The Most Annoying Question a Stranger Can Ask Me

04/02/2015 01:23 pm ET | Updated Aug 01, 2016
Supriya Kelkar

You know what the most annoying question a stranger can ask me is?

"Is your baby sleeping through the night?"

Sleeping Through the Night. Parents are obsessed with it. And so, apparently, are randos in a grocery store you meet for a fleeting minute.

Sleeping Through the Night is deemed such a milestone, such a marker of amazing, accomplished parenting, that it even has its own acronym online: STTN.

I remember staring at STTN for several minutes when I first saw it, long before I had my first child. I couldn't figure out what it stood for. Saint Tennessee? Statin? Then I realized the moms repeatedly typing it out where freaking out because their newborns weren't sleeping through the night, and the code was cracked for me.

I'm not one of those moms desperately wishing her kid slept through the night. I'm one of those moms who counts the number of times one of her kids has slept through the night after he stopped nursing. Because it is that small of a number.

My oldest slept through the night a few weeks after being born, when he stopped having to poop at night. But he was still a nursling, and when an exclusively breastfed baby sleeps through the night, he can still want to nurse while he sleeps. And boy, did my baby want to nurse while he slept. At 10 months old, he started nursing every 10 minutes to an hour. But I guess I shouldn't complain. After all, he was asleep during it.

And while some had told me he was doing it because he was hungry, they didn't realize that babies nurse partly to satisfy their hunger and partly to build a social bond or to comfort themselves. All the solids in the world were not going to stop this baby from nursing all night. Only time would make a difference, and so, months later, once my son stopped nursing at night, he slept for a good chunk of time. But that soon stopped, and he started having night terrors.

Yeah. That was a fun couple weeks. When we realized what the trigger was and removed it from his environment, though, the night terrors thankfully stopped. Soon after, his sibling was born and my older kid slept fine, strangely enough, even while the newborn was crying.

And then my oldest son's months-long nightmare phase started. (Note: He's not the one having nightmares. It's a nightmare for us). He wants to be held by a specific parent, (generally my husband), who cannot sit down while holding him, or he wants to be fed, or he asks for water, or needs to have his favorite book read to him, or he just talk-cries in his sleep while cutting a tooth, all in the middle of the night.

What about the baby? He also started sleeping through the night a couple months after he was born, nursing every few hours as he slept. But he decided to do the nightly nursing marathon even earlier than his big brother, and from 4 months to 8 months my baby started nursing every couple minutes, all night long, pacifying himself as he slept. He finally stopped doing that just as my older son's nightmare phase started. Lucky me.

Even on those perfect, synced-up nights, where my older son sleeps soundly and my baby nurses every few hours instead of all night, helping himself without disturbing me, I am kept up by the gravelly snoring of my husband. It seems to have gotten even louder post-kids, like we are living on a construction site. And to add to the fun, as of this past summer, my dog also officially snores. I never thought a 10-pound Chihuahua mix could snore as loudly as my husband, but doggone it, she can.

Can you tell this is a touchy subject? I don't mind when my friends ask me about it. In fact, I love their concern for me and wouldn't have gotten through the most frustrating parts of these nightly adventures without their hilarious texts, words of encouragement or just a well timed, "I'm sorry. That sucks."

But I really have no desire to relive my nights with a stranger who knows nothing about us.

So, dear stranger at Trader Joe's who just has to know if my baby is sleeping through the night: yes, my baby is Saint Tennesseeing. My toddler occasionally STTN. My husband usually sleeps through the night. And my dog definitely sleeps through the night.

It's just that I am not sleeping through the night.

Author of The Booger Fairy, Nishi Goes to India, and several Indian language books for kids, Supriya works as a screenwriter for the Indian production house, Vinod Chopra Films, and blogs about green living and green parenting at

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