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No, he doesn’t sleep through the night. Yes, you should call Child Protective Services.

10 May 2013

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Why is it – how is it – that the ability of an infant to sleep through the night seems to be the litmus test for what kind of kid you have, or what kind of parent you are? I could feed my four-month-old nothing but milkshakes and buckle him in the passenger seat of my minivan when we go out, but still be a model parent if he sleeps through the night.

Because the questions always go like this:

  1. “Awww, how old is he?”
  2. “So is he sleeping through the night (for you)?”


By new parents, old parents, not-parents (It’s the not-parents, especially, that I want to squint at and whisper, “You don’t even know what happens in our house after dark.”) 

Why is that always the next question? Is this some kind of test? Why is no one interested in how much he weighs? Or if he’s a good eater? Or if he rolls over? Yes, he has great head control. No, he’s not colic-y. He’s very happy, especially in the morning, thanks for asking, and pretty resistant to diaper rash. Poops like a champ. No teeth.

Want to know a secret? I change my answer depending on who is asking.

Because the whole truth takes a little bit of explaining, and no one is really that interested. Yes and No are both justifiably true short versions, so I change it up to test the waters. And do you know what I’ve discovered?

  1. When I say, “Ya,” the questioning usually ends. Hence my suspicion that this is a test, and I could be licking him clean every night but still be a good parent because he sleeps through the night!
  2. Sometimes, I think they’re really asking more about me than him. Sometimes, the question floating just beneath the surface (the calm, perfectly transparent surface) is really, “Have you gotten him to sleep through the night?”

    How are your parenting chops? Are you cut out for this? Is your parenting style working?

    Sounds paranoid, I know, but you should see some of the completely unsympathetic expressions that flash across faces when I say, “No.”

    Again, no one seems interested in whether we’re using cloth diapers or disposable. Vaccinating or not. Started on solids? Doing tummy time? Bathe him ever?

    (Or maybe I am just paranoid because it’s always the next question. So yes, it feels like this is a test.)

So now I’m considering saying Yes in a way that means No, just to make everyone happy. “Yes,” makes me a good parent. “No,” gives people something to talk about. (Or just to have some fun with it and make myself less paranoid.)

Something like,

  • “Ya, he sleeps like a baby.”
  • “Oh ya, half a shot of whisky puts him right out.”
  • “Far as I know. We both sleep with ear plugs.”
  • “Yup. Two to 7 AM without fail. He’s usually exhausted by the time we get home from the bars.”

Good plan, huh?

Help me out – a Yes that kind of means No in the comments. (Or will at least raise eyebrows.) Go.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Wanda Ferguson permalink
    10 May 2013 9:00 AM

    Most people are just trying to make small talk and not judging. you. He is such a happy, healthy baby anyone can tell you’re doing a good job. Anyone who has had children have gone the whole gauntlet and every child is different. Everyone has made their mistakes and probably are very aware of them and may be remembering them or the problems they had in child rearing. Some are so far from the early childhood problems they don’t think to ash if you’re using cloth or disposable diapers? Take a deep breath, you’re loved. .

    • Lex permalink
      10 May 2013 3:01 PM

      I know. And I think other new moms are looking for empathy. 🙂 It seems like everything I read and hear about these days is about his sleeping habits and skills, and when a few more people threw that question out there, it started to become a little comical. All in good fun. 😉

  2. Jenn permalink
    11 May 2013 1:26 AM

    I award this post


    That’s 5 stars. Nothing less.

    The end.

    • Lex permalink
      11 May 2013 3:14 PM

      LOL. Five squares, five stars … same thing. 😉 Thanks! Here’s to the day we both get to start sleeping again.

  3. 11 May 2013 8:57 AM

    Lex – I can completely relate to this post. As a mom to a 15 month old who has only slept through the night for a 2 week period (it was heaven while it lasted!), I do find it hard to understand why this is the first question people feel the need to ask. More importantly, why does our society think that a child is SUPPOSED to sleep through the night as quickly as possible?

    Perhaps it is my own insecurities as a first time parent that causes me to get my back up a bit when this topic comes up, but I agree that it does make your feel inferior as a parent if you have not achieved “success” in this area. I know deep down that every baby is different and there is nothing I have done “wrong” as a parent to cause his sleep issues, but dealing with a lack of sleep (and in my case, a constantly overtired toddler) makes this question pretty darn annoying.

    Great post!!!

    • Lex permalink
      11 May 2013 3:17 PM

      It’s weird how our own insecurities tend to bias a well-meaning question, isn’t it? I know people don’t mean anything by it – but between the questions and all the “developmental milestone”-type things I’ve been reading lately … it sure does seem like it’s more important than it really is. And you’re right – not only is it paranoia-inducing … but you’re asking someone who is running on insufficient sleep to begin with! Haha. Bad combo. 😉

      I secretly suspect all of our boys are perfect despite how much they sleep – or don’t – while it’s dark outside. 🙂

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