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 - in 2016 - 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 in 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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39 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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  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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  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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