It’s Time To STFU About Sleeping Through The Night


By the time my baby was 48 hours old, I was being told to “keep her awake” during the day, so that she would be tired enough to Sleep Through The Night.

By the time my daughter was 3 weeks old, I was being told to reduce the number of times I breastfed her and instead, to “top her up” with formula, so that she was more likely to Sleep Through The Night.

By the time my daughter was 4 months old, I was being told to “give her a bottle of baby cereal” to fill up her tiny tummy…you know, so that she might Sleep Through The Night.

By the time my daughter was 9 months old, I was being told to “let her cry it out” – you guessed it, so that she might just Sleep Through The Night.

At this point, I withdrew from the game.  I figured people could Shut The Fuck Up about Sleeping Through The Night.

I didn’t actually follow any of this dangerous advice, so you’d think that it had no effect on me, right?  Yet as I type these words, I can feel a hot wave of anger pulsing through me.

How is it possible that such damaging and incorrect ‘advice’ is being reeled off to vulnerable new mothers without even a second thought?

I wish I could say that I felt empowered enough in those early days to have openly laughed in the face of such nonsense.  I wish I could say that my innate mommy confidence stopped such conversations in their tracks.

But I can’t.

Because I was anything but empowered.  I was scared – absolutely terrified – that I was somehow fucking up this mothering gig.  I listened to these snippets of never-ending ‘advice’ and as I disregarded each one, I felt more and more alone…was I really the only mother in the world who wasn’t following this particular book?  Was I actually the only mom whose child didn’t Sleep Through The Night and was it somehow my fault for not following these unnatural, albeit widespread, ‘rules’?

I felt isolated and riddled with self-doubt.  Oh, and I was bone-crushingly exhausted.

“Tiredness” doesn’t cover it.  Tiredness was something other people dealt with…other people without children, I might add.  Tiredness was manageable and regular.  I saw tiredness and I raised it tenfold.

But then one sleepless night, as I sat nursing my baby girl, I skimmed through some comments in a mommy group on Facebook.

It was Too-Fucking-Late o’clock and people other than me were still awake.  Not only that, but this other-worldly concept of Sleeping Through The Night was also plaguing them.

Because we seem to be collectively obsessed with the idea of Sleeping Through The Night.  It’s presented as nothing short of the Holy Grail of motherhood…something upon which to precariously balance our ever-diminishing fragile self-worth as mothers.

But not everyone was playing the game.

One comment stood out to me, and I can still picture the words clearly, all these years later:

I’m 26 and I don’t Sleep Through The Night.  Why should I expect my baby to?

Magic.

Actual fairy dust magic.

As I read these simple words, I felt a slight lift in my exhaustion.  So I read them again.  And again.

There were other moms out there who followed their instincts, and who simultaneously felt confident in doing so.

From that point on, I found the courage to use my voice.  I learnt to stop the bullshit advice in its tracks and found a tribe of like-minded moms with whom to share our sleepless adventures.

The thing is, the concept of Sleeping Through The Night is actually a brand worth millions.  And the companies selling sleep products and sleep advice need us to keep obsessing over this elusive milestone, so that they can keep on profiting from our exhaustion.

Fuck them and their expensive sleepy stardust, right?

Because we aren’t just ignoring the lady at the pharmacy or an ill-advised relative when we withdraw from the sleep game, we’re inadvertently ignoring an entire industry.  Let’s be clear – that takes remarkable strength.

When every dialogue we have about sleep is centred on this one ideal of Sleeping Through The Night, it’s hard to see through the bull and follow our mommy instincts.

So since I happen to have this platform, and since you happen to be reading…I’d like to take a moment to clarify a few of the basics:

Keeping a baby awake during the day will not make her Sleep Through The Night.  Sleep begets sleep, remember.

Swapping breastfeeds for formula feeds will not make a baby Sleep Through The Night – in fact, this could severely hamper the breastfeeding relationship overall.

Filling a baby’s tiny tummy with cereal will not make her Sleep Through The Night.  The World Health Organization advises parents to “start at 6 months with small amounts of food and increase gradually as the child gets older.”  So there’s no mention of liquid-rice at 4 months there then…

Making (not “letting”, let’s be very clear with that distinction) a child ‘cry it out’ will not make her Sleep Through The Night.  Instead, the consequences you can expect include, but are not limited to:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated cerebral pressure
  • Erratic fluctuations of heart rate, breathing, temperature
  • Suppressed immune and digestive systems
  • Suppressed growth hormone
  • Apneas
  • Extreme pressure on the heart, resulting in tachycardia

Moms, do yourselves a favour and trust your instincts.  Trust your babies.  Most of them will take an eternity to Sleep Through The Night, unless you have a unicorn baby of course…and let’s face it, there are literally two of those born each year…

Let’s collectively embrace this concept of normal infant sleep and find ways to accept, cope with and thrive on what little sleep we are granted.

Isn’t it about time we STFU about STTN?

***

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***

Thank you to mama Gemma for allowing me to feature her picture in this piece.  For more glimpses into real life motherhood, join the Mama Bean village on Facebook!

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60 comments:

  1. <3 this article. Thank you for writing it! Sums up feelings I've had for years!

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  2. I tried every method/trick (except rice cereal because there is no nutritional value in it) and guess what? My 2 yo still doesn't sleep well. And no where did she say she didn't know why. All moms know why they exhausted thankyouverymuch.

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    1. Me, too, with our first. With our second I decided not to worry about it....I haven't had a full night's sleep in 15 months but my stress level is so much lower!

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  3. This is the best blog post. I hate the day by day updates my friends if young kids give me

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  4. Can I hug you? I went through all of the described, "Unsolicited STTN Parenting Milestones above. It was the summer of 2012 that I was first told (in a condecening tone no less) to pulverize food, create a large hole in a bottle and pour it down my then four-month-old's throat. And the memory *still* makes my blood boil. STILL. I agree with all of the above. My daughter started sleeping through the night around 6 months, my son THIRTY months. But I didn't go against my instincts and we've all lived to tell about it. Really, really, REALLY awesome article. Will share on my blog's Facebook, my page, and send it to every sleep deprived mama I love.

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  5. Lol great post. At 42 I have never once not slept through the night either and my toddler who is 4 he has not once slept through the night either since the day he was born I want to throat punch those moms who rub it in my face that they have had their kids trained to fall asleep by 7:30 every night lol. Yeah I get growl y once the clock starts hitting any time past 10:30 pm bc really he should be asleep ( many nights the clock hits the wee hours of the AM ) but like you I allow his own internal natural clock to rule his body. I breast fed exclusively till he was 1 before he had any other food and extended till he was 3 , never let him cry it out ( who wants to listen to that anyway apart from the turmoil it takes on a baby ) Co sleep to . I told anyone who had a problem to fuck off and mind their own business.
    Applaud you as I to have to use tooth picks to keep my eyes open some times lol

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  6. I cannot express how happy I am that I came across your blog. This is the best post that I have come across about babies sleeping through the night. Tired with other bull shit post that just make up words and nothing more. ThanksQ

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    1. So happy you found it too, Sharah! Welcome! <3

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    2. Yes, I agree finally a real experience, well told. Thanks for sharing it.
      Took me back quite a few years.
      Jen

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  7. Love the article! Thank you!!!!!!! Sums it up exactly how I (we all) feel!!!

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  8. Very true! I practically just let my little girl sleep and wake up as she wished and ignored all the well-meaning advice. She was only able to sleep through the night at 13 months onwards.

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    1. Ignoring the well-meaning advice is so sensible, Evangeline! <3

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  9. Great share, Thanks

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  10. Thank you for writing this mama. Well said, well said.

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  11. Thank for u writing, it's so good
    I used to sleep at night, but now I can't and although it is so painful, I am happy about it. This is all because I love you my dear son!

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  12. I have learn a lot things after reading your post. I wish I can wake up early tomorrow and do something new.

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  13. Great article. Babies arrive to us from the 'other side', pure and magically innocent. Who the hell are we to punish them for not immediately learning to do something that's against their instincts anyway!!! They are babies for goodness sakes... and then they are toddlers... and still we need to respect them. I understand that some parents are at witts end and for particular reasons it's making them mentally unhealthy,.... and in these cases I empathise. But for the rest of us, it's our 'job' to raise out kids with respect for them and do everything possible to do no harm to them. These precious years shape them for the rest of their lives, in the most delicate ways we don't even imagine.... so let's just suck it up and be parents that we can be proud of.
    I remember being super tired in the early months... and then after 1 year old.. and now my daughter is almost 3 and generally wakes up 1 or 2 times a night. Usually just 1. She usually wants water. Or just wants me. It's a beautiful connection and a beautiful job that's been given to me to raise this little angel, and I am dedicated to do whatever I can to give her a loving, supportive childhood. I really do empathise with parents who are suffering (seriously) mentally for these issues and for that I can understand why they would take other measures... but for the most of us it's just doing a half arsed job.

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    1. Thank you Victor, you're absolutely right: "these precious years shape them for the rest of their lives, in the most delicate of ways we don't even imagine" - great perspective.

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  14. Ah, what a refreshing read! I am so much happier now that I don't stress about my baby sleeping "well". And why the fck do so many people ask "is your baby a good sleeper?" when they see you? As if sleeping through is the be all and end all of a baby's development?

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    1. Exactly, Kirsty! Nobody asks whether my husband is a 'good sleeper'!! :)

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    2. Hahaha! My hubby's the worst sleeper than me and my baby combined! At least when baby wakes up in the middle of the night and finds my boob (we obviously co-sleep), she'd sleep back right in. And me, a lil bit later (or not). Great article, by the way! Gappy to be not alone. ^_^

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  15. I'm a grandmother bringing up my granddaughter who is now 3 and has never slept a full night. A full night to her is 4 hours! I've also brought up 3 to adulthood, 2 slept and one didn't. So I don't think I have slept a full night in 25 odd years! Thank you for this article, it lifted my spirits as well as my eyelids. xx

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    1. You're a true superhero, Jacqueline <3

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  16. Mama Bean, I truly believe the above. I am just confused with one thing: why is it that the parents that did CIO are saying that not only their baby STTN but he is happier and they feel more connected. If CIO is so harmful, why the babies are just fine, smile, happy? And what are the long term consequences? I never met someone who is now a traumatized adult because their parents did CIO on him. Could you shed some light?

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    1. Hi e-kine, take a look at this detailed article, which should spread some light on the answer to your question: http://evolutionaryparenting.com/its-just-a-little-cortisol-why-rises-in-cortisol-matter-to-infant-development/

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    2. It's not necessarily going to create a generation of traumatised adults, but it goes against the natural instincts/expectations of the baby and mama. Babies are not mini adults with the ability to rationalise; they are animals whose every instinct is telling them that if they are left alone, something is going to come and eat them!

      Why would you knowingly choose to distress and alarm your baby?

      Incidentally, I know a couple of grown ups whose mum used to put them in their cot and shut the door, coming back every 4 hours on the dot to feed and change them, then leaving them alone again.
      They are not emotionally well-adjusted adults.

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  17. I couldn't agree more! Two garden A sleep thieves here, one almost 5 and one almost 2. I started out like you and also got to the same point. I'm never making them cry. They'll sleep when they are ready.

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    1. Sleep thieves :-) That made me laugh, Nyomi! Good for you, mama <3

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  18. I believe that no advice is relevant when bringing up your child. Only follow your mothers heart and instincts. That's all we have to share with our children, and it is plenty. What else do we need. There are no books, no old auntie May, no close friend that can give advice worth listening to. Just listen to your heart. Oops I believe I just gave a bit of advice!!!

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    1. This makes no sense. With your logic, a 15 year old teen mother is the world's foremost parenting expert and should seek no help. Why? Because she has a "mothers heart and instincts." Good grief.

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  19. Thank you for writing this! My daughter is 6 months and I often hear these things and stress because she's not sleeping through the night! I'm glad I'm not alone :)

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  20. Baby wakes up. Attach to boob. Both asleep again within 20 minutes.
    Isn't nature great?!

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  21. Thank you so much for your relevant article! I am currently experiencing this and have have been wondering what am I doing wrong! Majority says I'm spoiling my 8month old, she wakes up at least every two to three hours to breastfeed. I've recently been advised to do the no crying sleep training 'coz it really works' but my instincts tell me otherwise and I've just about started to learn to trust it more. Thank you for your inspiration in knowing that I'm not alone and that it's totally normal!

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  22. Love! So true and very inspiring. Thanks for calming my nerves!

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  23. I think I just found my woman crush Wednesday .... but for the rest of my life ♡

    -signed sleepy momma to 4 who lets them find their own sleep habits and nurses way beyond what is acceptable by society standards!

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  24. thank you!!!♡♡♡

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  25. My boy had severe medication by the age of 3 to sleep. Before that we went through hell. And I always felt like it was my fault due to the bad advice given by other. I have a baby girl 20 months old. Dont give a shit what people say. Se sleeps bad ass well. But you know what its ok. They do grow up. And it will pass. I am done trying to get it wright. Am just going on. Thank you for the truth. Hope new moms will read it to and stop bashing themselves because of what others say is the truth.

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  26. This is a wonderful article, thanks! I also get asked if my boys sleep though the night, hate that question. One is 3 and the other 1. The 3 year old wakes once during the night, most nights, and my 1 year old nurses 3 - 4 times during the night, and we co-sleep (many people frown upon co-sleeping also, but who cares).

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  27. My three year old has magically slept through twice in his short life. Other than that, if I have had more than four hours straight sleep in three years, that's a lot. I now have a ten month old and she also wakes about twice a night but thankfully she doesn't cry like my boy does. I just pop in a boob and she's gone again in no time. We co-sleep,toddler, baby and me, sometimes hubby too! I just ignore the know-it-all moms with their unhealthy advice. I refuse to let my children cry themselves to sleep or over feed them in the hopes that they may or may not sleep through. I have even been told there's no harm in medicating to help them sleep through. That is just insane advice. I'll survive this. And I'm sure I'll get to sleep for a night sometime in the future.

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  28. I've just read your words of wisdom alot of people are telling me what I should of shouldn't do with my 5month son. At the moment he's sleeping every hour. When he was 3months I had a routine down I would breastfeed him then stick him down in the moses basket and walk away. It worked, but sometimes it didn't. He would cry so I would pop some David bowie on. I know David bowie but it worked I think he liked the beat of the drums if I am honest. He was fast off. I thought brilliant can finally do some housework. Now he's 5months old not a chance walking up every hour day/night everytime I put him in his cot he cries. It's very frustrating but I know it's a thing he's going through all babies do it some don't. My little girl didn't when she was a baby. But we know as parents all babies are different they have their own personality and ways. So I decided I will try out Soild foods maybe it's that. Nope!. I have come to the conclusion it's just a tharses he's going through and he will get out of it at some point he's only little after all. :). I love being a mum it's so rewarding hard work yes. No one actually gives you a book about parenting you have to all do your best for your babies and children. I always followed the same method now that I did with my daughter feed them put them down for a nap. But he's not having any of it. The only thing I can think of he's either got a cold or he's teething. But I've gave him his breakfast and breastfed him and so far he's nearly gone 2hrs so fingers crossed he's getting their. Too all the mums out their we can do this how ever sleepy will feel or frustrated just remember your not alone. :)

    Amy from uk.

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  29. My 5month son is actually the same not sleeping!. He's used to sleep for 2hrs then possibly 3hrs. Only he would just have am hour sleep. I tried using the same method as I did with my daughter change nappy, feed and put down for nap. But my son is having none of it. He hates it when you put him in his cot and walk away. If he's asleep only for an hour he wakes up startled and upset and wondering where am I. As he's nearly 5 and a half months I decided this week I will put him on Soilds to see if he will go a bit longer. But nope so far that's not working. He just wakes up. So I actually agree what your saying. It doesn't matter how much you fed a baby I doesn't nessarly mean they will go for long stretch of sleep. Anyways duty calls he's awake. Back to mum duty. But all you ladies out their how ever frustrating this may be just think to yourself it's a tharse all babies go through it and eventually with time things will work themselves out. Anyways back to mum duty.

    Amy

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  30. Every kid is different .. My son was a good sleeper he started sleeping full night very quickly , when I say quickly I mean 3 weeks. If could crack the reason I could do the same with my daughter . Yes here comes my daughter she is already 18 months old and no straight 5 hours sleep as well. She just gets up start singing , dancing and do so many things . Son was a late talker , started speaking when turned 3 years old but my daughter started when she turned 1 and there so many things i can tell that how they are so so so so different. So no 2 people , 2 kids are same even if you give them same scenario , same upbringing , same food , same parents .

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  31. Thanks a million. I need to read this (and such) over and over again!!

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  32. Victoria parish3 March 2017 at 16:40

    I have seven children and I have been very lucky as all have slept through from a very early age!Apart from my seventh George he's 8 months old he wakes about 4_5 times a night any way sleep is overrated. Lol!!!!xxx

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  33. I promise I'm not saying this to make you all jealous, but I have one of those rare Babies That Sleep.

    At 18 days old, she had a tongue tie fixed. That night she slept 4 hours, 10 minute feed and another 3 hours, in her co-sleeping cot. And it's grown from there, so now at 10 weeks and exclusively breastfed, she can do 7-8 hours, quick feed and down again for another 2.

    And I can absolutely guarantee to you all, it was nothing, I mean *nothing*, my husband or I did to make this happen. It was entirely down to our baby.
    No sleep training, no cry it out, no formula, no cereal to fill them up, not even a dummy (pacifier).

    Every baby is different and they all have their own rhythms and cycles. If your baby needs to feed every couple of hours, then the only way to change that is to force them against what their body needs.
    And if it's in the range of normal to have a breastfed baby that sleeps for hours, it's also in the range of normal to have a baby that doesn't, and everything in between!

    I read an article recently that made the point (and I'm paraphrasing here): midwives said 75% of parents reported sleep problems at 6 months old. Don't you think if it's happening to 75%, maybe that's what's normal and the other 25% are just really bloody lucky?

    Good luck with the sleeping people!

    P.S.
    If it makes you feel any better, there are some down sides, not least a scare over slow weight gain! But mainly that she doesn't sleep much in the day and feeds almost constantly from 5pm-11pm in order to sleep at night. We are also painfully aware that it may change at any point.
    But I still wouldn't swap you!!

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  34. I'm at my whits end. 8months of frequently waking up and it's getting worse. Is now 2-3hrly and only wanting the boob to go back to sleep, so my partner can't even help. I'm exhausted. I don't think I can just except it

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  35. Michelle Moore6 March 2017 at 00:08

    My first started sleeping through the night at about 2 weeks old. I decided to try cosleeping because she'd wake up literally every 45 minutes and I was starting to hallucinate. It was like magic when she slept through the night the first night of cosleeping!

    But then I had my second baby. I coslept with him from the beginning, and he'll be 2yrs next month and still wakes up 2-3 times a night, sometimes staying awake for up to 2 hours at a time. AND, now my oldest is going through a sleep regression at 4yrs and waking up at least once almost every night. I was so lucky that she slept like a dream for so long, but boy has reality smacked me in the face big time. I've gotten the same bad advice for my son, but with him being my second baby it doesn't have the same impact on me as it would have if he were my first, thankfully.

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  36. But what if my baby does STTN? Does that make me a bad mom? She is EBF. She was 5 weeks old and sleeping 6 hours at night. I was terrified something was wrong! Now, at 3 months, she's sleeping 10 hours. And still, people ask me if I've started her on cereal!? My response- Heck no! Why mess up something good!?!

    I'm just waiting on the 4 month sleep regression! I think routine and consistency are key for good sleep habits! Good luck to you all!

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  37. I would love to read just one of these things that doesn't have some dig on people who don't have children. If you choose to be a parent then maybe STFU about other people's lives and how tired you believe they are or aren't. You have no idea what someone else is going through - and just because they don't have children does not mean that they are any more or less exhausted than you. Also, this whole article is about how offended the author is about people asking her if her kid is sleeping through the night. Maybe people are asking because so many parents cannot wait to tell you how sleep deprived they are and somehow lord it over you as if your complaints are no longer relevant. It starts like this, "You think you're tired? I haven't slept in 19 months." Can't have it both ways, you hilarious mommies on you oh-so-clever websites (We're moms but we say bad words! How hilarious!). You don't get to whine and complain about being tired and then get offended when someone asks how it's going or tells you something they heard that might work, if only in the hopes that you will be quiet about it for one minute.

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    1. You’ve MISSED the WHOLE point ist not about complaining about being tired at all, that is expected when you’re a parent. It’s about how as a society we expect babies to STTN and when they don’t they need ‘fixed’. Parents are then told to follow the advice of ‘sleep trainers’ who they tell you damaging and neglectful practices to help your baby STTN, most of them neglectful and damaging. It’s the whole culture that’s completely wrong. I’m a mum and yeah I’ve never known exhaustion like it but there’s no way I’m leaving my baby to cry so much she’s sick just to get a good night sleep!!! The point was be strong and stand up to this craziness!!!!

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  38. My 11 month old still wakes multiple times per night and it's utterly exhausting but we bedshare so at least that makes it a bit easier. I allowed other people's advice to get to me for a few months, even though I followed my instincts the whole time and didn't let him cry it out, though goodness that was a tough battle to get others to stop bringing it up! Thanks for the reminder we're all in this together ��

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