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ParentingMy Baby Doesn't Sleep: 3 Things I've Learned

My Baby Doesn’t Sleep: 3 Things I’ve Learned

Motherly Collective

My son hates sleep. And not in the “I need an afternoon coffee because my kids woke up at 6 a.m.” kind of way. When we brought him home from the hospital, he woke up every two hours for the first four months. I’ve been sleep deprived since I gave birth to him on March 2nd, 2021. 

He’s now 2.5, and he wakes up anywhere from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., looks me right in the eyes, and says “I want to go downstairs, mommy.” I used to dread when people would ask if he was sleeping through the night. No, he’s not. Some babies don’t. Some toddlers don’t. And some kids are just not great at sleeping. 

I’m not going to give you advice on how to sleep train. I’ve tried all the methods and read all the books. Yes, I’ve tried putting him to bed earlier. Yes, I’ve tried putting him to bed later. This is for the moms who need just a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel and the bottom of the coffee cup. I see you. I feel your exhaustion, and I’m here to offer some perspective. 

A few months ago, on a random Thursday afternoon, I put my son down for a nap. Nothing to get excited about as his naps usually last about 30 minutes. On that day, I read him a book, sang our favorite songs and walked to the door with my knees locked like I had two peg legs. (This is the only way to exit a room without making noise. Don’t question me, I’ve tried all methods). Thirty seconds later, he was crying. Then, I heard him say something on the monitor that I will never forget. “I miss you, mommy.”

He had never said that phrase before. I didn’t know he even understood the concept of missing anyone or anything. In that moment, I realized that, yes, my son really hates sleep, but he also really loves me. And I wonder why we don’t talk about that more—the upside of the downsides. The silver linings that feel more like gold. The parenting world has become obsessed with finding the solution to every problem. But kids are not robots. They’re all great at some things, average at a lot and bad at some. Sometimes parents don’t need a solution. Sometimes we just need to look at life from another angle. 

I don’t claim to know a lot about parenting. I never put my kids on a schedule, my son’s main food group is yogurt melts and he still asks for milk in the middle of the night. After two and half years of sleeplessness, I sometimes don’t see or think clearly—but having a child with undiagnosed insomnia has taught me three things for sure. And while these things don’t help me sleep at night, they do remind me (especially in moments of weakness) why I so deeply love being his mom. 

  1. Parents lie. No child sleeps perfectly. No child hits all the milestones at the right time. We all google “when should my baby roll over?” I don’t know why we lie. Maybe it’s to make ourselves feel better. Maybe it’s the comparison that comes with social media. Maybe it’s just revisionist history. But, if you ever find yourself wide awake at 3 a.m. thinking to yourself “So and so told me they never give their baby a bottle in the middle of the night,” just remember this—so and so is probably lying. Everyone has their own parenting fails and concerns they keep to themselves.
  1. There is always an upside if you look hard enough. I remember friends warning me about the four-month sleep regression. You know what’s great about having a baby that doesn’t sleep well? Regressions don’t exist—the only way to go is up. 
  1. In the midst of the chaos, small and random moments will take your breath away. You will likely discover a feeling you’ve never had before.I call it present nostalgia. I find myself, almost daily, missing a moment while I’m still living it. 

I wish I could tell you it gets better. And maybe it does at some point but, for now, I’m at peace with my sleepless nights. I’ve given up on molding my son into a good sleeper and started training my brain to remember that my most important job is to mold him into a good person. He is so amazing at so many things—a little force of nature who will make his mark on the world one day. He is not a good sleeper (and likely never will be). That is the downside. But, my son doesn’t want to sleep because he misses me when I’m right on the other side of the door. That’s the upside. 

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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