Sleep — you don't realize it's such an essential part of maintaining your health and happiness until you have a baby or toddler who refuses to sleep through the night. If you are my beautiful, strong, and sassy 2-year-old daughter, you think sleep is for quitters.
The peanut gallery would likely say I have done it all wrong. A breastfed, co-sleeping baby girl who didn't use a pacifier and always fell asleep on the boob, she was never "trained" or had a schedule. Yes, I have heard children do much better with routines, but in my life, a happy calm mom is more of an essential than making sure an evening bath is given at the exact same time every night.
What has kept me having a sense of self throughout motherhood has been a bit of freedom with timing, and the ability to still say yes to invites with family, other moms, and friends. We also love travel, and when you travel, you need your baby to be able to fall asleep in your arms, a carrier, at a restaurant, or in a theater. So, fine, not having a routine was a strike on my list.
After 2 years of growing and exploring, my girl still doesn't sleep through the night, nor do I expect her to. Do I wish she did? Yes. Do I blame myself for not training her? Hell no. There are nights where she sleeps better and nights where she is awake all the time. It used to stress me out to no end. I would be in near tears as she woke with every hour or two for what seemed like the 10 millionth time in an evening. I can't lie and say that I'm care-free about this yet, but I have learned.
After 2 years of growing and exploring, my girl still doesn't sleep through the night, nor do I expect her to. Do I wish she did? Yes. Do I blame myself for not training her? Hell no.
I've learned that a calm mom makes for an easy bedtime. As soon as I get stressed that she is still fighting sleep after being awake all day and even I am tired, she fights harder. If I skip a book or a story, she kicks more. If I yell, get short or huff and puff, she does the same. So, I have learned and still need to practice, to just breath. All mothers out there know this isn't always easy and feasible, but I give it my best try.
I take less advice and read less about what others say is a normal sleep pattern for a child, because every single kid is different. My daughter has always needed less sleep. It doesn't make her cranky and it helps me a great deal. If I try for a nap in the afternoon, she fights for hours and then again at bedtime. If we skip the nap, play a little and have some quiet time, she falls asleep as the sun goes down like a dreamy little angel (most of the time).
Don't get the impression that I'm entirely care-free and without routine. I mean, I won't take her out late if I know she is tired, and I sort of gauge the day based on how she feels. If she looks sleepy, I push harder for a nap. If she's not feeling well, I drive in a bunch of circles to make sure she has some calm quiet time or a nap in the car. My bedroom has also become a sanctuary of sleep. Twenty minutes before bed I put lavender essential oils in the diffuser. I play the same song for her to fall asleep to (Lana Del Rey's "Ride," go figure) and I tell her the same two stories. It works . . . sort of.
I realize I seem incredibly low key and easy going, and my husband is probably laughing somewhere as he has seen me in tears at bedtime before. It hasn't been totally easy. I have texted countless friends trying to figure this out and have read every single article about toddlers' sleep. This is a new found sense of giving less of a . . . you know what I mean.
No, my toddler does not sleep through the night, and when you say to me that your 4-month-old isn't sleeping through the night, I might giggle a little inside. But I have hope that one day I will sleep again. This is what works for me now — to care less, give her a sense of freedom and control, and to make sure mama is happy. And coffee. Coffee helps, too.