Soon after my son's second birthday, I awoke in a panic around 3:40 in the morning. I glanced around, didn't see my son, then woke up my husband while frantically reaching for the baby monitor. "Is he OK? Where is he? Why hasn't he cried? Is he breathing?!" My groggy husband tried to reassure me he was OK, but I wasn't convinced. It took me another two hours to fall back asleep, mostly because I'm a poor sleeper, but also because one of the things I wasn't prepared for when my baby slept through the night was believing that he was just sleeping (and not something way scarier).
Though I originally planned for him to be in a co-sleeping attachment for his first few months before moving into a crib in his own room, my baby had other ideas. He patently refused to sleep on anything without a heartbeat for his first few weeks, and then needed to be within latching distance of my breasts (or in a moving car or stroller) until around 10 months. Even then, he only went about two hours at a time in his crib before needing to eat and be held. And while we maybe, probably could have trained him otherwise, I have a very low threshold for crying and my son is remarkably strong-willed. I have more than enough battles to pick with him during the day, so when our nights could be relatively simple by meeting one fairly reasonable (from an evolutionary perspective) request, that was hard to decline. So into our bed he came for the rest of the night to latch and cuddle freely. Though it got a little less convenient as he grew, we held out hope that, eventually, he'd just stay in his own bed all night. Eventually.
So naturally, when he actually did sleep through the night, I freaked out. Because who doesn't freak out when their life goes right? "Too good to be true" seemed applicable to a situation like this, until I remembered that waking up to eat all night was only ever supposed to be a temporary phase of life. So while I'm super glad I get to say "I told you so!" to all the people who swore he'd never leave our bed if we didn't sleep train him at 3weeks or whatever, I also wasn't prepared for the following things when my baby actually did sleep through the night.
How Long It Took To Reach That Milestone
Because people ask how babies are sleeping almost immediately after they're born, it seems like it's a milestone they're supposed to reach pretty early in life. But actually, most babies wake to eat (among other things) throughout their first year. Considering the fact that we never intentionally sleep trained him, his taking two years to reach this milestone on his own was actually totally normal.
My Massively Engorged Breasts
Turns out I was making a lot of milk at night. For me, abruptly going 10 hours without nursing = going up nearly a full cup size overnight. Ouch. There's a reason you're supposed to night wean, as opposed to going cold turkey.
The Freakout That Ensued When I Realized He Hadn't Woken Up In The Middle Of The Night As Usual
I've never scrutinized our baby monitor so intensely. “I can't see his face, can you see his face? Is something blocking his airway? Is he moving? Can we normally see subtle sleepy movements on this thing? OK, he just rolled over. Is that a normal roll or is he flailing because he's in danger?”
How Our Nighttime Routine Needed To Change
If he wasn't eventually coming up to our bed to sleep and nurse, that meant we needed to start being more serious about making sure we anticipated any hydration or other nighttime adjustments before putting him down for the night.
How Our Morning Routine Needed To Change
Similarly, since he was no longer going to be waking up in our room, that meant we might need to move a lot of his stuff out of our bathroom and into his own space so it would be handy when we needed it. So many little things — where the potty is, where fresh diapers are, where his toothbrush is — can make a massive difference to the flow of your day when you're trying to move a frequently-resistant toddler from point A to point B.
My Newfound Freedom In Pajama Choices
Now that I don't have to nurse all night, I don't have to worry about making sure my boobs are easily accessible. Sure, I could sleep in sexy attire again. But honestly, I’m mostly looking forward to digging out all my comfy AF crew neck shirts for at least a little while. Sorry, Husband.
My Wistfulness Over Not Being A Nighttime Necessity Anymore…
Don’t get me wrong: I’m relieved as hell to not be nursing all night long, or being kicked/head-butted/otherwise inconvenienced by an ever-growing child. But the fact that he can get along without me right next to him at night is also a reminder that my baby isn’t technically a baby anymore, and I will always be a little sad about that.
...And My Relief/Alarm At The Growing Parental Equality Between Me And My Partner
I’m also very relieved that because we’re not night-nursing anymore, my husband can be equally involved in bedtime and basically everything else that our son needs.
However, and to be totally real for a second: I’m also low-key kinda sad that I’m not guaranteed to be the default favorite parent anymore. That’s a really small price to pay for not being the default parent more generally, for sure, and my amazing husband absolutely and completely deserves to be equally regarded for his stellar parenting.
But whatever, I’m kinda petty sometimes, so this stings a little.
Relearning How To Sleep Without A Giant Belly/Baby To Accommodate
I’m naturally a tummy sleeper, but that went out the window once my belly started growing during pregnancy. Yet now I’m finding that I actually have to re-learn what it means to be able to move freely while sleeping, without having to worry about my positioning relative to a much tinier human.
Dealing With Middle Of The Night Wake-Ups Now That We Know He's Capable Of Putting Himself Back To Sleep
Now that I know he’s physically capable of sleeping through the night, I’ve become alternately less tolerant and more afraid of nighttime wakings. Part of me is like, “No, li’l man. Figure this out for yourself.” But the worrier in me is like, “OMG are you in serious danger? Are these signs of an acute health crisis? I have to do something!”
Fortunately, he usually puts himself back to sleep before I can go too far off the deep end. Thanks, kid.