When I was a new mom, my life revolved around sleep. Sure, feeding and changing my new baby were also the top priorities, but it felt like sleep was the priority. My newborn didn’t seem to prioritize sleep in the same way I did, and it took several months to get into some kind of sleep schedule. Even then, it was tenuous at best. A two-minute car nap would prevent an afternoon nap all together. A later nap due to a family gathering and he might be awake hours past his bedtime. And every few weeks, his sleep routine seemed to change. So when he was on a regular sleep schedule, I clung to it for dear life.

And it was hard. I rearranged my own schedule to make sure weren’t in the car before nap time. I awkwardly told family members that we’d be late to an event—or worse, miss it all together—because it would throw off my baby’s sleep routine. 

That might sound harsh, but believe me when I say that it was absolutely essential. After dealing with a bout of postpartum depression that was exacerbated by a lack of sleep, maintaining my son’s nap and bedtime routines was critical to my mental health and the wellbeing of our entire family.

Related: Spotting postpartum depression can be difficult. Here’s why you should enlist your partner’s help

Not everyone can understand this, however. Parents of “easy sleepers”, older parents who’ve forgotten about the terror that baby (or toddler) can unleash, well-intentioned grandparents who understandably want more time with their sweet lil nugget, and folks who don’t have children might not understand. They might give you a hard time for being late to a family gathering. You might catch flack for leaving a get-together early. You might get passive-aggressive comments that make you feel guilty for inconveniencing others. But your baby's needs don't change just because it's a holiday or special occasion.

You won’t always be in this season of life and motherhood.

Do not feel guilty. Your baby won’t always require rigid sleep routines. Your family won’t always be so dependent on ensuring that your little one gets their sleep. As they say, this too shall pass.

Some newborns won’t sleep anywhere. Some babies can’t “just nap” wherever. Some toddlers can’t sleep in a pack-n-play while there’s a party going on in the next room. Some children—and as a result, some families—need their sleep more than others. This isn’t something to be embarrassed about, to be ashamed of, or to apologize for. It just is.

And it won’t last forever. That challenging sleeper of mine grew into a toddler who learned how to sleep independently, then a little kid who could skip naps and stay up later without many issues and is now a 15-year-old who, like most teens, sleeps until noon when given the chance.

To those mamas feeling guilty about sticking to your baby’s sleep schedule: please try to let that guilt go.

You should never feel guilty for prioritizing your child’s or your family's health and wellbeing. And let’s be honest, sleep (our own and our kids’) is pretty critical to our health and wellbeing. You don’t need to feel embarrassed for holding on to the routine because you know what your baby needs. You don’t need to apologize for your child’s needs, including their sleep needs, just because they might inconvenience someone else. After all, respecting our child’s needs is how we love them.

And to the family and friends of parents who prioritize their baby’s sleep schedule: please try to understand.

Please be patient with us. Please trust that we know what is best for our baby and our family. Please know that we aren’t trying to inconvenience you by doing what we know is best for our child’s and our own wellbeing. We don’t want to hurt or annoy you. We love that you want us to spend time with us, and we want to be spending time with you too. 

We’ll be at the holiday gathering or special occasion as soon as we can—well-rested and ready to groove.