Hi my name is Jenna and I am a Night Time Parent (NTP). Hello Jenna.
Oh the shame, the shame of a child who doesn’t sleep all night, right??…Well I have had experience with two of these. My son didn’t sleep through until he was three and a half and my daughter, now nearly four, has only just started doing the odd full night. Not ideal right? No, definitely, not ideal. Wrong? No not at all and there’s the important difference.
Over the years I have read so much on sleep. Lots of ideas, possible solutions, do this, do that, try this, guaranteed success, books, leaflets, friends’ suggestions which are all great to hear and yes, I tried many of them but you know the thing that has got me through the endless sleepless nights the most, ACCEPTANCE. A baby or child waking often is NORMAL. You can’t force a child to sleep anyway. Without you doing anything, one day they WILL sleep and the big one, our expectations of parenting may differ from the reality.
Parenting doesn’t stop, ever.
Some children just need more. More comfort, more settling, more feeds, more cuddles, more time, just more. That’s it, it’s just more. YOU ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG. Ok? I am always hearing about kids who sleep through, I actually believed this was a total myth myself until my daughter did a little bit of this before the four month sleep regression hit and has never done more than a few hours at a time since. And by the elusive ‘sleep through’ I mean a five to six hour block. Sleeping through according to the wonder site that is kellymom.com is a block of sleep between midnight and five, that’s it. Not 12 hours without a peep. My son is a ten hour a night kid, fair enough. Shame it’s from 7pm-5am but that’s another blog.
What is hard with all this though and what makes keeping that positivity and acceptance alive when you’re working, raising little ones, doing all that we do as mothers, on little or broken sleep is keep being told but they can sleep through. What I think some people want to say is they should sleep through the night. So much importance is placed on this, it's one of the first baby questions asked. Are they good? Are they sleeping? Are they bad then if they don't sleep? If they follow their emotional and physical needs, that is in some way wrong? Of course it isn't. In our culture sleep is a currency and in some ways a measure of success. There are lots of professionals out there making a great living from helping mothers and fathers sleep. This is wonderful, truly, that you can get help and support at a huge transitional moment in your life and a few extra zzzs. I'm not knocking it, I'm not saying you shouldn't sleep. If your baby sleeps, wow, I am so happy that you are rested. However, as an NTP, we need to hear that it's going to be ok, that we're doing amazing and maybe we don't need fixing.
There is this other assumption that you haven’t tried to rectify this. Sleep is not that big a deal to me, I didn’t sleep huge stretches before the kids were born but I do understand that to some people they can’t function without their set hours and can’t imagine not getting their much needed allocation of sleep. I do understand it is essential and healing and biologically necessary but I also trust evolution and the process of motherhood. Babies are designed to wake often so mothers must be designed to handle a bit less sleep for a while. I think with this one you really have to concentrate on how you feel and not how you think you should feel. Some nights are so bad, I literally think it’s time for bed but it’s actually time to get up…yet I get through the day and am surprised I’ve made it to bath time without too much drama. Staying present can help too. Not thinking about how many times I’ve been woken up or how long this has been going on for is good and I NEVER EVER check the clock. It is no help to me to know I have been woken 4 times totalling two hours of missed sleep, no help at all.
Night Time Parenting has become a part of our family life. It has become familiar and almost comforting. If I am out for the evening or it’s been a busy day and I haven’t connected with the kids all that much, I know it’s ok because I’ll see them in a bit. I’m still feeding my littlest and I cherish it. I love those sleepy night time feeds. I didn’t appreciate these in the same way with my son. It’s a special quiet time when I feel like the only Mama and bubba in the world snuggling down.
It’s not forever. Nothing with kids is. Everything actually IS a phase.
So, yes I am a Night Time Parent and no I am not ashamed. Now off to bed zzz