My baby is no less perfect because he nurses at night

I didn’t want to do a post about sleep. I wanted to wait until my guy slept through the night and then I could reflect back on what had been instead of what is. I think I didn’t want to admit that no, my baby doesn’t sleep through the night. As if that’s somehow reflective on my parenting or on him as a person. It’s not, and I know that. But no one likes to open themselves up to judgement or vulnerability.

I had a lovely play date with a friend today and like many moms, we got talking about sleep. We’re obsessed with it, whether it’s our baby’s nighttime habits or their nap times, whether we had a “good” night and how much rest we are getting. It’s true: I’ve never thought about sleep as much as I do now that I have a baby. I didn’t give it any thought except when I was pregnant and couldn’t sleep because my hips hurt and I had to pee a zillion times. Truthfully, before I was pregnant, I never slept through the night. Ever. It’s not my thing (so you’d think I’d be used to it). I have always woken to pee or have a drink or try to get comfortable between two cats and a dog. (Oh, and funny side story: my mom used to tell me the reason they only had one child was because I was perfect, so they didn’t need another. Turns out this was half true. When I was older, she informed me that she didn’t get any sleep. The truth comes out…)

Anyway, back to the play date, which was so, so good for my soul. In addition to this mama and I talking about the nighttime cuddles our wee ones like, as she was leaving, she told me to keep blogging. So here I am!

And what I am is tired. Did I have a good sleep last night? Not really. Did I get a nap today? No, because my baby decided to only sleep while nursing or “nap boobin’,” if you will (a phrase I can’t take credit for but wish I could. It’s from The Milk Meg). Did I have a good sleep the night before or the night before that? Probably not. Most days I do get and need a nap, though. So do I accomplish much else aside from being a mom? No, but I’m ok with that. That’s still accomplishing a lot in my mind.

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Look how cute he is when he wakes from a nap!

Part of the reason I haven’t written explicitly about sleep is I don’t want advice. Trust me, I read a lot. I’ve heard or read it all, and a lot of it I didn’t want to see or hear. I don’t want to hear about self-soothing or crying it out or controlled crying or routines (I don’t think I even knew what “cry it out” was before I had a baby). I’m not going to leave my baby to cry because I believe in meeting his needs, whether it’s day or night, and babies and toddlers have more needs than just being fed, changed, and burped. I’ve read enough to know sleep is developmental. I’ve also read enough to know babies who nurse don’t just nurse for nutrition. I also know that babies who don’t nurse also don’t necessarily sleep through the night. I know that babies and toddlers wake for a variety of reasons, and that babies and toddlers are individuals, not robots, and will eventually sleep through the night on their own time, just like they each learn new skills on their own time.

And the other reason that I alluded to above is it makes me vulnerable admitting my baby doesn’t sleep through the night. Who likes to make themselves vulnerable? No one. But I like to be real, too, and I want other moms to know they’re not alone and that this is normal. Because it is. Night wakings are normal. Nighttime parenting is a thing. It’s real. (If your baby sleeps through the night, congratulations on your unicorn baby. Enjoy sleep. I hate you. Kind of, not really. Hate is a strong word.)

I’ve done and do the bed time routines. It doesn’t matter if we start that early or later, bed time is usually around the same time and the night is the same as it usually is: with a few wakings. Most of the time (with the exception of the last couple of weeks), I barely wake, I nurse, I roll over and go back to sleep, sometimes while still nursing. I don’t count how many times I wake, I don’t look at the clock to see how much time elapsed between wakings (unless it seems like a really LONG time, and then I might treat myself to a sneak peek). For whatever reason, I’m either waking more fully or more often these days.

All that said, we do have a routine. We have supper. Baby has a bath. I sneak away and have a glorious bath. We read books. We wave “night night” to Daddy and go upstairs. He points to what we need to do: close the door to the room and bathroom, close the curtains, turn on the fireplace. We get into bed and nurse. It’s all beautiful and serene (mostly, unless it seems like he’s switched boobs for the 76th time and then I start to feel like I’m going to scream or cry ‘Why won’t you sleep?!?!’ but eventually the sleep and serenity happens).

And after that, it seems like I wake and wake and wake. Because of this, I almost always go to bed when my baby does. I could stay up, but sleep wins. Sleep. Always. Wins.

I know this, too, shall pass. And it could be because of the cold he is fighting or the teeth he is popping or a new skill he is learning. I tell myself one day he won’t want to cuddle with me, and I will really miss those cuddles and the nursing. And I will – I know that I truly will miss the closeness and stillness. I’ve also read that as a parent, you’ll always be tired. That really sucks. I’m hoping one day for a pinch more sleep. Just a pinch, to prepare me for when he’s a teenager and I’m back to no longer sleeping because I’m awake, worrying about him.

In the mean time, please don’t ask me if my baby or toddler sleeps through the night as if this is something amazing to achieve, implying, ‘Why haven’t you achieved it?’ or ‘What are you doing wrong?’ Please don’t offer me advice unless I ask for it, and I promise I won’t ask for it. We’ll get there on our own time, we are doing nothing wrong, and my baby is no less perfect because he nurses or wakes in the night.

12 Comments

  1. If I would ever write a post about my baby and his sleeping habits I think I would end up saying pretty much what you’ve said.
    This is baby number two. Baby number one slept soundly from a tender age. Sometimes we wonder if we’re doing something wrong. But then I think that I didn’t know what I was doing with baby number one and it ended up ok, so it’s not me, it’s the kid… I’m a poor sleeper too. Always have been. Guess this one took after his mother…
    Anyway, best of luck for you and your lovely baby. And the best possible sleep you can possible have 🙂

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    1. Thank you for sharing! They really are little individuals, each different in their temperaments and habits. It’s easy to forget that, though! It will get better with time, I keep telling myself. Last night was pretty good. All the best to you and your kids!

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  2. I desperately needed this today! As a first time mom, I vacillate between loving that he must nurse to sleep and panicking that I’ve created a monster who will never sleep alone and will be a desperately needy child. He’s 15 weeks…. (Eye roll at my craziness) It helped so much reading this and knowing this we’re not the only ones!

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  3. My 4th baby is 15 months old and having a really tough time with teething, so he’s up in the night a ton…sometimes I feel like I have a newborn again. 🙂 I keep trying to write about this stage, but I just can’t capture both the sweetness of being needed and being able to comfort with the frustration of not being able to sleep. You did a wonderful job of conveying this.

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  4. Wow! This is straight from my heart, thanks for being brave enough to say it. I am breastfeeding and not sleeping too and it’s tiring but it’s also ok. I try to never talk about it because I too don’t want to hear stop breastfeeding, or any other pieces of advice. You have made my day! Xxx

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    1. I’m so glad it helped ❤ my son is now nearly two and a half and still nursing! Some nights he sleeps through, some he doesn’t, but I will stop when he stops. Nurse on, Mama! You aren’t alone. I try to find like-minded mamas on social media if I can’t find any in person! That helps, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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