“Awww – how CUTE! Congratulations! Is he sleeping through the night yet?”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that EVERY new Mama here in my corner of the United States has heard those exact words a million times, probably in that exact context. The first time I was asked that, at about one day postpartum, I didn’t know how to respond. I still don’t. As a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, Latin American raised Mama, these words puzzle me. Before I gave birth here in the Southern United States, I’d never even HEARD of this apparently exceptional breed of American infant who SLEPT ALL NIGHT LONG, and I would certainly have never expected such a creature to actually exist. Which is a good thing – because our boy is NOT one of “those” babies. I guess someone forgot to inform HIM of the way things are expected to happen around here. I was blessed with a growth spurting, milk loving, super attached little man who nursed every hour, on the hour, like clockwork – AROUND the clock. He wasn’t particularly “fussy”, he didn’t even wake fully to nurse – unless his rooting failed to produce his “ninny” – and after I got the hang of nursing laying down, I found the whole situation much less difficult…But he absolutely, without fail, was GOING to nurse through the night. Period. And yes, he still, at almost 20 months, is nursing a few times night. And yet, technically, he’s been “sleeping through the night” since he was a newborn. See – from the time he’d nurse to sleep in our bed at 8 or 8:30 at night, until 7:30 or 8 the next morning, his eyes did not open. Even now, he sleeps all night – he’s just occasionally hungry, and will have a quick snack. If adults had stomachs as small as babies do – we’d eat a couple of times a night as well. Especially if your primary food source was a liquid designed to be super easy to digest. And your snack was so conveniently located next to your head/mouth…
My point here folks, is this. The idea of “sleeping through the night” that is so often waved like a red cape in front of sleep deprived, desperate new Mamas, mocking them with their failure to produce such a paragon of perfect babyhood – is an urban myth. Sure, there ARE some incredibly laid back babies out there who actually do sleep in their cribs, for most of the night, but for the most part, children just aren’t wired that way, and the “put them to bed and they sleep all night without a feed” thing doesn’t happen until they’re weaned. Or – you know – in Elementary School. Or College. I’m not sure where this idea comes from in our culture, but it’s WAY unrealistic. And the more it’s accepted as a “fact” and the more it’s touted as “ideal” behavior for newborns, the more damage it does – to desperate, insecure new parents, and growing, helpless infants who NEED to feel close and connected to their parents – EVEN AT NIGHT!! *gasp*
So next time you come across a new little human and his lucky Mama, consider skipping the “sleeping through the night” question, focus on admiring the beautiful little being in front of you, and have some compassion for the proud, terrified new parents who, I PROMISE, are doing their very best to raise a healthy, happy little person. A person who will, by the time he’s grown, sleep through the night, in his own bed. Really.