Moe Taku Pēpi

Babies need a lot of sleep. Your pēpi should be napping regularly during the day. Sleep when your baby sleeps.

Some pretty good advice right there, from all those experienced māmā, hapu wananga classes, your friends, your whanau and a whole lot of people who do not know your pēpi.

I am an experienced mother. I have raised two daughters, now 24 and 20. I am a Nanny now and I still know that babies sleep when babies sleep. Ideally babies nap during the day and these naps are at least an hour long, if not more. Reality check whanau, this is not always how it works! There are three things about children you cannot control, eating, toileting and sleeping! (More about the other two in future posts, I am sure) Try as you might there is no way to make these things happen unless your child has also decided this is how it is going to be.

My first child fed herself to sleep. I felt like a failure that I couldn’t get her into her cot. There were nights when she wouldn’t go back to bed and I broke all the parenting rules in the book. From nine months she didn’t nap during the day at all, unless we went somewhere in the car. When that happened I either woke her trying to gently and quietly get her into the house or I stayed with her in the car till she woke. On the odd occasion that she was really tired and we did manage a nap, they were 10-20 minutes long. If we managed thirty minutes a miracle had been performed!

As she got older she still didn’t sleep, her bedtimes got later and by the time she was six, I had resorted to saying she had to stay in room after a certain time at night. She took a “bedtime lunch” to her room, that also had a drink and she was allowed out to go to the bathroom, so long as she didn’t tell me she was going. Many nights she would still be playing, reading, chatting to herself in her room well after 10pm, and well after I had gone to bed myself.

By the time she was six I was beyond feeling like I had failed at motherhood because she didn’t sleep when I wanted her to or others thought she should. She was coping at school, didn’t nap in the car when we went for a drive, ate well and was thriving in all areas. I resigned myself to the fact she didn’t need that much sleep. Sure it would have been nice to sneak the odd hour here and there, but this was not my reality.

Child number two on the other hand was a sleeper! I thought I hit the jackpot! This kid slept through the night from birth. She slept so much the nurses in the hospital wanted me to wake her to feed! Not a chance!

She always needed her nap. She was a regular, up, change, feed, second change and back to bed within two hours. This extended gradually as she got older and we got longer and longer periods awake, but she needed her nap. Put her in the car and she was out to it immediately, even when you didn’t want her to. The excuse I made for a speeding ticket because I was singing nursery rhymes to keep her awake was a new one for the police officer.

As she got older her 7pm bedtime had to be adhered to. Push her beyond that and you were in trouble with the grumps the next day. Routines had to be just so. Dinner and bath time were a finely oiled machine, purely so she could get her many hours of required sleep. Gee that girl could sleep. Funny thing is this temporarily, completely reversed in their teenage years.

Did I miraculously do something amazing parenting wise to have number two sleep more than number one? Was it good luck? Which was better for me as a parent, the sleeping that meant I had to carefully structure my day around sleep or the flexibility I had with a non-sleeper? Did my pepī care which suited me better? Does daytime sleeping and/or napping mean minutes or hours? With which child did I get it right?

They are both grown and on with their own lives now, and I still don’t have the answer to those questions. They are both healthy, intelligent young women and when and how they sleep no longer matters. The thing I do know, sorting out sleep patterns is hard. We need to support one another, take turns when there is crying and be kind (to ourselves and our baby)

. No matter what everyone else might think or whatever you might like to have happen, your pepī is in charge on this one. Go with it māmā, you've got this.

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