Anyone who has read more than a few of my blog posts will know that we’ve struggled with our baby’s sleep, and I felt alone in that for a long time, except for the company of some fellow sleep deprived bloggers who put their experiences in writing. It seemed that everyone we talked to in our real lives had babies who were either natural born sleepers and never needed a lick of support to fall/stay asleep at night, or they were sleep training success stories who cried themselves to sleep for 4-10 nights and forever more were genius sleepers.
But the more I was open about our sleep challenges and the more I engaged in conversation about baby sleep and really listened to people’s stories (especially over a few drinks), the more I realized that a lot of babies tend to suck at sleep, regardless of what bedtime routine or sleep training regimen is used. The problems are different – some sleep through the night but don’t nap, some are bedtime demons but nap all day long, some need to nurse to sleep and others need their parents on a floor mattress with them. Different, but the frustrations are shared among parents with sleep challenges.
We recently had a sleepover at someone’s house with Avery and their 19 month old. This was the elusive, surely magical baby who would lay down and go to sleep in his crib from day one of life, and who would sleep for 12 hours straight. Or so we thought… These were parents who responded to our sleep woes with detached sympathy and advice that seemed to come from generations before. They really didn’t seem to understand where we were coming from at all. But, after some deep, late night conversation (after knowing them for almost 2 years as parents) we learned that this kid bed shares half the time, and they can only get him to sleep by watching tv until 9 or 10 at night. He passes out from exhaustion in their bed, wired and crazed. Sure, he has never woken up through the night (he never nursed through the night, either), but the fact that bedtime is such a shit show with this kid, this kid who we all thought was a genius sleeper, was SOOO reassuring.
Another friend sleep trained her baby when he was 4 months old. She talks a lot about how it was the best decision she ever made, and it made her baby so easy to care for (if you sleep trained, I’m not saying this wasn’t the case for you). But then I talked to her partner over beers and it turned out their baby still screams in protest at every bedtime and there’s a good 15 minutes of crying EVERY SINGLE NIGHT when they close the bedroom door for the night. They have never given a straight answer as to whether he sleeps through the night or not.
Another friend revealed to me last week that they have a twin mattress on the floor of the nursery and the breastfeeding mom ends up sleeping there with the baby for the second half of the night most nights.
A person my wife works with revealed, after hearing that we, too, struggle with sleep, that he sleeps with his son in the toddler bed every night. Their son is 2.
These stories all came from friends and acquaintances whom we thought had sleeping angels for kids, either because that’s the story they told, or because we didn’t ask and they didn’t correct us. This leaves me wondering, do sleep deprived parents hide in shame? We never did, but only because I can’t stand feeling alone and my misery wants desperately to find company.
If you have an elusive, surely magical sleeper for a baby, it’s not that I don’t believe you. I just seriously doubt anyone who says their baby is “perfect” at anything 😉 If you have a challenging sleeper, this post is for you. We’re in this together. Your baby is normal. You’re not alone.