When you hear people say, " Man! I slept like a baby," let me tell you what -- they are referring to the short [yet so long] newborn months of baby sleep! If your babe is like ours, sleeping like a baby means solid, uninterrupted sleep for about five hours and then waking up every 2-3 hours after that for a little snuggle. Although this behavior can be frustrating for mom and dad, expecting your little love to sleep through the night isn't realistic.
One of the hardest things I find as a parent is seeing and hearing what your friends children are doing, and then wondering if you're doing something wrong. The fact of the matter is, no one child is the same. Hell, no one human is the same. We are all bio-individual and this is what makes us who we are. So, is it ok if your babe isn't sleeping through the night ? Yes. Totally. Hold on mama [and papa], you're in for a ride, and although it can be challenging at times, expecting your developing babe to sleep through the night is unrealistic. Breathe. You're doing just fine and guess what? Your kiddo is 100% normal.
Sleep is a necessity for both children and adults alike. When we sleep, our bodies are able to restore, energize, develop and destress. A good night's sleep makes for a happier person, reduces the risk of many health issues and ensures your immune system is continually supported. We all know how important sleep is to the body, but if are kids aren't sleeping through the night are they really at risk for health issues? I'm not a doctor, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, no; not at this stage of life.
When my son was born, he was an amazing sleeper. He, like most newborns, would sleep anywhere. In your arms, on your chest, on the couch, in the bed, in his bassinet, in his crib -- the list goes on! But then one day, as he approached four months, he started waking up every few hours. Helllooo, sleep regression number one! It. Was. Hell. My husband and I thought we would never catch up on sleep. We were exhausted, frustrated and down-right spent.
Although this was an incredibly difficult few months, we noticed that as each month passed, our little babe was doing more and more! He was smiling, laughing, cooing, reaching for things, rolling over and being way more active. His brain was developing and molding him into the little man he is today and guess what - - that's a lot of work; hard work.
Imagine for a moment that you're in your babies shoes. You're a tiny human, unable to communicate, totally new to the world. You're constantly smelling new smells, seeing new things, hearing new sounds. Your body is physically growing every day (hello, growing pains), your teeth are breaking through the skin, your belly is trying figure out how to digest food and your brain is literally changing on a daily basis. You learn one new thing and then your parents are babbling at you to try a new skill. Now, after a long day of figuring out what life even is, you're put to bed in your crib for the night, expected to not wake up. #nothappening. There is absolutely no way we could expect this brand new, developing babe to sleep through the night. When I'm stressed at work or have a lot on my mind, I toss and turn all night long thinking about what I need to accomplish the next day. Your baby is the exact same as you; after all, he is a tiny version of you.
In addition to a developing mind keeping your baby stirring at night, waking up throughout the night could be a protective measure. Dr. James McKenna — an anthropologist from the University of Notre Dame, and the director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory, states that night-arousal could save your babies life.
“... babies that die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) likely had some kind of arousal deficiency (did not arouse sufficiently well enough),” McKeena states in a paper for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.“ Arousing is an infant’s best defense against a range of potential physiological challenges.” After reading that, my mind was eased a little bit more about my little man waking up in the middle of the night. Could this be him protecting himself? If so, then keep waking up, baby!
There are a slew of reasons why your greatest love could be stirring through the night. My biggest advice is know that eventually, he will get there, on his own time, and that's what you want to happen. Breathe. I know it's hard, but do it. The more calm you are during those night wakings, the easier it will be for your babe to fall back asleep. Look at the positives during the chaos and soak up the time in the night to snuggle your bambino; before you know it, they will be teenagers asking for their space.
It's been a long 19 months of my husband when it comes to waking up through the night. For over 6 months our day has started at 4 AM; but, we recently turned a corner and now our little one is putting himself to sleep, sleeping through the night and waking up at 6 [AM]. I never thought I would say this, but I already miss the early morning cuddles in our bed and the sweet, middle of the night rocking chair snuggles. Having us finally hit this sleep milestone has reminded me to be present in every moment and focus on the positive aspects instead of the negative. Time flies so fast, and even during the challenging times with your little one, there is so much beauty. My biggest advice is to go with the flow as this season of life too shall pass and I promise, you will miss it when it's gone.
Stay strong parents! And know, you're doing an amazing job raising the next generation -- gosh, what a huge accomplishment! Be proud of yourself and your baby; you both are rockstars.