Our sleep journey since having Safran has been … colourful. Sometimes sleepless? Yes. I want to write a post about how we have never left our son (20 months) to cry alone and he sleeps from 7-7 without a peep. That would be wonderful. And untrue.
I will instead be honest with you few people who read my blog … sleep, for one of my children, is a struggle. And we are the parents, so it's our struggle too. So why would you read something from a parent whose child has not learned to sleep well yet as they are nearing two years old? Firstly, I understand what it's like to be sleep deprived. I feel you. You are not alone, and if more of us were honest about our children's sleep then I think we would all have more realistic expectations as new parents.
Secondly, my husband and I both are firm believers that parenting is about the means, not the end. We will not get our child to sleep through the night at all costs. We learn and teach so much in the journey, no matter how many more months it takes than we'd like it to. We still are in the middle of it, but we have learned a lot about gentle sleep techniques that I'd love to share. And a lot about grace.
But first, to make myself feel better, let me tell you about my other child, Jubilee, who for the past 3 months (that's her whole life) has never slept less than 6 hours in a row at night and consistently sleeps from about 9:30pm to 5:30 or 6am. She LOVES to sleep. She slept six hours the first night that she was in the world and I thought that was too crazy to even mention to people, sure she wouldn't do it again. But she does, just about every night. And that is grace to us. I worried during my pregnancy that I would spend all night nursing my two children, but I'm not. Right now Safran does nurse in the night, sometimes every 2-3 hours. We did night-wean him during my pregnancy but pretty quickly realized that he still needed me and Jubilee did not (although she sleeps very close to us in a bassinet). I wrote earlier that there is no such thing as hypothetical grace and I believe that even more now.
I do nothing differently with Jubilee except occasionally lay her down when she is sleepy but still awake. I still nurse her, rock her, wear her and walk her to sleep 75% of the time. If it was possible to lay Safran down awake I would have done so, but he was one of those babies who needed to be fully asleep for 20 minutes before I even considered laying him down, and he still might wake up within five minutes or so. Ugh. He therefore spent most of his naps in the early months on me in some way or another. Lots of quality time, for sure.
Why does Jubilee sleep so well, in my opinion?
1. She is young. She is not teething and is oblivious (mostly) to how fun the world is. She is exclusively breastfed so isn't dealing with food sensitivities from solid foods. I am fully prepared that she may start to wake in the night some day. Last week she did wake once a few nights in a row to nurse but it may have been a growth spurt and adjustment to daylight savings time and she is back to normal now.
2. She had a much more peaceful entry into the world than Safran. He spent the first 36 hours of his life literally on ice, comfort sucking a pacifier, unable to sleep much or be held. Jubilee went straight to my warm chest and was nursing within a few minutes. She's hardly been away from me since. I suspect this is the biggest difference in their sleeping abilities.
|an hour or so after Saf's birth|
|an hour or so after Jubilee's birth|
3. I read recently that when you've been breastfeeding for over a year your milk becomes fattier. I'm also tandem nursing so have a very abundant milk supply. I feed Jubilee on all day and she seems to get enough to settle her for the night - maybe it's better quality milk than Safran was getting?
4. Personality/Genetics. Safran is high-touch, strong-willed and wonderfully intense about most things. My husband sleeps with ear plugs and still wakes up numerous times a night.
Jubilee does not sleep better because I stretch out the time between feeds or make her self-settle or cry herself to sleep; she doesn't spend long periods of time by herself - in fact I probably carry her around or hold her on my lap even more than Saf just to make sure she's safe from his affections!
I believe in giving babies what they need and some just require more from us than others. Having such different sleepers helps me realise that I am not a great parent because Jubilee sleeps well, nor am I a bad parent because right now Saf is waking every 2-3 hours at 20 months old. Rather than forcing them to meet our expectations, we have to rise to the parenting challenge and give them what they need. Some days (and nights) are harder than others.
I've been waiting to write about sleep until we have it all figured out, until we are on the other side of night wakings and fatigue and sometimes plain old frustration. But a friend recently challenged me to be honest, that maybe I could encourage other parents who are committed to gentle parenting and just need to hear someone who understands that its hard, but we are still committed to be there for our children in the night.