The way a baby can get a perfect stranger’s attention never ceases to amaze me. You could be standing in line at the grocery store or at the library and the person behind you is sure to strike up a conversation with your little one. Even as you push your stroller through the mall, you know everyone you pass looks inside to get a glimpse of your little person. If you stop long enough, you’d be surprised by the strange faces and sounds they make just to get your baby to laugh. Once they are done playing peek-a-boo, regardless of who the person is, they turn their attention to you, and inevitably ask the same question: Is your baby sleeping through the night?
In the beginning, when I didn’t know any better, I would proudly boast about how my little girl slept 11 straight hours (8PM to 7AM). I would explain that I had a regular daily regiment and a very strict nighttime routine that was the key to getting her to sleep through the night. I even shared my strategy with my friends that were having difficulties getting their babies to sleep through the night. I was sure to never stay out past “bed-time” and I know I made friends and family upset when I couldn’t make events that were scheduled past 7PM. But this all came back to bite me starting at about six months.
When we went to our six month baby wellness check up we told the doctor that something must be wrong with out little princess because she was no longer sleeping through the night. The doctor looked at me and smiled. She gave me the names of several books and said, “She is very healthy. Some babies just won’t sleep through the night until they are five years old. It’s normal.” My eyes opened wide. I raced home and started reading every book she had suggested. Some of the books had complicated 15-step plans, and others just suggested leaving them in the crib alone to “cry it out.” One book in particular, The No Cry Sleep Solution, had a very elaborate plan for getting my baby to sleep through the night and required me to fill out sleep logs every 10 days. While I didn’t complete the sleep logs and only half-heartedly tried the nine phase plan, I did come across a passage that completely changed my view of optimal sleeping habits for a child. I read that any baby that sleeps longer than five hours at a time is considered to be “sleeping through the night.” Well, my baby did that! She usually slept five and a half hours straight (on most nights anyway). So, my baby was technically sleeping through the night. I guess I just thought it would look a little differently.
After I gave up on the adult version of “sleeping through the night,” I felt a lot less tired and a lot better about my parenting skills. It is amazing what you can accomplish on such little sleep. All of a sudden waking up 15 times a night is better than 17. Then, when she only woke up four times I felt like I could run a marathon the next day. I felt like I could be proud of her soundly sleeping at night and I could answer “yes” to that inevitable question.