“Does Your Baby Sleep Through the Night?” and Other Conversations I’d Rather Avoid

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small talk

“Your baby is such a doll! Does he sleep through the night?”

“Looks like a new baby! Is he a good eater?”

So many times a day, strangers ask me these questions as a means of making small talk. Last week, I even had a woman I don’t know interrupt me in conversation with someone else – twice – to ask, “Does he sleep for you yet?”

I’ve tried to understand why so many people are fascinated by babies sleeping – or, let’s be honest – not sleeping through the night. Doesn’t everyone get up during the night as they cycle through different levels of sleep? Do adults commonly ask each other how often they wake up or how well they eat? Are these really such interesting topics of conversation?

Honestly, I find conversations about baby routines and milestones boring at best and often intrusive. Strangers that ask about sleeping or eating or crying might think they are making innocent small talk, but these conversations can be loaded for a busy mom.

People that ask these questions have no idea what our family’s life is like at home. They don’t know if everyone is healthy, whether a baby has trouble breast or bottle-feeding, whether or not there are disruptions to sleeping or eating beyond anyone’s control (new teeth, a cold, siblings that pose distractions).

When people ask about babies sleeping, do they want to know if our baby sleeps all night silently in his crib and leaves us alone until morning? When they ask about eating, do they want to know if we’re “doing it right”? In other words, are we establishing routines and boundaries to become good parents? Does our baby give us a break? Or, as people with even less tact will ask, “Is he a good baby?”

A good baby? Are there really bad babies out there? Babies with malicious intent to ruin their parents’ lives? Do babies wake up and think, “I know I can’t raise my head or even make eye contact without clumsily crossing my eyes, but what bad things can I do today?”

Maybe I didn’t realize it before I got pregnant, but boy, do I know that kids are messy now, four kids later. They mess up schedules, houses, clothes, meals, and yes, even sleep.

And for the record – a baby can sleep a lot and not be healthy. Or eat all the time and not actually be a “good eater.” Or cry all the time and not have any way of calming down on their own.

When people are looking to laugh with you about how babies disrupt life, they don’t ask intrusive questions. They look at you knowingly and say, “Aren’t babies wonderful?” They tell you your baby is cute and wish you good luck and good health. They look you in the eye and ask, “Aren’t you are a lucky mama?” These are conversations we can both enjoy. I don’t expect my children to leave me alone or make life easier, nor do I want them to.

When you talk to mothers with their children, will you put them on the defensive? Which kind of “small talker” will you be?

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Kate S. is a mom at home in Fairfield with her 4 kids (2 girls and 2 boys) and one puppy. Kate's sister introduced her to Chris, whom she married in 2010. They welcomed their first daughter in 2012, a son in 2014, another daughter in 2016, another boy in 2018, and finally a puppy in 2021. Kate and Chris's parenting motto would probably be, "Just take them with you." As a family, they continue to enjoy activities like skiing, kayaking, and hiking by taking turns to teach the older kids or strapping babies into backpacks. Kate can be found out and about exploring with her kids, volunteering at their schools, or laughing with other moms at the beautiful chaos of life with children.

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