I Can't Believe I Survived the Midnight Feedings

My first child began sleeping through the night when he was around 8 weeks old, and I was completely convinced this behavior was the result of my own stellar parenting skills. That is, until I had a second child and he schooled me—thoroughly, for like three solid nonsleeping years—on how very, very wrong I was.

Really, the first time around I had a comparatively short stint with the midnight feeding duties, but I definitely didn't realize it at the time. I remember feeling like it was a horribly dark and lonely period that was never, ever going to end. Riley slept next to our bed in a bassinet, and as soon as he started that "eh, eh, eh-heh" gritching-around business that babies do, I would slowly stagger out of bed and haul him out to the pitch-black and silent living room to carry out our feeding duties.


In retrospect, I don't really know why I made that process so hard on myself. As with my second child, breastfeeding wasn't an option, so I did have to mess around with a bottle and formula and all—but why did I sequester us in the other side of the house, where it was creepily dark and chilly and possibly filled with lurking zombies? To avoid waking up my husband? What the hell.

I remember sitting out there for what felt like hours at a time every night, listening to podcasts of This American Life on my iPod just so I didn't feel so utterly and completely alone. God, it was depressing.

With my second son, I didn't even bother getting out of bed. I kept a bottle on the nightstand—cold! Like my black, uncaring heart!—and when Dylan woke up, I just rolled over and plugged his little milk-hole and if my husband didn't like having the light on low or hearing the baby release those machine-gun feeding-farts in the middle of the night, well, that was too damn bad. (Duh.) It was much less traumatic than leaving the bedroom, which was a good thing, since it went on for so very, VERY long.

Eventually he did move to his own room and I learned the fine art of rising in a blind half-coma in response to his wee-hour blattings, multiple times per night. I carried out midnight feedings way past the point when it was advisable or even excusable, and while I fervently wished for an improvement in the situation, I’m not sure if we ever made a real, textbook attempt at crying it out or not. There were definitely some nights when there was a whole hell of a lot of crying, but I was so addled by the whole thing, I kept going in or not going in based on random data points like how clinically crazy I felt at any given moment, rather than the scheduled comfort visits as recommended in various sleep training methods.

No one needs wee-hour feedings these days and I cannot say that I miss it. Even the fond memories I have of those nights—the warm, heavy, drowsy weight of a baby in my arms; the contented, rhythmic swallows; the curious way their tiny starfish hands would grip my arm as their sleepy eyes combed the room—can't beat the bliss of an uninterrupted night of sleep.

I think a lot about how the very early parenting years are like living in a war zone. You just do whatever you have to in order to survive. Later, you might remember specific details, but they're almost a little unbelievable. Really, I did that? Woke up over and over in the middle of the night in order for someone to barf down my neck? Holy crap, where's my medal?

The world is filled with all kinds of advice on making it through the newborn stage, but I think every book and manual should just be filled with one mostly useless but utterly true sentence: EVENTUALLY THIS WILL END. For good or for bad, it will all be over soon.

Did you think midnight feedings were one of the biggest challenges of new parenthood, or was that part fairly easy for you?

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