Sleeping Through the Night at 23 Months

Dear Daughter,

In just 39 days you will be two years old. You have just started sleeping through the night. I remember just two weeks ago I COULDN’T DO IT ANYMORE because YOU WERE NOT SLEEPING AND I WAS TIRED AND I COULDN’T DO IT ANYMORE BECAUSE TIRED. And I remember when you were eighteen months old and I really couldn’t do it. And when you were 13 or 14 months and I knew I couldn’t do it. And when you were 9 months and 6 months and three months. And I was tired.

Now you sleep. Not every night, but approaching most nights. More often than not. Eleven at night to five AM without waking. I wake up still, sometimes, and sit up and look across the bed to where you’re curled up in the side-carred crib. You’re a big little tiny thing. Tiny tight curls have grown down to the middle of your back, and your mouth has filled itself with teeth that kept you sleepless for months while they came in. You talk in your sleep, sometimes. Sometimes you let out an angry squawk and roll over and thump your arm down against your bed and fall back to sleep again. Easy peasy pudding and pie for you, little one. I guess this is the “self soothing” nirvana that they speak of. And I don’t doubt that it is what it is, because I saw you learn your way here.

So how did we get here?

It’s been a journey. Just like it was a journey with each of your brothers.

In the end you started making choices. I’d ask you if you wanted to pop off and put your head on my shoulder or have your daddy bounce you. You’d pop off and put your head on my shoulder or sometimes you’d crawl over to your daddy and he’d try to bounce you and you’d get angry because that wasn’t what you wanted. So he’d lay down and you’d fall asleep with your head on his shoulder instead of mine.

Sometimes you’d want to nurse. And I’d say that you could. And sometimes you would. But sometimes your latch was terrible and I’d offer you a drink of water instead. Sometimes you’d cry and I’d say “I’m sorry but you’re biting me.” and then you’d be more careful. Or other times you’d keep on biting me and daddy would try to get you back to sleep and then I’d try to get you back to sleep. And you were upset that you couldn’t nurse back to sleep, but I couldn’t let you chew the skin off of my nipple the way you were every time you tried to nurse. Sometimes you’d want to be with daddy. Other times you’d want to snuggle up to me even if nursing wasn’t possible. Sometimes you’d fall back to sleep. Other times you’d wake all the way up because you did need to nurse. And once you were awake you would nurse and then you’d fall back to sleep and I would stay awake in the wee hours of the morning knowing that my alarm would go off too soon for me to crawl back into bed beside you.

The last stretch wasn’t a “method” or a “process” or something that can be quantified or outlined or made simple. It wasn’t consistent because it was based on your needs and on my ability to meet them, it was based on your latch, your ability to nurse without hurting me. It was my willingness to offer comfort, and ultimately it was your willingness to accept comfort in the different ways that it was offered. It was three people seeking balance in a dark room.

That’s what the “Wait it Out” method is for me. Seeking a balance together rather than forcing a balance apart.

You’re not “Sleeping independently” just yet. You still prefer contact while you sleep for part of the night (although you roll over into your own space more and more). You still nurse to sleep and will probably nurse to sleep for a long while. You still sleep in a sidecarred crib. You still wake up early in the night and then again towards morning.

But this is the part that I’ve been “waiting” for. The part where progress becomes tangible. Where I have proof that you can self soothe. That you are moving forwards. Where I am starting to get the sleep that I want and need.

Now it’s here. And the bad nights still happen sometimes. But that’s okay.

Things are how I said they would be from the beginning. You’d pass through the different stages where you could do different things. You’d master mobility. You’d cut your teeth. You’d learn to speak. You’d be able to listen. We’d talk about sleep. And you’d learn to do it on your own.

You have.

I don’t know if you are my last child or if we will have another child in the future. I know that if you have a little brother or sister we’ll wait it out with them, too. And that passing through it a fourth time won’t be any easier than the first, the second, or the third. I know that I will pass through the same periods of questioning if I could do it, of knowing that I could not. And I know that when it’s all said and done it’s so easy to look BACK and see and understand the progress that you made to this point. But that it’s never something you can see looking forwards.

From here on out we talk. I tell you about sleep. How soft and warm and snuggly it is. How it’s safe and delicious. How you’ll have your own bed in your own room just like your brothers do. And how you’ll move there when you’re ready, and how I might move there too just for a bit as you’re getting comfortable. Then you’ll stretch out and push me away and I’ll know you’re ready for me to leave your room behind.

For now, though, we sleep together still. Sometimes you sleep in your sidecarred crib. Sometimes you sleep snuggled up to your daddy. And other times you sleep with your head on my shoulder and I breathe you in. Your long soft hair tickling my  nose and your breath still smelling milky like a newborn.

All of these things will fade over time all on their own without me rushing it.

<3 Mama

  5 comments for “Sleeping Through the Night at 23 Months

  1. Jen
    March 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    This is so beautiful. You are an amazing family. Thank you for sharing with us – it gives me such hope and helps me to accept where we are at. I feel like a “Congratulations” is in order Sarah – to you, your partner, your daughter and her brothers – for waiting for this. You did it!

  2. Sheri
    March 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I love this! My little is 20 months old and while our nights are infinitely better than they were just a month ago I still dream of a stretch that is longer than 2 or 3 hours. This gives me so much hope!! Thank you, again, for affirming my wait it out choice!! :)

  3. Simone
    March 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Bravo & thanks for the hope! I really like this : That’s what the “Wait it Out” method is for me. Seeking a balance together rather than forcing a balance apart.

    :0)

    Happy sleeping!

  4. Jamie
    March 7, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Thank you for this well timed post. I have followed for a while always nodding my head in agreement and knowing from my first how hard but worthwhile waiting it out is. But today as my milk is drying up from pregnancy and my 2nd baby who is almost 20 months is so frustrated as am I at our changing nursing relationship and we hold each other crying at night for hours because nothing is working to soothe and yet I refuse to let her cry alone. I needed this post today and I am crying as I relate to the feeling of not letting her chew my nipples off but wanting to still respond to her needs. Thanks for reminding me I am not alone and relief will come with time.

  5. Maya
    September 20, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    All your articles are very touching…..having child is so bittersweet. We wait to have them sleep through the night but when the end is in sight, when we know they are weaning themselves and want to sleep on their own in their own big beds, we are so sad because we were soooo tired while it was all happening and we didn’t enjoy it as much as we should have. Well, Sarah, what you write reminds us to enjoy it.

    I was just thinking about how I must be a bad parent because I am not teaching my child to fall asleep on her own…I nurse her down and when she wakes at night I also nurse her. It was always the easiest and most natural solution to get her to sleep. After reading this, I know that she will learn just as naturally as everything else….

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