or nursing! My intention for posting was really to mark my last baby finally sleeping through the night. I also have a couple of friends that are first time moms, and have asked when their babies will begin sleeping more.

    Parenting is hard enough without having to constantly defend every single thing we do, or don't do. I've certainly made my fair share of mistakes, things I wish I could change. I also have things I am proud of but I'm under no delusion that mine is the only way. The funny thing is for every comment you probably got on having another child or using bottles, I also got for having too many, "Don't you think two is enough? Don't you know how babies are made" You are done at three now aren't you?" Or the usual "When are you going to stop nursing already?" "If they can ask for it, they are too old." "I never breastfed you, and you are fine!" It seems like we can't win. That gives me an idea for my next post, mistakes in parenting :)

  6. Didn't get that impression at all. I was responding to you having to defend your choices to friends and especially family.