To the mum whose kid STILL isn’t sleeping:
I see you. I see your yawns as you walk zombie-like through the supermarket. I know how you had to pull yourself out of bed this morning even though you’d been awake and just staring at nothing for longer than you’d like to admit.
I know what it feels like to be so bone tired, just thinking requires too much effort.
I know what it’s like to not want to leave the house because it just requires so much effort. But, most of all I know what it’s like to be a little embarrassed to admit that your child still is not sleeping.
You heard all the words of encouragement during those early months. Other mums telling you over and over that it would get easier and better, and that their child started sleeping through the night at three, four, or five months old. But, your child is past that – months past that in fact, and you feel like you’re doing something wrong.
I know how it feels to have tried all the tricks and tips that the plethora of books and Internet resources can provide. I know the desperation you feel, coupled with the huge disappointment when the latest tip you thought would finally work – didn’t.
You cry and get angry, and you feel like it’s you, or that it’s all your fault. You probably wonder if there is something wrong with your baby, too.
I know all of this because I’ve been there.
My middle child was 18 months old before he started sleeping through the night. It was beyond challenging. I also happened to have a toddler older than him at the time, and I felt like something was wrong with him and me. My oldest had been a breeze. She slept like it was her job. So, I knew how to get a baby to sleep, I thought.
What is wrong with me?
It was kind of embarrassing to admit my child didn’t sleep.
Yes, I had tried everything. No, I wasn’t good at letting him cry it out, but I’d tried that too. He was just an awful sleeper. And those months were hell.
I remember being jealous of friends who had the “easy” babies. I remember being mad because why didn’t he sleep like my first? Mine struggled with food allergies, colic, and reflux. All of that no doubt contributed to his lack of sleep, but the truth is – not all babies are created equal. Just like all adults aren’t. Sometimes, you just don’t get a great sleeper.
That doesn’t make you a bad mum. It doesn’t make you a failure. And it certainly doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your baby.
It just means you’re freaking tired. And, well – that’s understandable.
As an adult, I’m a terrible sleeper. I frequently have nights where I have bouts with insomnia, or wake and can’t fall back asleep. Guess what? I was born this way. I was not an easy baby either, unless I was attached to the boob. Then I slept. And, only then was I content.
But, even now, when I’m desperate for sleep, sometimes I don’t.
No doubt that some babies are just not great sleepers too, and it has nothing to do with your mothering.
Now, I can tell you I’m well past the baby stage of parenting, but I’m still tired. And, my baby that slept great back then now has trouble sleeping as an almost teenager.
The truth is, when you’re a parent, you never sleep great again.
But, for that mama who has a baby that isn’t sleeping, I’m not going to tell you it gets easier, because the truth is – it may not. As much as I want to say that, I’ve been around long enough to know it’s just not always the case.
What I can tell you though is that you get stronger.
That is for sure. You will get a little more sleep here and there – yes. But, you’ll also get better at not sleeping. You’ll learn to yawn your way through work, or PTA meetings, and still be a good mum until your bigger kids finally stop talking and lay their heads down for the night.
You’ll learn to parent in the middle of the night changing sheets, or calming older kids after bad dreams.
You’ll learn to function on coffee or diet coke.
You’ll learn that your brain is mush some days and you just have to roll with it and give yourself a break.
You’ll learn that sleep is as precious as gold, and one day, you’ll embrace taking naps without guilt because you’ve earned them.
Just know this – if your baby isn’t sleeping, it’s OK. You’re still a good mum. And, you’ll get through this stage and come out even stronger than before.
I can promise that.