When my son was a baby, he loved to be held, just like most babies. He was my miracle baby after waiting a long time to become a mom, and I just loved snuggling him. People often expect babies to be held a lot.
When my son was a toddler, I was at a story time at the library and a few moms were talking about nap time being their free time. I mentioned that I was still holding my son for naps. He wouldn’t sleep if I put him down during the day, and it was important to me that he got the sleep he needed.
“He is attached to you all day?” one mom asked in disbelief.
Yes. At that age, my son was basically glued to my side.
I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that my son took longer than most kids to sleep through the night. It was really after age two that we could really depend on him sleeping through the night on a regular basis. This was a far cry from the parents who had told me that their child started sleeping through the night at three months old, or even six months old.
He wasn’t getting up hungry or needing a diaper.
He just needed some cuddles to get back to sleep.
I heard lots of advice and opinions from other parents.
“You have to sleep train! If you don’t, he’ll never sleep through the night.”
“He’s going to be fine if he cries it out!”
“When you hold him until he falls asleep, he expects you to be there when he wakes up. No wonder he is looking for your in the middle of the night.”
“Don’t pick him up if he is crying in the middle of the night. Just go in his room and talk to him.”
A friend shared how she had to let her daughter cry for about 40 minutes each night to sleep train her.
None of this felt comfortable to me. My son was (and still is) a cuddler who needed his mama.
Maybe things would have been easier for me earlier on if I started insisting my son nap on his own at an early age. Think of all the things I could have gotten done during his nap time while he was sleeping during the day. It would have saved me from having such a long to-do list at night after he went to bed (when I didn’t even know how much time I had until he’d be awake again).
Certainly, if I had decided to do sleep training, I would have gotten a lot more sleep at night time rather than being woken up in the middle of the night by a toddler who needed his mom.
But do you know what?
Eventually, even though I “spoiled” my son by snuggling him, he grew more independent in his sleeping habits.
It was around 22 months old that I couldn’t hold him for his entire nap anymore. My shoulders were starting to ache. So we’d snuggle before his nap, and he’d fall asleep in my arms, then I’d put him down.
For a while, he’d get up and need comfort sometimes. But eventually, after age two, he got the hang of napping on his own most days.
Suddenly I had time to do stuff during the day.
I could fold laundry without a toddler wanting to help.
I could work on a grocery list.
I could do the dishes.
I still had stuff to do at night after he went to bed, but I was able to get some stuff done during the day to make my nights a bit easier.
And the toddler who was not sleeping through the night when the world told me he should be?
When we moved him to his big boy bed around age two and a half, we developed a routine where we’d read stories and I or his dad would snuggle him until he fell asleep.
He easily sleeps through the night now. It’s extremely rare for him to wake up. We can count on him sleeping a solid 10 hours.
To the world, it might have seemed like I was trying to keep my son little forever. Certainly, I was “spoiling” him with all the cuddles and snuggles.
But he grew up anyway.
If you are a mom who cuddles her baby or toddler too much according to some people, know that you aren’t harming your child. You aren’t preventing them from growing up.
The day is coming when they will nap on their own or grow out of needing naps at all.
The night is coming when they will sleep all night reliably without waking up for midnight cuddles.
One day you’ll find yourself missing all those cuddles. So treasure the gift they are while you still have them.