Different Sleep Habits, Different Child
I have a question for you, Oh seasoned mother of three. I just had my second child, a precious roly-poly girl who just light up our days. AND NIGHTS. She is about 10 weeks old currently, and she has maxed out at around 6 straight hours of nighttime sleep. Ever. She typically goes a 4 hour stretch, then who the crap can tell from there. Sometimes another 4 hour (which is awesome, for us), sometimes a 2 hour and another 2 hour.
The good thing is that she just wakes up to nurse, gets reswaddled (she is a wily one, even in her Miracle Blanket), sometimes a diaper change, and is right back down to sleep. It’s just.. well.. our other child, who is now 3, was an amazing sleeper from Day One. He went 7 hours at 7 weeks, 8 at 8 week, and so on from there. He was pretty good with napping in the crib, as well. Our daughter takes 2 of her 3 daily naps ON ME, in our Ergo or other sling, because it’s just so much easier than playing the back-and-forth game of getting her to nap independently when I have a 3 year old to contend with.
I feel two things: 1. I hate that I am ALREADY drawing needless comparisons with our son. He doesn’t (but apparently does!) set the standard for awesome infant sleep, and it’s not fair to our daughter. Especially when there’s not much we can do at this point to change things. And 2. Am I screwing up her chances of being a good sleeper by wearing her so much?? I never wore my son (3 years ago I had no clue babywearing was so trendy/awesome), and he learned to put himself to sleep pretty well. The girl is already 99th percentile large, and I want to be able to put her precious heiney in the crib, lest I be stuck wearing a twenty-pound 6 month old twice daily.
Tips, advice, commiseration???
I have said the following sentence many, many times since the birth of my subsequent children: If my first baby had been my *only* baby, I would have been a horribly smug, obnoxious parent. Because I would have continued to be deluded into thinking that everything great about my first baby was directly related to something I DID. Sleeping, especially. Oh, what an asshole I was, with my seven-week-old who slept through the night in his crib and who napped twice-daily like clockwork by 12 weeks and la dee laaaaaa, it’s simply because you have to be FLEXIBLE and not STRESS OVER IT or cling to a PHILOSOPHY that might not apply to YOUR BABY and also MUSICAL CRIB AQUARIUMS WOULD SOLVE EVERYBODY’S SLEEP PROBLEMS, DUH.
But the fact is that Noah’s good, early sleep habits had absolutely nothing to do with me or anything I did. I just got lucky.
But that’s also not to say that I got “unlucky” with Ezra and Ike or that they were/are “bad” sleepers. Just more…typical. More zigs and zags in their early sleep patterns. Five hours one night, nearly eight the next, then BAM, back to four hours and then near-hourly wakings from 2 am to 6 am. I think I managed to get Ezra on the 2-3-4 hour nap schedule around three months or so, but 1) I may be making that up out of thin air, because 2) I AM SO TIRED RIGHT NOW, because 3) Ike’s naps remain a complete crapshoot. Sometimes he naps in his crib, sometimes in his swing or carseat, sometimes swaddled on the bed next to me while I work, wherever. Since his overnight sleep and wake times are still a wildcard, we’re still fumbling through our days in the “oh hey look the baby fell asleep I wonder how long that will last” kind of chaos.
But as you mentioned, it gets infinitely harder to really get yourself worked up about these things when you’re trying to care for older children, and gets infinitely easier to just opt for the path of least resistance. Which in this case, means letting your daughter nap wherever she will deign to TAKE A NAP.
Ezra napped in a carrier almost daily for quite some time — more so than Ike, even. But no, it wasn’t forever and it didn’t doom him to still only sleeping in a carrier at six months old. And maaaaybe if you were writing to say that your daughter was still only sleeping in a carrier at six months old I would suggest that you start trying some sleep-training alternatives, but at 10 weeks? No way. Don’t worry about it. Focus on the nighttime sleep first, and a routine and getting enough sleep YOURSELF so you can function enough to parent two children, and then start experimenting with different nap options. Maybe try moving from carrier to swaddled-in-a-swing? Or carseat? Then make the move to the crib? It could be that being all upright and contained and cozy next to you will take a few compromising steps down before she’ll tolerate being flat on her back in a big, open-feeling crib.
But don’t stress, really: I can assure you that eventually, Ezra took regular naps in his crib and slept through the night and to this day is EVERY bit as good of a sleeper as Noah is. He just took a more roundabout way of getting there.
And that’s the big lesson here, even though I am pretty sure you KNOW THIS: Just because your daughter is doing things differently than your son, don’t feel like you need to figure out what YOU’RE doing differently and “blame” that. Some kids sleep. Some kids don’t. If you weren’t wearing your daughter you could very likely have been writing me about how your daughter only naps while you hold her and walk laps around the living room for two solid hours.
Ezra rolled over, crawled AND walked later than Noah, but talked earlier. But Noah knew his colors sooner. But Ezra can kick a ball farther. I fed Noah baby food from jars and he is picky; I made Ezra’s food from scratch and he is most definitely not. But then one was cloth-diapered and the other wasn’t, but they both potty-trained at the exact same age. Ike looks exactly like Noah, but his temperament and likes/dislikes remind me so much more of a newborn Ezra.
Point is, it’s impossible NOT to play the compare/contrast game when you have more than one. It just IS. And it’s tempting to make it all about you, and what you did (or didn’t do). And maybe sometimes it is, but a lot of the time it seriously just isn’t. And soon the different sleep habits will just become another small detail in your own loooooong list of differences you notice between your kids as you get to learn not just what they do, but who they are.
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to email@example.com.