Beyond the first year mark
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Sharing a little bit about my daughter's sleep and what is like to be the parent of a wakeful toddler.
If you have a toddler who still wakes up frequently at night, please know that I see you.
My daughter has made sure to show us that she is a strong-willed and determined little girl since the moment our labour started.
From day 1, she has always been a very alert baby, so aware of her surroundings and so interested in taking in as much of the world as possible. Personality traits that I am sure will help her achieve all her goals and dreams. Having said that, these traits plus the fact that she is a low total sleep baby... Oh boy her sleep!
During the fourth trimester, her sleep was all over the place and it was really hard to get her to stay asleep in her bassinet. I remember I only was able to put her in her bassinet for her first morning nap, which was only a 30 minute nap. Something completely normal for a newborn. Of course, at that moment, I did not know half of the things I know now. During the day, she would only sleep on me or my husband, which, at first, frustrated me as I wanted to feel productive. If I could change something, it would be my inability to truly enjoy those slow days. Then, little by little, I started to enjoy all the contact naps and started to use that time to watch TV shows, text my family, read books or scroll social media.
But nighttime was a different story. I lost count of the times I ended up crying in a corner of our bedroom while my husband tried to get our little one to fall asleep after a feed. I was exhausted to the point that my body was in pain. There was not way that she would stay asleep in her bassinet. We did not sleep much those first few months. She would wake up, I would nurse her on the sofa while struggling to stay awake, then my husband would step in after she would wake up crying the second she was in her bassinet. My husband spent lots of nights dancing his way around the living room (a cute memory now).
One day, we just decided to try nursing her lying sideways in bed. I had to learn how to do this in the hospital when there were some complications that prevented me from sitting up or standing up for a while (but that is a story for another post). So, I did that and felt asleep, along with my baby and my husband. I did not realise I was asleep until she woke me up when she was ready for her next feed. That is how we started bed-sharing - by accident. Something that started as a way to keep our sanity became so much more. We still bed-share and I would not have it any other way. I am sure bed-sharing has played a key role in my breastfeeding journey and has also created a beautiful and loving bond between us.
However, my daughter keeps waking up frequently, in spite of the fact that we bed-share. She is now 2 years old and she may wake up 3-4 times on a good night. Yes, we have had some long stretches but every time we feel we are making progress, something happens: an illness, teething, separation anxiety. But guess what? I am okay with that now. Thanks to everything I have learned in the certification, I have relaxed a lot about my daughter's sleep, to the point that I now enjoy bedtime. I am also way more patient with her at night. Something I am really proud of, although I know I still have lots of work to do on this.
I won't lie... There are some nights that are really tough and I feel like I cannot do it anymore. I never thought that I was going to be sleep deprived 2 years after giving birth, but I am. You hear that babies are supposed to sleep through the night by the time they are 6 months. You hear about all those toddlers who sleep better when in bed with their parents. However, that is not our case.
I'm sure my daughter will sleep through the night when she is ready. In the meantime, I will keep responding to her as much as she needs me to, because that brings me peace. Because my daughter's needs go way beyond only physical needs (being fed, being dry). Because my daughter's needs do not magically disappear by 7pm.
I know how hard it can be to feel like the world has forgotten about you just because you do not have a newborn anymore. Being the parent to a wakeful toddler is hard. The nights are still as challenging as they were during the fourth trimester right? And on top of that, we now have to deal with all the challenges related to toddlerhood.
I have a secret to share with you... It is completely normal for a toddler to still wake up. Please remember that sleep if not something that can be taught. So, it is not your fault. Sleep is not something you were meant to have figured out by now.
Know that your child will sleep through the night when they are biologically ready. Know that it is completely normal for some children to be signallers and need you frequently, even at nighttime.
Hopefully we will get to sleep through soon!