You are not a bad mother if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night

Expectations about baby sleep set mothers up to fail.

baby wont sleep through the night
Ana Gambuto/Instagram

One of the main questions I was asked when my son was born was whether he was sleeping through the night. I think I lost count of how many times the question was thrown my way in the first year—and they were words I started to dread, because Jovan was such a terrible sleeper. You would think that people would have worked out the answer just by looking at the bags under my eyes. I was so incredibly sleep deprived that even closing my eyes while having a shower felt like a dream. (Two whole minutes of peace... three if I was really lucky.)

Before I had my son, I could probably count on one hand how many times I discussed sleep with anyone. But after he was born, suddenly everyone seemed to be interested in my sleeping patterns. My family, friends, the lady at the grocery store checkout lane. Everyone seemed to be interested and have an opinion on what I should or should not be doing.

Baby sleep is one of those topics where assumptions are quickly drawn and you wonder how to respond without people thinking you are an awful mother. If you say your little one is sleeping through the night, they assume that this is simply impossible and that you must be allowing them to cry it out while you sit with your feet up, drinking wine and watching Netflix. If you say they are waking up numerous times through the night, the assumption is you are doing something wrong. "Are you sure they're not hungry?" "Are you still rocking them to sleep?" are usually the questions thrown at you. And forget about telling anyone if you co-sleep.

Don't get me wrong, I welcome advice from other mothers and I think most mothers do. Although some suggestions may not work for you, when you are at the point of desperation you are willing to try anything. But there is a fine line between giving tips and pointing out what other moms are doing wrong, making them feel like they are failing at being a parent.

When a mother may be at her most vulnerable—mentally, emotionally and physically—making judgmental comments like "you need to stop picking him up," or "you need to stop his night feeds," or "I hope you're putting him down drowsy but awake or he will never learn how to self soothe" is just not helpful. The overwhelming level of judgment and expectation about baby sleep sets mothers up to fail.

I can honestly say this was one of the biggest factors in my postpartum depression, as I constantly felt like I was not doing it "right," whatever that is. I read pretty much every article, blog and advice column on the internet on getting your child to sleep and my son was still waking up numerous times each night. I did not know what I was doing wrong. I felt like a failure.

He didn't start sleeping through the night until just before he turned 2. For the past few months, I've been able to put him down in his cot awake without the neighbors thinking we are carrying out an exorcism in our house. There has been no change in his routine whatsoever, he has just simply become (dare I say it) a "good sleeper." But until he became a good sleeper I attended to his needs. If he woke up through the night and needed some comfort, I cuddled him until he fell back to sleep. If he woke up for the hundredth time in a night, I would often co-sleep if it meant we were both getting much needed rest. If he wanted some milk or a sip of water through the night, I gave it to him. I did what worked for us. There were times I felt guilty for doing these things, because I was ignoring the advice of sleep coach professionals who would say let him cry it out. But mothers should not feel guilty for comforting their children.

It took me some time to say this to myself, but I think it is normal for babies to wake up regularly through the night and need comfort and reassurance to fall back to sleep. It is normal for babies to be nursed to sleep and even through the night. It is normal for a baby's sleep to take three steps forward and then two steps back. It is normal for families to room share, co-sleep, use white noise or whatever else works for them.

Because the truth is, human children are the most contact-dependent and immature social mammals on the planet. Which means human mothers are one of the most hardworking and exhausted mothers on the planet.

Each child will develop in their own way. So next time you cuddle your child back to sleep or give them that extra comfort, remember you are not spoiling your child, you are simply making them feel safe and secure. That's not discrediting any sleeping training methods or techniques, it is simply a reminder that it is okay to do what works for you if it means both you and baby are happy.

And when you speak to a mother about sleep, remember she does not need to be questioned or judged or expected to meet false standards of 'success.' Instead, offer her a cup of tea and cake and some conversation to bring a smile to her face.

That always worked for me.

Mom-tested products that help babies sleep better

Weighted sleep sack

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.


Compact portable white noise machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go, and it travels from stroller handle to nursery shelf with ease. Moms love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.


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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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