Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sleeping Through the Night

One of, if not the single, hot button issue about babies is sleep. I still remember going out with Zosia when she was a week old only to have numerous people ask me, "Is she sleeping through the night?" I wanted to answer, "No, of course not! She's one week old." Every baby advice book seems to have been created with the single goal of getting your baby to sleep through the night. And I really bought into the idea that a good baby is one that sleeps through the night the first time around. Zosia was always a great sleeper-- even at one or two weeks she would sleep for 3 and a half hour blocks at night. But at the time, I despaired at this fact. Why wasn't she sleeping for 8 hour blocks yet? And even when she was sleeping 4 or 5 hours at a time, I was wide awake worrying and stressing about the fact that she wasn't sleeping longer.

Oh, how things change with time! Since then I have learned a number of things, partly from bringing one baby into toddlerhood, and partly from talking to other mothers. There are the mothers who insist their babies slept through the night from the beginning. I firmly think that they either A) are one of the very very few lucky ones, B) have forgotten the first days of having a baby or C) are confused. The truth seems to be that most babies wake up at least once a night until they are much older, often one (especially if you do not let them "cry it out"). Some start sleeping "through the night" earlier, but backtrack often, like whenever they're working on a tooth. Others wake up well into their second year of life. That is normal! So your options as a parent are either to fight it or embrace it-- which is hard information to swallow as a new parent.

Of course I am going to try the "tricks" to get Lily to sleep longer once she gets a bit older (even the baby trainers admit that newborn babies can't be sleep trained). Some of those include sneaking in to give her a nighttime feeding before I go to sleep at night, swaddling her (though as I mentioned before, this one doesn't seem to like swaddling), white noise, etc. But then again, I think I might opt for another route with her, which is just being relaxed about sleep. I think Lily is a prime candidate for co-sleeping (which is what she's been doing for her first week). She's a great sleeper, too-- often going three or four hours without waking up. And the truth is, when I'm sleeping right next to her, I can just whip out a breast, feed her, and am usually back asleep before she's even done with her feeding. In the morning, I have no idea how many times she woke up. It's not unlike sleeping with a spouse: generally, both partners will wake up slightly during the night, and drift back to sleep without really thinking of it. Compared to the end of pregnancy, when I was up to use the bathroom multiple times a night, couldn't find a comfortable position, etc., having a newborn is, so far, feeling really restful.

And the truth is that this time around, I am so much more willing to embrace each stage as it comes. With Zosia, we were fairly sure we were going to have another baby at some point. This time around, we just don't know. So when I look at Lily's sleepy little face at night, or rock her to sleep, I really relish it. When I look at my big almost 2-year old, I know that each stage flies by, and a baby is only a newborn for a short little time.

So here's to that wonderful stage of human life that requires consistent attention. I know Lily, like Zosia, will eventually sleep through the night. But I'm quite happy with the fact that for now, that isn't the case.

(BTW, that's Zosia in her first days, not Lily!)

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