How I’ve navigated three different kids’ sleep challenges and how they’ve all been completely different
Written by Elisabeth Duncan
Sleep with a baby can be so elusive, frustrating, desired and desperately needed! We all want our babies to be amazing sleepers. One of the most asked questions of new parents is “so how is the baby sleeping” which can lead to a mix of a lot of different emotions for the parent. If I say “not very well” is there something wrong, if I say “good” and it turns upside down you wonder “is something wrong,” “what is their baby doing and mine isn’t,” “what if mine is and someone else’s isn’t..” it goes on and on and it’s a nasty spiral to fall into.
We have 3 kids. They just turned 5 years old, 3 years old and 6 months. They all have been different sleepers. Our first never slept through the night consistently (or quite frankly ever really) until about 2 years old. I was exhausted. I had tried everything. Swaddles, different temps, sleeping with one of my shirts, every single thing! I remember bringing him home from the hospital and that first night he did not sleep. I actually called into the hospital and asked what to do and they said it’s normal. I wanted to scream that it wasn’t but all I did was cry.
He had a chronic case of separation anxiety. He would cry every time I would leave him at daycare or even with Grandma. Everyone said he would grow out of it but in my gut I knew it was part of his personality. I was right. Still today, at 5 he will cry at times when I leave for work or he tells me how much he hates us working. PS, he still has trouble sleeping. I really wonder if he is the fourth PJ mask hero because like those kids he requires no sleep and still has energy in the morning.
Then comes our daughter. She was born to sleep. She was the living embodiment of sleeping beauty. While our oldest had to be held to go to sleep where she would get mad if someone held her. I remember thinking “child, you will let me hold you and love on you!” She would wake occasionally through the night as a newborn but pretty fast she slept through the night. Then she would sleep 12+ hours a night and takes naps during the day. Until last year she would still sleep from 8pm to 10am and then take a 3 hour nap! Guys, it was glorious. After never getting any sleep before that it was a dream come true. But guess what, I didn’t do anything different for her. I did the same thing as with our oldest but she was just a different baby.
Now our third is somewhere in the middle. The night after he was born he was up quite a bit and I thought oh goodness can I really do this again but, he figured it out. Right away he slept so well. He woke up about every 3-4 hours as a newborn and then transitioned into sleeping through the night and it was amazing. There have been nights though were he was up every hour but just a few thank goodness! At the end of July he got rotavirus and since then he hasn’t felt good and his sleep has suffered. Again, we have tried everything to help him. I’m hoping in time as his tummy heals we will get back to sleeping through the night.
When I really think about it though, we as adults all need different things in order to sleep. Take my husband and I for example; I can practically hit the pillow and I’m asleep. I do need it to be pitch dark and pretty cold. My husband needs some extra noise but could care less about light and doesn’t like it as cold as I do. So if we adults differ from one to the next about sleeping why should there be a one size fits all for our kids?
There are so many experts out there to help with sleep issues. I know a lot of people believe in sleep training and have taken the classes to help their little ones sleep better. This may be an unpopular opinion but sometimes instead of feeling hope when I see those blogs and helpful tips I feel disappointment that my baby doesn’t. I feel so much pressure that I am not doing all I can for my baby or what I am doing isn’t enough. I know those aren’t the point of those things but that is what I feel. Maybe you do too. I have learned over the years that you just need to give yourself grace. You are doing the best you can and doing what you think is best for your child. You got this! Sleep will eventually come or not – I don’t know haha! But, this weekend a friend who is also struggling on team no sleep told me, “every night I make it through and I see the sun is another day closer to him eventually sleeping through the night.” Amen! May your sleepless nights be short lived and may we all make it through another night.
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