“How’s he sleeping?”
It’s one of the first questions we hear regarding our son in almost every social situation.
“Does he sleep through the night yet?” “Is he on a good napping schedule? Can he fall asleep on his own?”
I hate to admit it, but answering these questions over the past several months has given me a lot more anxiety than it should have, especially because Will slept wonderfully for the first few months of his life. I’m talking, he slept twelve hours a night, no dream feedings or anything, from about 10 weeks old to four months old. I was so careful to not nurse him to sleep for fear of establishing bad habits. And everything was going wonderfully. I jokingly claimed we were sleeping more now than we were before he was born. Life was grand and we were well-rested. He was even falling asleep on his own in his crib with no rocking needed!
Those weeks were glorious. I felt like supermom because I had suddenly and unknowingly sleep-trained my baby.
And then, whether it was the infamous “four-month sleep regression,” the RSV, teething, or just being out of our routine for the holidays, he started waking between three and six times a night again. That’s when the night nursing started, and just never ended.
Will is now almost nine months old and we’re nursing and rocking and bouncing him to sleep for every nap and every bedtime. He wakes two or three times a night to nurse. There have been a lot of tears. Sometimes from both of us.
Most of my own tears fell because I felt so much shame over not being able to get our son into a “better” sleep routine. I was listening to others talk about what worked for them without considering what our specific needs were. I was too caught up in what they thought and not listening to my own heart.
I say all this to say that I know nothing about baby sleep. I have no successful experience in sleep training. I’m sure we have all sorts of what others would consider bad habits, and I don’t know how we’ll deal with those later on. But, I do know my sweet baby needs me right now.
I know there are all sorts of sleep training methods out there to try. I know those solutions work for a lot of families, and that’s great! But I can’t let myself feel pressured into those parenting decisions when I know it isn’t what’s best for us right now.
So, when people ask us about his sleep schedule, I usually just try to smile and shrug instead of getting into all the details. I try to imagine how it will feel when I’m dragging my teenager out of bed at noon on Saturdays after he’s slept for 13 hours straight. I try to remember how it felt when we were desperately praying for a sweet babe to join our family, waiting month after month for our precious miracle.
And, perhaps even more importantly, I reflect on Psalm 22:9. “Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.”
I whisper these words to myself at 3:00am as I pull the covers off and walk to his room across the hall. I chant them to myself as I bounce my crying baby boy to sleep for an afternoon nap. I breathe them in as I watch him sleep peacefully in my arms.
How wonderful that we are not only meeting the needs of our babies by comforting them in the middle of the night, but we are also ministering to their souls, their spirits! Teaching them about trust. Showing them a sacrificial love.
It’s a wonderfully heavy responsibility to think that my parenting habits are shaping his view of the world and his understanding of God. So, I pray as I nurse my sweet boy to sleep. I pray he learns to trust his Heavenly Father. I pray that I’m able to open his heart and his mind to the joy of knowing his Savior is truly a Good Father, the “ultimate parent” who will always draw near when he calls.
Not that those thoughts make it easy to drag myself out of bed at two in the morning, after just being up at midnight, knowing I’ll be up again in 2 hours. But it does give me purpose in those dark moments.
And that makes me hold my sweet boy just a little longer in the wee hours of the night, even when we both need to be sleeping. Because these moments are fleeting. And I don’t want to miss a single one.