The most common question I have been asked since the birth of Baby GC is, “Does she sleep through the night?” (I think “Does she sleep through the night?” and “Is she a good baby?” amount to the same concern. The expectation seems to be a baby who leaves the mother alone so the mother doesn’t know she has a baby.)
Baby GC ~ 12 days old
I think most of the people who ask this question have experience with “bottle-fed, baby-in-a-crib-in-the-other-room” parenting. Night feedings must be much more uncomfortable, unpleasant, and more difficult than what I experience as an attachment mother. I thankfully also don’t have to leave my children in the morning to work outside the home.
Baby GC ~ One month old
Nighttime awakenings usually go like this: When the warm milk that filled her tummy at bedtime is completely absorbed, she stirs and tosses and smacks her lips. I pat her back or lift her on to my chest in case it’s just a rogue burp which needs to be released. If she continues to turn her head and begins to root, often with “hurry-up-already” coughs, I begin to nurse her. The smile as she latches on and her sighs of complete satisfaction are worth the label of not “sleeping through the night.” Mother’s high of a mixture of oxytocin and prolactin is satisfying as well. Her little fingers are wrapped around my thumb, and my fingers are wrapped around her little forearm. I may drift back to sleep while she is nursing, but if I can, I stay awake to position her carefully beside me when she is contentedly full. I cuddle her next to me and stretch out while she sleeps peacefully. I often hold her two hands in one of mine while I join her in deep sleep. (This helps when she is getting settled because it keeps her hands from rubbing or accidentally scratching her face and waking herself.) She sleeps next to me, safely on a firm mattress with a sturdy, high guard rail, instinctively watched over by her sleeping guardian mother.
I believe babies are smarter and healthier if they don’t sleep through the night. I understand the technical definition of “sleeping through the night” is six hours, but Baby and I usually stay in bed for eleven hours straight.
Usually after night nursings, I don’t even want to stop holding her. For her sake, I don’t want to put her down on the cold sheets, and I selfishly don’t want to lose her comfy, cuddly warmth. I have had five babies, and I know this time passes quickly. Soon, there will be a baby no more.
I can relate to the pain and suffering of having a colicky baby up every hour or two for months, stretching to sleepless years. Even with a healthy baby, there can be stressful nights of fatigue and frustration, but under normal circumstances, nighttime mothering isn’t much of a sacrifice. It is more like a gift. A mutual gift that brings joy and satisfaction to both mother and child.
So the answer to your question is, “No. She doesn’t sleep through the night. She’s a baby! And I’m glad. I miss her when she’s sleeping!” (I hold my tongue from saying, “Do YOU sleep through the night?” because I already suspect the answer is no.)
Baby GC ~ Almost three months old
P.S. It is now 4:47AM and I am lying here, propped up in bed, with a pencil and paper in hand, writing by a dim light. Baby is sleeping peacefully on my chest. I listen to her soft, steady breathing. Her eyes are closed with dark eyelashes feathering her rosy cheeks. I breathe in her baby smells. Sweet milk has dripped down her chin into the creases of her roly-poly neck, adding to her scent. Her “baby-ness” encourages mother’s kisses. She smells and feels so nice. She was made to be irresistible to her mother. I don’t want to lay her down. I want to hold her forever. She is surely giving me a glimpse of Heaven.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16