Right after the usual questions: “How old is she?” and “What is her name?” people often ask “How is she sleeping?” I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they don’t know what else to ask about a baby. Maybe they want to commiserate from their own experience with young children. Regardless, I have absolutely no idea how to answer. Honestly, I usually say, “I don’t know. She wakes up sometimes, but overall she’s a pretty good sleeper, I guess.”
I have absolutely no judgment on any method of sleeping or parenting. I know that parenting is all about doing the best you can do in the circumstances you are in. Clearly, what makes sense for one family does not make any sense for another, and that’s totally okay.
We attempted the crib in our bedroom at first. We tried to put baby down “awake but drowsy” during those first few weeks home from the hospital. We got solid stretches of 4ish hours at the first part of the night, and then she’d wake up a few more times before morning. I remember one night of a 5 hour sleep stretch. I would wake up and nurse her in a chair next to her crib, staring at my wife who was sprawled out in bed, snoozing away. The first wake-up was fine. The second wake-up was pretty unbearable. I started to take the baby back to the bed with me to feed, then transfer her to the crib. Eventually, I gave up on the transfer, and we all snoozed away.
The crib thing lasted about 4 weeks, as best as I can remember. After that, I pretty much gave up and just started putting the baby to bed by nursing her in our bed. Very bad habits, I know. Once we started that pattern, she would nurse to sleep around 7:30 p.m., snooze until we went to bed closer to 10, eat again, and then periodically have a snack or few in the night. The pacifier would work sometimes. Other times she would want to eat. The pediatrician frowned on us for these bad habits, but we were also dealing with a baby who does NOT gain weight, so the doctor wanted us to keep getting calories into her through the night.
I was blessed/cursed with an oversupply of milk. It’s wonderful to have enough to feed my baby and donate my surplus, but it’s also challenging managing a supply that will soak every item of clothing and bedding I own. This meant that I couldn’t “sleep through” any nighttime feedings, because I would have to pump anyway. Not pumping or feeding would mean soaking in a puddle of milk all night. So, even though my wife was willing, I had to feed the baby.
So we ended up in the co-sleeping pattern of feeding baby as we both slept and cementied habits that I’m sure we will regret later. Around 6 months, she stopped taking the pacifier, so it’s nipple or nothing, and if she doesn’t get nipple, she escalates. A few mornings I have had a sore back from falling asleep with the nipple held jussssst the right place for her. Most nights I pull it away and roll onto my back and she keeps snoozing.
Back to the original question of how is she sleeping, I truly have no idea. I don’t have a clock in the room. I don’t usually fully wake up when I need to shift her over to the other side, and when I do, I fall right back to sleep. Some nights I know she spent nearly a whole night on one side or just had one shift over, and I consider those good nights. Some nights it seems like I shifted her over 4-5 times, and I consider those bad nights. But even on those nights I have 4-5 wake-ups of about 2-5 minutes each. I’m usually up for the day at 5:30, and I go to bed about 9:30, and I feel pretty rested overall. Unfortunately, I can’t have coffee or caffeine, because it doesn’t sit well with baby’s reflux, but I would rather keep breastfeeding her than enjoy an Americano, so Starbucks will have to wait a few more months.
All this to say, I know many moms who are battling through these issues and trying to figure out what works for them. Our method is not perfect. It would be nice to have my bed back and be able to be closer to my wife, but I also cherish the snuggles, because I know that someday they won’t be so freely offered. I am sure that we will have a war to wage when we eventually move her into her own room and/or wean her from feeding through the night. We’ll just cross that bridge when we get to it, even if it feels a little irresponsible to be sowing the seeds of our demise in the present.
Good luck to all my friends sorting out the sleep issues and trying to remain sane! This is not easy stuff and there are no clear answers!