Dear Domestic Yogi:
My nine-month-old baby will not sleep through the night, and it is so frustrating. When the baby gets back to sleep, a lot of the time I then can't get back to sleep. It is wearing me thin. Do you have any advise?
Sleep Deprived Mama
Dear Sleep Deprived Mama:
Oh, sleep. New moms find themselves fantasizing about a full night of sweet silent sleep. Forget fantasizing about sex! Sleep is like the "new sex" for moms. Ahem. This is a family blog...sorry.
I do believe it is a myth that most babies sleep through the night in their first year naturally. Yes, some do, and count yourself lucky if they do, but most breastfed babies just don't sleep through the night for a long, long time.
That is, unless you define sleeping through the night as 4 or 5 hours at a time. But I am sorry, putting a baby to bed at 11pm after an insane long day, just to have them wake up at 4 am! That is not sleeping through the night. A nice 8 - 12 hrs is a more realist buffer for mom and child to get enough of a break to restore for the next day.
My son always woke up at least once in the night from 8 months - 2 years, then magically started to sleep full nights consistently around 2.5 years, which I hear is pretty much the norm.
In the first year of my son's life, we were up more like two - four times at night. Through trial and error, I learned to navigate this lack-of-sleep thing with a bit of peace and grace.
Here is my advise:
If your baby wakes, no matter how tired/annoyed/cranky/pissed you are about it, just try to stay centered, compassionate and loving. Otherwise, the baby picks up on your "off-centered-ness" and will get the message that something is wrong with you - his/her rock. When the baby gets the message that something is wrong, it will send him/her into a "fight or flight" response, and it will be harder to get him/her back to sleep. When you do, the baby probably won't get back into a deep sleep, so the cycle continues and continues and it gets very ugly indeed.
Not to mention the absolute stress you bring to your body and mind by allowing yourself to get upset with being woken up. Your endocrines will release hormones when you are stressed/upset and that is why you probably can't get back to sleep.
Believe me, I do understand how annoying and upsetting it is not to get enough sleep, but the best thing for you and your baby is for you to accept that you will get woken up, and when you do, don't look at the clock, just try to stay peaceful about it not matter how long it takes to get your baby back to sleep.
Try hard to find compassion for your baby's needs. Obviously he/she needs the added reassurance that you are there. If you are having a hard time finding the compassion, try imagining all the difficult situations your baby could have just lived through in his/her recent past life. Perhaps he/she was living through a war in Africa where the children can't sleep at night for fear they will be harmed. Or maybe your baby died in his/her sleep in their past life before they were ready and now they are fearful of sleep in this life. There are so many situations you could think of.
Rest assured, that by comforting your baby constantly at night, you are not doing any harm, but building healthy trusting relationships.
My now 8-month-old daughter always wakes up at least twice at night. I don't really even notice it anymore. Assuming I get myself to bed at a reasonable hour, I always feel rested.
Making your child feel loved and cared for, even many times at night, is an important step in your internal growth towards being the best person you can be in this lifetime.
If you have any questions for The Domestic Yogi, please email: thedomesticyogi at gmail.com