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A new study has confirmed my worst fear: I’m a lousy mother. Or at least I was when my kids were infants. (I’m sure the adolescent study verifying my ongoing incompetence will be out shortly.) You see, researchers in New Zealand have determined that “most” babies have the ability to sleep through the night by the time they're two to four months old. But my oldest took about six months to master this skill; her sister took dozens of weeks more. (I was too tired to record the actual date in her baby book, so the true date is really anybody’s guess -- I’m pretty sure it was before she turned 2.)
Why did it take that long? Trust me, it’s not like I was ambivalent about sleep (theirs or mine). I wanted it badly. I read dozens of books on the subject, studied sleep hygiene and created relaxing, bedtime rituals. I didn't bounce or rock or sing my daughters to sleep, because the books warned me not to unless I wanted to find myself crooning lullabies to my 27-year-old over the phone someday.
Was that too intense? Probably. Here’s the way I look at it now: We already know that all children develop at different rates. Some kids toddle and talk up a storm while their peers sit and soundlessly stare at them -- they tend to even out at time goes on. And some infants, believe it or not, happen to rest quietly for eight-hour stretches that happen to coincide with darkness. Does knowing that great things are possible help us at all if we’re already doing everything we think we can (or that the very researchers who are trying to “help” us recommend)? I think the only answer is to stop taking studies like this seriously and, instead, focus on doing what's right for our own kids.
When did your baby start sleeping through the night? Chime in below!