Quit Shaming Parents For How Their Kids Sleep

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
fitmomma4three / Instagram (left photo); ChristinLola / Getty (middle, top photo); Tim Clayton - Corbis / Contributor / Getty (middle, bottom photo); BSIP / Contributor/ Getty (right photo)

Once upon a time, a blogger-mama named Melanie Darnell went viral with a time-lapse video she made of herself sleeping. Like many moms of young kids, she’s seen with at least one child in her bed at any given moment, and much of her night is spent tending to her children, as well as getting kicked in the head by one of both of them—you know, for good measure.

The video went viral for the simple reason that it was SO relatable. Even if you don’t choose to bedshare with your child, almost all parents of young kids get disturbed by a kid or two at some point during the night. And many of us take one or more kids into our bed out of the sheer need to survive the night without having to get out of bed each time a kid calls.

When I watched the video, I actually got a little teary-eyed. Although those endless nights are basically behind me, I remember them very well. I remember the exhaustion of them, but also those late night exchanges of love and touch that mark those sweet baby and toddler years. There is nothing like it, and as the mom of bigger kids, I will tell you that those tender, intimate moments are more fleeting than you realize.

But when I scrolled through the comments on the Facebook share of Darnell’s video, I was appalled to see that interspersed with the many positive “me too” type of comments, was a whole bunch of hate and judgment directed at this mom for the choices she’d made in terms of sleep.

“Omg, this is horrific,” wrote one commenter. “Why do this to yourself? Can’t feel bad for you if you’re choosing to do it. Put them in their own beds! Mama AND baby will get a better night’s rest.”

“The biggest mistake this girl made was getting up and putting that baby in the bed,” wrote another. “Both of my kids. 1 is 3 now and the other 7 months…BOTH SLEEP 10 hours a night with absolutely zero interruption.”

UGHHHHH. These people not only missed the point of the video, but their sanctimonious, holier-than-thou stance was enough to make me want to throw my computer out the window.

First of all, Darnell wasn’t asking for advice, much less nasty critique. There is not one ounce of “woe is me” or “I’m a sleep-deprived martyr mom” vibe in her post at all. While she admits that she’s tired, she is clearly posting the video as celebration of these moments of closeness and care she is giving her babies, and she wants to reassure her fellow moms that they are not alone.

“During these moments let’s think of all of the other parents that are up with their babies at the very same middle-of-the night moment and take comfort in the thought of each of us cradling our babies in the dark of our homes, together in shared experience,” writes Darnell in her post.

Do you see any request for “sleep advice” there? Is she criticizing other moms who don’t bedshare? Ummm…NO! She is just relaying her own experience, trying to connect to other moms who do things as she does, and looking for the beauty in even the more difficult parts of parenting.

WHY DOES EVERYONE THINK IT’S THEIR PLACE TO GIVE OTHER PARENTS SLEEP ADVICE AND CRITICISM? Seriously, why? All it does is stress parents out—and in many cases, make them feel worried or ashamed for how their kids sleep.

Trust me. Parents of young kids are already getting their fair share of advice, thankyouverymuch. Almost all of it has to do with sleep too, because that’s one of the hardest aspects of parenting young kids, and for some reason everyone and their mother has an opinion about how to do it right.

And let me tell you something else: even if you have the most perfect sleeper in the world—and even if you believe your stellar parenting skills are responsible for this—however you sleep (co-sleep, sleep train, whatever), if you have young kids, you are going to be fucking tired. It’s just a law of parenting. And some kids, no matter how perfectly you groom them in the sleep department, just don’t freaking sleep.

Not one of us is better than another, so zip it about that.

Now let’s talk about sleep choices. The reasons why some parents take their kids into bed—and why others have a rule that they would never-in-hell do that—is very individual, and has to do with a million factors that are, frankly, none of anyone’s business. Some kids are just born “good sleepers.” Some are not. It’s often a weird combination of genetics, temperament, and who the hell knows what else.

Some parents are okay with sleep training of some kind, some are not. It’s a totally personal decision that is also none of your business. And some kids are more amendable to sleep training techniques than others. There are apparently some kids who will just cry and whimper for a few minutes, and sleep through the night for the rest of their lives (I’ve never met them, but I’ve heard they exist), and some who will never take to it no matter what you do.

Unless you are in a parent’s shoes, in their house with their kid day and night, you can’t possibly know why they have made the choices that they have, and why they’ve ended up suffering the exact amount of sleep deprivation and exhaustion that they have. And also? Why is there a law that sleep-deprived parents can’t vent about this exhaustion?

Comments like “Why do this to yourself?” or “Why haven’t you trained them to sleep?” not only show a lack of understanding about the fact that all parents and kids have different sleep needs and sensibilities, but all it does it make a parent feel worse about an already exhausting situation. It’s bullshit, and needs to stop.

What parents of young children need is validation. They need to know that they are doing their best. They need to know that they aren’t the only ones walking around feeling so tired that their eyeballs are going to fall out of their heads. They need to know that this too shall pass, and that they will miss even the hardest moments of it all.

They need to know that their instincts are usually the best parenting guide out there. And yes, they need to know that there is also a whole set of advice and wisdom they can seek out from other parents and experts—but that it is their choice to do so.

Believe me, if a mother wants to learn about some sleep technique or whatnot, she will do better research than anyone out there. And the last thing she needs is you and your advice team to dish out your supposedly “well-meaning” judgment and critique. So, please, kindly STFU.

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