It's no secret that the media usually latches onto (or creates) one particular image for something pretty complicated and diverse, essentially pigeonholing parts of our lives. Family life, of course, is one of those images that has been manipulated by the media to be, well, unrealistic. Sure, we don't ask much in the form of entertainment and I'd argue that we watch television and movies to get away from "reality," but the media is powerful and how we perceive ourselves and the world is shaped by what the media creates. That's why there's no denying that there are media depictions of baby sleep that every mom hates, only because it has created some very unrealistic expectations that set so many mothers (and fathers) up for absolute failure.
When I first became a mom, I knew I'd be up feeding my daughter every few hours. When it comes to depictions, the media has the whole "newborns never sleep, ever," trope down like a boss. However, kids on television shows and in movies usually start sleeping through the night relatively early (and in their own bed) so when my newborn wasn't necessarily a newborn anymore, I was shocked at just how difficult it was to get a decent night's sleep. Like, this looked so easy on Friends and Modern Family. What gives, television?
While we know that the media does tend to run off of generalities rather than all-encompassing truths, it's way too easy for all of us to collectively ignore that fact and take their word for it when it comes to, you know, pretty much anything (and especially when it is something we would like to believe). A healthy reality check is never a bad thing, though, so here are some media depictions of a baby sleep that I have found many a mother (including myself) to absolutely despise.
A Baby Will Wake Up Immediately If The Slightest Sound Is Made
Every baby is different, so maybe this is true for some. However, I have found that my daughter will sleep through pretty much anything, so we don't have to tip-toe around her when she's out for the count. It's kind of awesome, and this is one of those media depictions that I, for one, am so very thankful isn't true.
Every Baby Should (And Does) Sleep In A Crib
This is a bummer, because there really should be more media depictions of co-sleeping. Honestly, I think if we saw more parents sharing their beds and/or co-sleeping with their babies, the myths about co-sleeping would cease to exist and parents who co-sleep wouldn't constantly have to deal with those, "But you're going to kill your baby," comments.
Babies Can Go To Sleep On Their Own, And Easily
If this is true, then I should be able to lay my child down in their crib, walk away, and dust off my hands because my part is over for the day, right? Some days I really wish that were true, but my part is not over yet. Not by a long shot.
Every Parent Still Gets Their Sleep. Regardless.
I get that things have to happen during a television show or a movie. I mean, I can only imagine that showing a completely sleep-deprived parent simply attempting to make it through the day wouldn't make for entertaining television.
Still, even if your baby sleeps, you probably won't. No, you'll probably be staring at your baby, hoping that they continue breathing because the fear of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is very real and we all have a hard time falling asleep those first few days (or weeks, or months) after we have brought our babies home.
The Only Thing Standing Between You And A Good Night's Sleep Is A Dirty Diaper
According to most television sitcoms, I will get a good night's sleep as long as my child's diaper isn't. dirty. I mean, yes, kids go to the bathroom during the night and they'll definitely wake up if they leak and wet the bed or themselves or both. Still, there are so many other reasons why my kid will wake up in the middle of the night. (Like nightmares. Why aren't we talking about the fact that babies can have nightmares?!)
They Go To Sleep Really Quickly And Easily...
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me how easy they thought it was to put a child to sleep, I'd be on some remote beach somewhere, ridiculously rich. Sure, maybe the occasional child is easy to put to sleep or they're so exhausted it takes all of two seconds to put them down for the night. However, most of the time, bedtime is a process. A very long, very complicated, very frustrating process that can take upwards of hours.
...And Then They Stay Asleep For The Rest Of The Night...
If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, we aren't talking about college students or teenagers who fall asleep and then stay asleep until their alarm goes off (or a few hours afterwards). Babies wake up constantly throughout the night for feedings, diaper changes, nightmares, and just, you know, because.
...Or They Get Up Every Few Minutes
Again, because it's worth repeating over and over and over again; every baby is different. So, sure, it probably isn't necessarily fair to nit-pick the media when they don't show so many different variations of baby sleep. However, why not, right? I mean, it wouldn't hurt to be inclusive.
So the idea that a baby is up every half an hour, without fail, is also not entirely inaccurate. Yes, babies will need to get up periodically throughout the night to be fed or changed, but some sleep for a few hours at a time (usually) so the up-all-night-every-night thing isn't entirely accurate.
They Always Look Like Perfect, Sleeping Little Angels
OK, this is one is actually pretty accurate. Babies are adorable, but they're the most adorable when they're sleeping peacefully. Ugh, I'm getting all the feels.