Nighttime Parenting

Dear daughter

You are now 18 months old and still like to nurse frequently at night. Sometimes I wonder if we will ever reach that holy grail of parenting – ‘sleeping through the night’, but it seems a long way off, and when I really think about it, I don’t think I’m ready to lose that nighttime contact with you anyway. Sure, I am tired, and some nights when I hear you stir all I want to do is roll over and go back to sleep. But I never do, despite being told that night weaning is the solution to your relative lack of sleep. Breastfeeding has been the one constant in your life since the day you were born – you have always been fed on demand, and derive great comfort from it, and it’s not up to me to pick and choose the times of day you get that comfort, or to suddenly and confusingly take it away from you. You have no concept of what time it is, or of the fact that mummy is asleep – all you know is that you need me.

It won’t always be this way. Every day is a reminder that you’re growing up fast, and will gradually become less dependent on me. You’re very much a toddler now and spend your days running about exploring your surroundings and learning. Oh! the learning – new words and increased understanding every day that always amazes me and makes me so proud. It’s bittersweet too though, like so much in being a parent – each new word is like a small step in your journey through life. (Unsurprisingly, your current favourite word is ‘milk’!) Nighttime is the last hint of baby in you now – I watch you in the dark rooting with your eyes closed and your mouth open, and unlike so much else in our lives together now, it’s no different to the day you were born. Instant calm washes over you, and your body gradually relaxes as you drift back off to sleep. For a little while at least.

Though I often wish they weren’t as numerous every night, and sometimes wish cuddles from daddy did the job just as well, I do treasure these moments with you now, as they have become our oasis of calm in a life now filled with energy and activity. They are the only moments I really feel I can fully concentrate on you, and on us – I’m not worrying about the washing yet to be done, the dinner yet to be prepared, or any other number of daily chores that take me away from you or are always at the back of my mind as we read the same book for the tenth time, or take half an hour to climb the stairs. The challenges of parenting a determined toddler are forgotten and left behind during our nighttime sanctuary.

One day you will sleep better, but for now I will try not to wish these precious early years away too quickly.

Your mama, any time of day or night x

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