All of the unhelpful advice I got on how to get my daughter to 'sleep through the night.'

By the time my baby was 48 hours old, I was being told to keep her awake during the day so that she would sleep through the night.

By the time my daughter was 3 weeks old, I was being told to reduce the number of times I breastfed her and instead "top her up" with formula so that she was more likely to sleep through the night.

By the time my daughter was 4 months old, I was being told to give her a bottle of baby cereal to fill up her tiny tummy. You know, so that she might sleep through the night.


By the time my daughter was 9 months old, I was being told to "let her cry it out" — you guessed it, so that she might just sleep through the night.

I didn't actually follow any of this unsolicited advice, so you'd think that it had no effect on me, right? Yet as I type these words, I can feel a hot wave of anger pulsing through me.

How is it possible that such unqualified advice is being reeled off to vulnerable new mothers as though it's some sort of edict?

I wish I could say that I felt empowered enough in those early days to have openly laughed in the face of what sounded to me like utter nonsense. I wish I could say that my innate mommy confidence stopped such conversations in their tracks. But I can't.

Because I was anything but empowered. I was scared — absolutely terrified — that I was somehow screwing up this mothering gig. I listened to these snippets of never-ending advice, and as I disregarded each one, I felt more and more alone: Was I really the only mother in the world who wasn't following this particular book? Was I actually the only mom whose child didn't sleep through the night, and was it somehow my fault for not following these unnatural-sounding "rules"?

I felt isolated and riddled with self-doubt. And on top of that, I was bone-crushingly exhausted.

"Tiredness" doesn't cover it. Tiredness was something other people dealt with — other people without children. Tiredness was manageable and regular. I saw tiredness, and I raised it tenfold.

But then one sleepless night, as I sat nursing my baby girl, I skimmed through some comments in a mommy group on Facebook. It was the wee hours of the morning, and people other than me were still awake. Not only that — this obsessive concept of sleeping through the night was also plaguing them. They agreed that it's presented as nothing short of the Holy Grail of motherhood, something upon which to precariously balance our ever-diminishing fragile self-worth as mothers. But not everyone was playing the game.

One comment stood out to me, and I can still picture the words clearly, all these years later: "I'm 26, and I don't sleep through the night. Why should I expect my baby to?"

Image via Louise Herbert, used with permission.

As I read these simple words, I felt a slight lift in my exhaustion, so I read them again. And again.

There were other moms out there who were following their instincts and who even felt confident in doing so. That realization felt like magic.

From that point on, I found the courage to use my voice. I learned to stop people's unsolicited counsel in its tracks, and I found a group of moms who could relate to me and my sleepless adventures instead of inundating me with advice I didn't ask for.

The thing is, the concept of sleeping through the night is a brand worth millions. And the companies selling sleep products and sleep advice need us to keep obsessing over this elusive milestone so that they can keep on profiting from our exhaustion.

But here's what I say: Screw them and their expensive sleepy stardust. Because we aren't just ignoring the lady at the pharmacy or an ill-advised relative when we withdraw from the sleep game; we're inadvertently ignoring an entire industry. Let's be clear — that takes remarkable strength. When every dialogue we have about sleep is centered on this one ideal of sleeping through the night, it's hard to see through the bull and follow our mommy instincts.

So in case you, too, have lately been plagued by the pressure of getting your baby to sleep through the night, I have a message for you.

Keeping a baby awake during the day, swapping breastfeeds for formula feeds, filling a baby's tiny tummy with cereal, or letting them "cry it out" might work wonders for some babies and parents. But certainly none of those are universal truths. (In fact, some even have known health consequences and go against the advice of they-know-more-than-us advisers like the World Health Organization.) So if they don't work for you and your family, that's OK.

Moms, do yourselves a favor and trust your instincts.

Trust your babies. Most of them will take an eternity to sleep through the night. Let’s collectively embrace this concept of normal infant sleep and find ways to accept, cope with, and thrive on what little sleep we are granted.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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