Baby sleep is hard.
I read once that the average parent loses 365 hours of sleep in the first year of their child’s life.
And, when I read that, I just about choked on my (strong) coffee in dismay.
365 hours?! One hour per night? Had the people behind this study ever even MET human children? Did they study only drugged children?
If we do the math, assuming most adults average 6-7 hours of sleep per night, I lost a minimum of 1095 hours of sleep in my first year as a parent. (I get 3-4 hours on a good night. And there have been many, many bad nights, where I have made coffee and put on my jeans without ever having been to sleep.)
I’ve written about it before, about how I am so tired my face hurts, and why we co-sleep even tho we said we’d NEVER. About how I’ve poured laundry soap on top of my clean, wet clothes as I put them in the dryer, because my brain just doesn’t WORK anymore. I’ve searched in desperation for the best baby sleep tips.
(They’re out there in spades…there’s just a whole lot that can be said about baby sleep. Everyone has something to say about it.)
And none of it actually makes those wide awake 3 am hours (and hours and hours) any easier.
None of it necessarily holds the secret to getting you through those long nights – until now.
(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
The other day, something changed for me, in the way I think about my awake baby.
Now, I should say, that sleeping has gotten much better for us. Or it had.
We’re nearing the Squishy Baby’s first birthday, and he often sleeps for 3 hours in a row, waking only for a few minutes at a time, and only a few times per night.
I am far more rested now than I was 6 months ago.
But, this past month, we’ve struggled. We have been in a full-on 12 month baby sleep regression.
My baby has refused to go down before 1:30 – 2 am. And when he does finally go down, it’s brief at best. We’ve spent long 3 hour stretches snuggling and praying for sleep.
My husband and I have had more exhausted, frustrated, short-with-each-other conversations than we care to count, and we’ve taken half hour turns night after night, despite the fact that he needs to get up at 7 and we (the baby and I) don’t. ( I am very blessed by my baby’s daddy, to not have to fight this battle alone.)
We spend a lot more time just sitting on the couch this month, baby and I. I’ve never been a watcher-of-day-time TV but lately, I just turn it on to have something to look at while I sit, because I am too tired to do anything else.
The other day, squish wandered off to play with his little singing table and I pulled out my phone to surf Facebook – something else I almost never do. Partly because I don’t have time, and partly because the feed is filled with terrible and depressing things. (I know there’s cute pictures of babies and cats, but I tend to focus on the negative, so I choose to just not look at all.)
As usual, a terrible awful no good and heartbreaking article caught my eye.
I honestly can’t even tell you why I read it – normally when I discover that something is THAT gut-wrenching, I just close the page. It’s a life rule I have.
This was an article about a woman gynecologist working in a concentration camp in the war. She knew that pregnant women and babies would suffer terrible things, so she did the only thing she could to protect them – ended the pregnancies and killed the babies – in an attempt to maybe save their mothers. (That’s really all the detail you need for this to make sense. I can’t even link to the article because it is just too awful.)
That night, at 3 am, while I held my baby and wished for sleep I realized…
Just how blessed I truly am.
I thought about all the countless women have gone before me – who would give anything – ANYTHING – to spend sleepless nights holding their babies.
I realized I am literally living the dream, the soul-longing, of so many women who have been deprived this chance. It broke my heart, but it also changed my heart.
And I sat there, filled with gratitude, and swore I would never take the chance to hold my baby – to be awake with my baby – for granted again.
No, it didn’t make me less tired.
It just made it less hard, and that’s all I need it to be.
Your baby will learn to sleep.
He will not always need you, you will rest again. (I’m updating this one year later – and I can say with certainty, even though it does not feel like it now, your baby WILL learn to sleep.)
If I could give you ANY advice about baby sleep, it wouldn’t necessarily be that you need a routine, or a dark room, or a sound machine. I wouldn’t necessarily tell you to co-sleep or to cry it out. (I mean, do what works for you, but that’s not what I would focus on.) All those things are worth trying, but they aren’t the end all be all when it comes to baby sleep.
If I could tell you ANYTHING, and have you hear me it would be this: this time is short – soon, you won’t even be able to remember what his tiny little body feels like when you pick him up, exhausted, at 4:15 am.
You’ll barley be able to picture his sweet face once and how peaceful he finally looks when you get him to sleep. Once this season is over, you will never return to it. You will look back on these wide awake baby hours and … you will miss them, just a little.
Focus on THAT when baby sleep gets hard.