I have heard of these babies who sleep ten hours a night once they hit six weeks. They are mythical creatures with very lucky mothers. My son categorically belongs to the other group of babies.
Sometimes it was curiosity, sometimes it was just asked as one of those questions you ask new mothers. Always it was with good intentions. But I dreaded hearing it and dreaded answering it even more: 'Is he sleeping through the night yet?'
Then there were the emails and advertisements from every baby sleep site under the sun (or moon as the case may be). Cry it out, extinction, no tears, routines, regression, self-settling... an endless list of problems which they each had the solution to. All you need is a credit card.
I've had endless back and forth conversations with myself on the topic, never mind all the ones with my husband. If other babies sleep through and he doesn't, there must be something wrong. I must be wrong. He's napping too much in the day. If I shorten his day naps and he still doesn't sleep through I'll just have ruined his overall amount of sleep. Sleeping through is a skill he needs to be thought. No, it says here it's a milestone, he'll reach it when he's ready. And on, and on, and on.
It overwhelmed me. I squirmed at having to answer a simple and innocent question. I stressed when I saw (or thought I saw) the shock or pity at my replies. I felt judged by the concern of others. To me, their well-intentioned suggestions were telling me I should be a better mother.
I convinced myself that I was wrong because of how other people were reacting. Or how I perceived them to be reacting. Every time he woke up a night it was a sign of my failure. I spent many nights silently crying as my little man snuggled and fed, blissfully unaware of the state I allowed myself to get into.
I ended up trying a feeding and sleeping schedule with a 'no tears' settling approach. I didn't make it one full day. Of course, there were tears that night. My baby had no idea why his mammy was leaving him there upset. Why would she do that? WHY WOULD I DO THAT? Because some babies can sleep through the night? Because of other people's suggestions? Because I was paranoid about what people were thinking of me, just because they asked a question? My sons tears were not the only ones that night. I picked him up, cuddled him and apologised to both of us. This was not the way, and I promised my baby we'd find a better way. Our own way. And I finally found a bit of peace.
I know my baby. I know he gets plenty of sleep, spread out as it might be. I know he is healthy and happy. More than anything, I know he is loved. There is nothing wrong with him. There is nothing wrong with what my husband and I are doing. We will all get there in the end. It might not be the approach that suits everybody, but it suits our family, and that's what's important. I had taken action based on what I thought other people thought I should do. That was never going to work. Now, we have made a decision for our own reasons. And though we might be lacking in sleep, we're not losing it over this decision.
So, mums and dads, whatever that question is for you, don't let your worries turn it into something more. Your family and friends are there for you. No one is judging you, and even if they are, let them. They don't know your baby like you do. Trust in that and trust yourself to do what's right for your family. You'll definitely sleep better, even if it is only until the next feed!