By Louise aka Mama Bean
By the time my baby was 48 hours old, I was being told to “keep her awake” during the day, so that she would be tired enough to Sleep Through The Night.
By the time my daughter was 3 weeks old, I was being told to reduce the number of times I breastfed her and instead, to “top her up” with formula, so that she was more likely to Sleep Through The Night.
By the time my daughter was 4 months old, I was being told to “give her a bottle of baby cereal” to fill up her tiny tummy…you know, so that she might Sleep Through The Night.
By the time my daughter was 9 months old, I was being told to “let her cry it out” – you guessed it, so that she might just Sleep Through The Night.
At this point, I withdrew from the game. I figured people could Shut The F*ck Up about Sleeping Through The Night.
I didn’t actually follow any of this dangerous advice, so you’d think that it had no effect on me, right? Yet as I type these words, I can feel a hot wave of anger pulsing through me.
How is it possible that such damaging and incorrect ‘advice’ is being reeled off to vulnerable new mothers without even a second thought?
I wish I could say that I felt empowered enough in those early days to have openly laughed in the face of such nonsense. I wish I could say that my innate mommy confidence stopped such conversations in their tracks.
But I can’t.
Because I was anything but empowered. I was scared – absolutely terrified – that I was somehow fucking up this mothering gig. I listened to these snippets of never-ending ‘advice’ and as I disregarded each one, I felt more and more alone…was I really the only mother in the world who wasn’t following this particular book? Was I actually the only mom whose child didn’t Sleep Through The Night and was it somehow my fault for not following these unnatural, albeit widespread, ‘rules’?
I felt isolated and riddled with self-doubt. Oh, and I was bone-crushingly exhausted.
“Tiredness” doesn’t cover it. Tiredness was something other people dealt with…other people without children, I might add. Tiredness was manageable and regular. I saw tiredness and I raised in tenfold.
But then one sleepless night, as I sat nursing my baby girl, I skimmed through some comments in a mommy group on Facebook.
It was Too-Fucking-Late o’clock and people other than me were still awake. Not only that, but this other-worldly concept of Sleeping Through The Night was also plaguing them.
Because we seem to be collectively obsessed with the idea of Sleeping Through The Night. It’s presented as nothing short of the Holy Grail of motherhood…something upon which to precariously balance our ever-diminishing fragile self-worth as mothers.
But not everyone was playing the game.