I’m a big fan of sleeping. I mean, to some degree we all are–but I really, really love it. I would take a nap every day if possible, and I’m absolutely dependent on at least eight hours of shut-eye each night.
As we all know, babies and toddlers change our sleep patterns and inevitably deprive us of sleep (bless their hearts). Perhaps it’s my love of sleep that has made me this way–or my Type A borderline-control-freak personality–but getting my babies to sleep is a source of much angst in my life.
The Baby Sleep Books
With my first baby, I read the book Babywise, which came highly recommended by the all-star moms-of-multiple children I knew from church. The gist is that if you simply follow a routine of eat-awake-sleep, your baby will sleep through the night at three days old (okay, not really . . . but close). The book emphasizes that the parent is in charge and runs the show. The baby should fit into the family and go along with their routine, rather than the family rearranging all it knows to be true to accommodate the baby.
And while I do agree with that philosophy to some degree, my attempt to follow this method made me a stressed out mess.
Should I put her down now? She rubbed her eyes.
Is she hungry? She just ate two hours ago.
Is this a growth spurt? Am I encouraging new bad habits by feeding her even though I think this might be a growth spurt? Childhood obesity!
Round and round I went, analyzing every detail of every minute. I failed to enjoy my baby because I deemed my success as a mother as my ability to coerce her to sleep through the night.
I finally determined that this silly book was making me crazy, so I ditched it and got a new book, this time called The Baby Whisperer. I read it cover to cover in one day and attempted to implement the mystical baby whisperer’s secrets. It didn’t work (and I probably did it wrong). After ten months without a full night of sleep, my husband and I resorted to the old-fashioned scream-it-out method. Three (very long) days later, she slept through the night. And she’s (mostly) done it ever since. Glory be.
That was nine years ago. The books that are cool now are different. (Moms on Call, anyone?!) Actually, Instagram baby sleep influencers seem to have replaced books. Yet moms are still stressed over sleep. We’re expecting baby #5 this spring, and I am already bracing for the havoc this little life will wreak on our (my?!) sleep.
A Good Sleeper for a Control Freak Mother
None of my babies have been “good” sleepers, in that they didn’t sleep through the night at a particularly early age. But I was fortunate to have babies who, when they did wake in the night, would eat and go right back to sleep. So it really wasn’t all that bad. And yet, I was (am) obsessed with nighttime sleep and perfect nap schedules, desiring control over when, how, and where my baby would sleep.
I wanted a “good” baby who would sleep in the crib at home and in the car seat or carrier on the go. I wanted a baby who could be put down at the same time daily and fall asleep on cue. But I also wanted a baby who was also flexible if we were out and about. Simply put, I wanted (ok fine, want, present tense) a baby who bows to my schedule and my desires.
The Sleep Idol
Well guess what? Babies don’t bow down to mommy’s perfect schedule, at least not all the time. To my great joy, my worth as a mother does not hinge on how well my baby sleeps (or when she is potty trained or how nicely she says “yes ma’am” to strangers).
In fact, I’m confident that my little not-so-good-sleepers have actually been a gift to me, a means of grace in my life. They point out my need for something more than a good night’s rest. Sleep is a good gift, but it is not a savior.
Babies are a gift, but they do not save us. May our babies–blessings that they are–point us to see, through our bleary, sleep-deprived eyes, our need for grace each moment.