Is she good? The obsession with baby sleep.
My little home birth baba is 11 weeks today. She’s the most gorgeous thing in the world. People stop to admire her.
“Is she good?”, they ask, peeking into my coat for a better look.
I remember at exactly this point on my first baby, being in the local shop, wheeling her proudly around. She was panned out in the pram. An elderly lady stuck her head in to scrutinise her. ‘Is she good?’. ‘Oh, yes’, I replied, delighted with myself. ‘She sleeps for a 5 hour stretch at night’. ‘What?’, the woman practically screamed, shrilly, looking at me in horror. She stuck her head back into the pram, and wagged her finger at my sleeping baby. ‘You should be sleeping all night at 11 weeks!!!!’.
Obviously this incident with a complete stranger made a big impression on my new Mammy self, as I can still remember it in vivid technicolour 6 years later.
So what would I answer now? My new baby is a decent sleeper…she sleeps for a 6 hour stretch at night. She has a couple of good naps in the day, usually a 3 hour one, and a 2 hour one and then shorter cat naps as and when she needs them. Surely she’s ‘good’? Ah, but she sleeps with me in the bed, and has those long naps in the sling. She’s probably bad.
Calling babies good sounds insane, doesn’t it, when you turn it around? No baby is bad – sure, some babies don’t sleep as much as others, for various reasons, and this can be exhausting to the point of collapse. They’re not setting out to torture their parents, though, although it seems like that at 3am sometimes. Anyway, our expectations of newborn sleep are all wrong. Biologically, it’s normal for babies (and grown humans!) to wake during the night. It’s modern lifestyles that are incompatible with our biology – we don’t have broken babies.
I’m not going to discuss this stuff with that woman in the shop / on the bus / at the traffic lights. She’s just making conversation, and she doesn’t know me, so what does she care, really, about how much of a block of sleep I’m getting? Family and friends are more difficult to ignore – but find a way to do it, if your baby doesn’t sleep. You’re tired enough as it is, without having exhausting conversations.
When I’m asked now, ‘Is she good?’, this third time mother smiles beatifically and says, ‘Yes, she’s just wonderful’. And I really mean it.