If I had a penny for every time someone asked me if my baby was sleeping well, I’d be a very wealthy woman. Sleep is perhaps the hottest topic when it comes to babies. Are they sleeping through the night? Do they nap well? Do they go down on their own? From day one, parents are under an enormous amount of pressure to coach their baby into being the perfect sleeper.
I myself fell prey to the constant barrage of questions about Baby Bee’s sleep and lost many nights of sleep over whether or not we were doing it right. I read all the recommended resources about how long your baby should be awake, how long they should sleep at each nap, and how you should be putting them down drowsy but awake. I tried the sleep schedules, tried keeping her up longer, putting her down sooner, but no matter what I did she would typically only nap for 30-60 minutes, tops. I took this as a sign that I was a terrible parent, and so I stressed some more.
And then, one day, I decided to stop stressing about it. After feeling like a failure for so long because my six month old wasn’t “on a schedule” yet and didn’t take long naps during the day, I decided that I didn’t care. At her age, babies should be getting an average of 11-12 hours of sleep at night and another 2-3 during the day. Even with our lack of strict daytime schedule, she is typically asleep for the night by 7:00-8:00pm and up by 6:00-7:00am. Sure, she has 1-3 night wakings depending on growth spurts and teething, and every once in a while she’ll be up for 2 hours in the middle of the night, but for the most part she gets her full 11 hours of sleep each night. And, yes, she still only naps for 30-45 minutes most days, but she does so 3-4 times a day.
What I realized is that it wasn’t that her sleeping pattern wasn’t working for her – it’s that it wasn’t convenient for me. Not being able to plan things out in advance because my baby naps at slightly different times everyday can make seeing friends really tricky. And not having more than 30 minutes to check things off my to-do list or just breathe can be really hard on me sometimes. But that is part of raising an infant – learning that it’s not all about you anymore.
So now we have a daily routine. Although our daily activities may unfold at slightly different times, we do the same things each day and in the same order. This helps her to know when naptime is coming and it helps me to cope with the lack of clock-based schedule. I still get to see friends (it’s just planned within a certain window of time as opposed to specific meeting time) and I still get chores done, with time blocked out for me each day.
Do I still envy moms who know exactly when they’ll be free because their children sleep at the same time everyday? Absolutely. Do I wish my baby would take 2-hour naps on occasion? For sure – I mean the house isn’t going to clean itself. But, when all is said and done, she wakes up happy and full of energy after each nap, and isn’t that really the whole goal behind getting your baby on a strict sleep schedule?