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Sleeping Through the Night is Not a Milestone

January 14, 2017

Sleeping Through the Night is Not a Milestone

I will never forget the first time my son slept through the night, because it was the night before Mother’s Day. It seemed so auspicious, an amazing Mother’s Day gift just for me. He was not quite five months old then. Now at thirteen months if people ask me if he sleeps through the night, my answer is a bemused “he has slept through the night.”

With all my son’s other milestones, once he did them, they were skills he had in his back pocket, and used at every opportunity. Rolling over, sitting up, crawling; he reached each of these milestones and there was no turning back. Sleeping through the night simply does not fit the template of a milestone, in my experience. Whenever my son gets more teeth, or is sick, or goes through a developmental growth spurt, sleep goes out the window. We get back to good sleep eventually, but it’s a process.

A night when my son sleeps 5-10 hours without waking us is an unexpected treat when it happens. I say “without waking us,”  because in reality, humans in general do not sleep through the night. Even as adults we wake up, think about our day, get up to pee, shift our position, at least a few times a night. The nights when my son sleeps without waking us, he is still waking at some point, the difference is that he goes back to sleep without requiring any assistance.

We have chosen not to sleep train our son, but have done some very gentle coaching as he moves toward toddlerhood, and we are generally nursing less at night, but teething, illness, and growth spurts still sometimes call for a lot of nighttime nursing. That being said, even my friends who have done sleep training with their kiddos often have the same setbacks that we do when illness or teething come up.

I wanted to write this as a note of solidarity to other parents in the depths of these sleep deprived times. It is totally okay that your baby or toddler has but does not always sleep through the night. My husband has but does not always make pancakes for breakfast. They are both reasonable expectations.


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