You are eight days from being ten months old. I get asked all the time “How does she sleep?” and I smile and say that you sleep exactly as you should, which means that you rouse easily and frequently and you nurse often in those dark hours between bedtime and waketime. You are sleeping like a baby. A very wise baby who knows her needs and who wakes me up to meet them.
Nighttime nursing helps keep our milk supply up and helps keep you nursing when many babies are weaning off onto formula or cow’s milk. By waking frequently to nurse at night you make sure that you continue to breastfeed. You make sure that you are getting antibodies, stem cells, the most bioavailable nutrients that exist. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, and many other things that are in human milk that scientists don’t even understand the function of just yet. If you did not nurse at night you would not be getting as much human milk as you do. You might not nurse for as long as your body needs you to.
Nighttime wakings lower your risk of SIDS. Babies that sleep more soundly have a harder time rousing when they have developmentally appropriate pauses in breathing. Your ability to wake yourself up is a remarkable survival trait that makes your nighttime sleep just perfect.
When I think of my goals with parenting- keeping you safe and healthy while I nourish your body and mind.. Your sleep habits now at ten months old are perfect for meeting those goals. “Get ten hours of sleep every night” has never been on my list of parenting goals, just like it would not be on my list of goals while working towards a nursing degree or studying for the bar exam.
Sleep is necessary, of course. But the way we sleep now is life sustaining. It sustains your life through a vulnerable time. As you pass out of this vulnerable time and sleep becomes a safer place for you, we will sleep more.
It already begins, as your body is ready. Last night you slept from 12AM to 6:30AM without waking. (And you slept before and after that as well.)Not because I have taught you that your needs will not be met when it is dark out, but because your needs have been met and your body was ready and willing.
I do not know if you will sleep well tonight. I do not know if you will wake once, twice, or many times. We’re taking this sleep thing one night at a time, one waking at a time.
And I’m fine with that, as this understanding helps me fall back to sleep as well, and it keeps us in sync as we sleep and wake. There is no resistance. There is nothing that keeps either of us awake when we could be sleeping. We wake when you have need, and we sleep as you are ready.
This is no different from pulling an all-nighter to meet any other valuable goal. This is the most valuable thing that I can do for you at this point of your life. This will not be a permanent need of yours. Sleep will come as you are ready. And until then I can wait it out.
This is not a permanent thing. Those nighttime needs to do not last forever. As you grow I will show you how to meet those needs without needing my help. But it would be ridiculous for me to expect that time to be now.. When you cannot yet walk, when you cannot yet get yourself a drink of water, when you cannot yet use the toilet instead of laying wet in a diaper. When you cannot yet speak your needs, and when you do not always understand them.
I do not want you to sleep through a need of yours. I will not train you to do that, just as I would never think of “training” you to pee in your bed rather than wake to use the toilet. When you have a need, you will wake up. And for as long as you need me to help you meet that need, I will wake up too.
Willingly, and with kisses, hugs, and whispered murmurs about love and sleep and safety and the warm darkness that holds us both in its arms and that lulls us back to sleep.
I can wait it out until you no longer have this need for me at night.
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