If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, "So are you sleeping much?" or "Does he sleep through the night?" I would be living in a mansion in Beverly Hills and I would definitely have a night nurse.
But, sadly, I don't get any kind of compensation when I get that question (a lot). It honestly seems like I get it almost every single day, whether by a curious stranger or a well-intentioned family member or friend, and my answer is always more of a laugh than an actual answer, because… well, I wish!
I wish he was sleeping "through the night" even if sleeping "through the night" just meant six straight hours. That would be amazing! But my baby is not one of those babies that began sleeping through the night at six weeks old. And who am I kidding, a three hour stretch of sleep would be great!
But that's not our reality right now, so the "night nurse" is my amazing husband and I and we are still waking up every two, give or take, hours at night to feed or console our 6-month-old.
So let's go over the usual checklist of questions we hear and ask ourselves:
Do you have the room pitch black, you ask? Yup.
Do you have a sound machine? Yup.
Do you swaddle? Yup. (And now with his arms out since he is older.)
Have you sleep-trained? Have you tried Baby Wise? Cry It Out? Ferberizing? PUPD?
Have you tried putting him down when he's sleepy but not asleep?
Have you waited to see what happens when he wakes up before you pick him up?
Yes, and yes again; and he cries. Then we have to suck his snot with the snot sucker. And administer gripe water because his crying caused him to develop the worst case of hiccups known to babies. Then that wakes him up completely.
So we're back to rocking and swaying and singing him to sleep.
And I'm back to thinking...I could really use that night nurse.
Even though I am beyond tired, the truth is I don't mind my baby needing to nurse every two to three hours at night because he must need the calories or maybe he just wants an extra snuggle session.
When he was a few weeks old, he wasn't gaining weight like he should have been so the doctor had us waking him up every couple of hours to nurse. During the day if he was napping and it had been three hours since his last feeding, we would wake him up from his nap to get his tummy full.
Once his weight was increasing at a healthy rate, we let him wake us up when he needed to nurse. He consistently started waking up every three hours at night, with a four hour stretch when he first went to bed. Of course, we usually didn't go to bed when he did because we would have dishes to do or laundry to put away. Or we'd finally get a second to have a conversation together while maintaining focus and eye contact.
But those longer four-hour stretches were still a treat! Then, due to the four month sleep regression, teething, or only God knows why, his sleep stretches greatly diminished when he was about four months old. And there we were—back to waking up every two hours. Like most new parents, we never stopped feeling the sleep deprivation effects even with the longer sleep stretches, but they worsened once he went back to waking every two hours.
I have spent countless hours on Google and Pinterest trying to figure out why my baby won't sleep longer stretches. I kept thinking there must be a reason, an answer, a solution. And while I didn't find a magical potion or combination to get my baby to sleep, what I did find out was: We are not alone!
Not all babies sleep through the night by six months. I have found it quite common to find stories about babies not even sleeping through the night by age one.
What works for one baby may not work for every baby. And that's okay.
Not all parents will feel comfortable with the sleep training that involves letting their baby cry. And that's okay.
Not every baby even responds to sleep training well. And that's okay, too.
The biggest thing that gave me hope was hearing that my baby will sleep through the night when he is ready. There is not one cookie cutter solution to fix his sleep patterns. There is nothing wrong with him. We have not failed at sleep training him. We did and continue to do what we believe is best for our son and his health.
Did we cause him to create this sleep schedule where he wakes up at least six times during the night? Maybe we did but how will we ever really know?
Is he using nursing or his daddy's cuddles to soothe himself back to sleep? Probably. But as he's nursing for the third time in the middle of the night, and I'm seeing double of everything on my phone trying to stay awake, I remember that this will not last forever. He will not always want our snuggles to fall back asleep.
Even though I look forward to him sleeping through the night or even five hours in a row, I know I will miss him needing me so often. He will sleep through the night eventually and I have that to look forward to, but right now I will enjoy his midnight snuggles.
The truth is, even if I did get a dollar every time someone asked me how we were sleeping, I still wouldn't hire a night nurse.