Yes, I’m going there.
I adore it. I crave it. I wish I was having more of it. But also, I am sick of people making such a BIG DEAL of it. ‘Is he good?’ people ask, meaning ‘does he sleep?’.
And well, yes, he does. Some nights for delicious chunks of hours and hours. Some days for most of the day. And sometimes for grisly little snatches of sleep, punctuated with melodramatic fart-tantrums and an endless appetite for a midnight (and beyond) feast.
And yet he IS good. He’s lovely, both on the days and nights when he sleeps like the proverbial ironic baby, and on the days and nights when his chocolate button eyes pop open in his currant bun face time after time. He’s utterly delicious, and I don’t consider his nocturnal patterns to be the most important thing about him.
But to listen to and read about the current obsession with babies’ sleep, it seems people have forgotten that waking up a lot is what babies do. To quote my own phrase, they’re famous for it. And, unless the situation is truly dire with your baby (in which case you probably want to reach through your computer screen and pinch my nose, really hard), I think we should all just stop stressing about it, obsessing about it, and even being (stealth) competitive about it.
A case in point:
The week that Leila turned six months old, we went on holiday to Whitby. She learned to sit up, she tried her first baby rice, G built her a sandcastle to sit in, and we made her a turban out of Auntie’s scarf to keep the sun off. She bonded with Arnie the dog, ate a chip on the seafront, and was generally hilarious fun.
She was also, as far as sleep was concerned, an absolute bloody nightmare. Between the sitting, the teething, the blasted seagulls, and being in a new place, the nights were a hellish blur. I’d be up and down feeding, then G would take the pram down to the sea and push it along the promenade in all weathers at 5am so that I- and Leila- could get some more kip.
But you know what? What I remember of that holiday is the adventures, Leila sitting in a sandcastle, G carrying her on a windswept beach on his shoulders, and the chip on the seafront.
My memories are golden. The photos show us grinning like our faces will break, having all sorts of japes, and gazing at Leila with gooey love-eyes.
I don’t look back at think ‘that holiday was awful, she slept really badly’. The crazy nights are just a footnote from the parental trenches, something to tease her about when she’s a teenager.
As a baby Leila was occasionaly a bad sleeper, sometimes an excellent sleeper, and probably just completely average. But never did I think she was less or more ‘good’ because of whatever she was doing at night. However I did feel pressure (from where? Books? The internet? People at playgroups? Strangers in supermarket queues? All of the above, really) to produce a magical sleeping baby, pressure for her to be doing the mythical 12-hour stretches, and the two hour naps in her cot.
I bought the books, I spent the hours shushing and patting to enforce daytime cot naps, I downloaded the white noise and I jotted down her routine in a notebook.
With Asher, I have cherry-picked the one sleep rule which I think all new parents should know about: to put them down awake but sleepy, whenever you can. Beyond that, I really can’t be arsed to intervene with his sleep. He’s three months old. Perhaps beyond the six-month mark, I’ll venture tentatively towards the baby books if his sleep is problematic, taking care to skim over the passages that make me feel like crap.
But until then, when he wakes up, I’ll feed him, basically. He’ll take most of his naps in the porch for now (he LOVES the porch); I’m not into co-sleeping but I’ll gratefully do some co-snoozing in the early mornings if it means a bit more sleep. I’ll do the night shifts, as I have the mammaries; and G can do the early mornings. We’ll bumble through, blearily but happily. And one day, he’ll sleep, as his sister mostly does, all night.
And I’ve decided to TRY not to care about how much sleep I am getting or not getting. Each morning I will attempt to draw a line under whatever the night has held, try not to wring my hands about Rods For Backs and Bad Habits etc, and just go to bed early to catch up. When people ask if he’s good, I’ll simply say ‘TERRIBLE! I’m thinking of returning him’ instead of blustering and making excuses for why my baby’s doing what comes naturally to them- being little buggers in the night.
I’m aware that I may be reminded of this breezy resolution as I turn to G gnashing my teeth and sobbing at 3am. I’m aware that I may shriek to myself ‘why did I WRITE THAT? I MUST have been sleep-deprived!’. But even at those times, I hope to remember that sleep maketh not the baby, however haggard the lack of it maketh Mummy look. After all, that’s why make-up was invented.