Every parent has been asked the question: ‘Does your baby sleep through the night?’. I have never used separation-based techniques with my son. And last night, a few days after turning 17 months he slept through from 7PM to 7AM without calling for me. Here’s how I did it.
First, let me back up a bit. Here’s the funny thing about this situation. That day, I wrote an Instagram post about how my toddler wakes an average of 2 times per night. My intention was to normalize toddler wakings, as this is a topic I feel is not often talked about. That same night, he slept through for the first time.
Maybe it’s a funny coincidence. Or maybe there’s a reason. I know a lot about sleep and I constantly talk to parents about following their children’s lead. This is what I do, I follow my son’s lead. But even so, in the back of my head there was always that thought: ‘Am I doing this wrong?’
You see, our culture is so saturated with this notion that ‘sleeping through the night’ is a necessary milestone. Not only that, but it is somehow insinuated that if your child does not, it’s your fault. It means you haven’t done enough to ‘teach’ them how to sleep.
And so that day, when I finally let go and announced to the world that I have a normal toddler; I relaxed a bit more. I knew that it didn’t matter whether or not he slept through. And so he did. Kids are amazing like that; they are always teaching us a lesson if we pay attention.
The other incredible thing that happened after that post is that I received countless messages from parents thanking me. They too felt there was something wrong with their toddlers, or that they had spoiled them, or that they should have sleep trained. Hearing that it is NORMAL for toddlers to wake up at night made them feel more confident in their parenting. Even further, many of them admitted that it wasn’t really their toddlers waking at night that was exhausting; but rather the many modern day pressures of parenting, including the pressure to get your kid to sleep through the night. Yes, it really is all as ridiculous as it sounds yet here we are.
How Did I Do It?
Now this is the part where I admit I may have misled you. You probably clicked on this to learn how to get your child to sleep through the night. The truth is, I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t get him to sleep through the night, he did it all by himself when he was developmentally ready to do it. Don’t click away in frustration yet! Let me explain why this is important:
I did not ‘teach’ my son to sleep
Sleep consultants all over North America are quick to tell you that your child will never connect sleep cycles unless you teach them to sleep. But the truth is your child is born knowing how to sleep! They spent most of their time in the womb sleeping, as a matter of fact. Sleep is a biological function that cannot be taught. What we CAN do is provide a loving safe environment that is conducive to rest. That is all I did.
I did not make my son fall asleep independently
Along the lines of this need to teach our children to sleep, sleep consultants will tell you that a child must fall asleep independently otherwise they will never know how to connect sleep cycles. Well this is just plain false. My son was nursed and cuddled to sleep in his floor bed and he proceeded to spend the night alone in his room. Did he wake at some point in the night? Probably. Everyone wakes up at night! But what probably happened is that he looked around at his environment, knew he was safe, and settled himself back to sleep.
I didn’t avoid ‘bad habits’
Another myth that drives me insane. They’ll tell you ‘Don’t nurse your baby to sleep’, ‘Don’t bring them in your bed or you’ll never get them out’, ‘You better night wean already’.
In the early days of parenting I did avoid all of those things. Read more about that in this blog post. And all that did was give me anxiety. Once I finally learned to trust my baby, I started allowing my intuition to lead and stopped parenting out of fear. I maximized my own sleep by safely bedsharing on my son’s floor bed (read more about our floor bed journey here) and adjusting my expectations. The truth is, waking once or twice a night was no longer an issue for me. I quickly nursed my son to sleep and fell right back asleep with him. Now that he slept through it truly didn’t make a big difference for how much sleep I got.
So there you have it. That is what I did or rather, what I didn’t do. I share this with you not so you can give me praise for my nighttime parenting but so you understand that parenting out of fear is not the answer. My son has been loved to sleep every night his entire life, he’s been nursed on demand, he’s been responded to every time he calls. He did not need to be ‘trained’ to sleep.
What Does This Mean For You?
First, I don’t want you to read this and think ‘Well my 17 month old doesn’t sleep through the night’. Due to my occupation, I know plenty of toddler parents who haven’t used sleep training. Some have had their kids sleep through the night by 1 year. Others have 2 year olds that have yet to do it. All of their kids are perfectly healthy and normal.
Most importantly, the takeaway is this: if your child is happy during the day, developing well, and getting the recommended amount of sleep within a 24 hour period, they are doing just fine! If, however, your child wakes up and stays up for long periods, wakes up hourly throughout the night, fights bedtimes, or seems in pain; there may be something preventing them from sleeping.
This is where I come in. I am here to help you understand sleep so it does not become a stress. I’m not here to give you a step-by-step guide to get your baby to sleep because I do not know your baby. Only you do. What I will do is provide you with knowledge, education, and encouragement. I will help you block out the noise and tap into your instincts.
Does this sound like what you’re looking for? Click here to see how we can work together. With every support package, I ask questions to get to know your family and I provide resources to help you meet YOUR goals. This is not a one size fits all approach. After all, your baby is not one size fits all.