Also known as: THE REASON I AM NOW A BABY-LED SLEEP & WELL-BEING SPECIALIST.
Before having Lilah, I was warned, "Get ready for years without sleep." I would internally roll my eyes, thinking, "Not me!" I was so naive! I was recommended the book, "Baby Wise" and naively read it and thought sleep was going to be so easy and straightforward. I bought the crib and the bassinet thinking I would never bedshare. Long story short: I bought into the lies and the scare tactics, like most moms do.
Then.... Lilah was born. HELLO WAKE UP CALL!
I literally thought that it was going to be as easy as eat, play, sleep from the first day. Newsflash: that's not how newborn sleep works.
The first two months were typical for newborn sleep, she was up every two hours at night and slept easily during the day but with no consistency. I felt like something was wrong with me because she would only nap on me or my husband. Everything I read said she needed to be napping independently, but nothing we tried worked. I felt like we were failing instead of just surrendering and soaking up those AMAZING newborn snuggles. This is one of my biggest regrets, but hindsight is 20-20, right?
At around the 10 week mark, we went on a family trip to the mountains and SHE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT! We put her down at 10 and I remember waking up at 7am, realizing I never woke up during the night and JUMPING out of bed to check on her only to find her sleeping peacefully. I didn't have huge expectations of it continuing and I just chalked it up to the mountain air. Except, it continued! I loved it. I thought we had gotten past all of the difficulties that everyone warned me about. Naps were about the same as when she was a newborn, she would only nap on us. I would try putting her into the bassinet to only have her wake 10 minutes later. I gave up on the notion that she needed to sleep independently for naps, and started babywearing for naps. I felt I was rocking motherhood: baby sleeping through the night, naps were easy because I was able to babywear and get things done. I seriously thought we were in the clear.
Then, BOOM the 4 month sleep progression hit and our world turned upside down. She woke up to the outside world and realized that she needed us closer at night. By this point I had already found some of the holistic sleep accounts on instagram and I had learned about safe bedsharing, even though I didn't think we would ever do it. Well, the sleeping through the night turned to waking as soon as she was placed in the crib. We suffered two nights of me being up every 30 minutes and I finally made the best decision I could make for our family: I put her SAFELY in bed with us. The 30 minute wakes stretched to every two hours. It felt so good having her next to us in bed and it made the middle of the night feeds so much easier.
I want to be clear: putting her in bed with us didn't magically stop the night wakings or the early morning wakes, but it made life easier for us. I could nurse her and fall back asleep easily. It meant no more up, down, up, down all night long.
Naps continued in the carrier and we started to find a new rhythm with bedsharing.
At 6 months, in addition to crawling, Lilah started getting her first teeth. Her sleep took a hit again! She would wake up at night to crawl and sit and just play (totally normal when they are learning new skills). If it wasn't to practice new skills, she was up because of her teeth. When she teethes (I didn't know this at the time)she wants to be ON TOP OF ME or nurse the whole night long. This meant waking every 30 minutes to latch her again if she unlatched. It made the nights long and the days long because I was exhausted, but I can't imagine what the nights would have looked like if she was still in a crib. For us, bedsharing wasn't an option. It was a necessity. From the 6 mark month on, she was constantly getting teeth, so her sleep after that was hit or miss. Some nights we would get 2-3 hour stretches and then other nights we would get hourly wakes. I'd learned a lot about infant sleep by this point so I knew it was normal and I just tried to have as much patience as I could with her and also tried to take time for myself when I needed it.
At around the 10 month mark (hello 10 month progression) she started waking at 4- 5:30 every morning for about two weeks. This is very normal due to all the changes happening at this age. (If your baby has been doing this for more than a month, email me or DM me on instagram, I can help with this!) After the two weeks she went back to normal and sleep continued about the same. Some nights good, some nights not so good. But they remained much easier with her right next to me.
At about the 11 month mark, we switched from babywearing naps to nursing to sleep bedsharing naps which made life much easier for me. I was then able to nurse her to sleep and lay next to her and read or watch a series or rest!
Night time sleep hasn't changed much for her since the 10 month mark. If she's teething, the wakes are frequent. If she isn't sometimes we get lucky and have a 4- 5 hours stretch, but those nights are few and far between. At 18 months, she's working on her last 4 molars and I'm anxious to see what happens with her sleep.
Lately sleep has been very bad because of those damn molars and there are SOOOO many days that I wake up saying I'm going to night wean. I feel touched out and exhausted. Some days I wake up bitter that she is still waking, but I know that developmentally, it is normal for her to still wake. Especially because of the molars. So, I've decided to push through and wait until the molars come in. I have a feeling her sleep is going to improve drastically at that point and then I won't feel the need to night wean.
I want to point out that I haven't made any changes to our sleep situation because it works for us. If there was ever a point where bedsharing wasn't working or night nursing wasn't working, I would make a change. Are there days where I feel like I want my personal space? YES. So on those days, I make a point to ask for help. I'll tell my husband I need some time, or I'll ask my mom to watch her for a few hours. If I didn't have the support I have, I think I probably would have made changes long ago. But that's whats so great about being moms. We can choose what works for us. If it works for us, there is no problem. If it doesn't work for us, we can make changes while still respecting our little one.
I'm laughing re-reading this post because if a sleep trainer ever read it they would tell me that I am the reason for her wakes, and I would laugh at them. Babies wake for valid reasons. They need us close and we are not the reason they are waking. For Lilah, her wakes are usually developmentally caused or teething caused. If I had chosen to ignore her cries at night, I would have ignored her need to be close in moments of growth and pain. While it has been a tiresome 18 months I feel so glad that I chose to respond to all of her cries and keep her close. I am instilling in her a deep and abiding trust that I am there for her ALWAYS. As she woke the other day from a nap, she looked over at me and had the biggest smile. It warmed my heart to know that as she woke, she saw my face, knowing that as she slept, I was there by her side.
And by her side I will be, until she is ready to spread her wings a little more.