Surviving a Baby Who Doesn’t Sleep

Surviving a Baby who Doesn't SleepYou’re tired. You’re so tired. You’re so tired and before now you never knew exactly how tired a person could feel. You’ve got 3, 4, 5 books on baby sleep piled on your nightstand. You wish coffee worked better than it does.

You’ve got a new swaddle blanket on the way (even though you already have three other types), along with a noise machine and a pacifier that maybe, just maybe, your baby won’t spit out at night. You’d do just about anything for naptime to last longer than 30 minutes at a time and you aren’t really sure how many times you were up with baby last night. It’s all a blur. Sound familiar?

You, my friend, have a rotten sleeper. You don’t have a “bad” baby, as the question “Is she a good baby, sleeping well at night?” would seem to imply. You have a child who, for whatever reason, has a very short sleep cycle, has trouble returning to sleep, and needs the comfort of her parents a bit more than average. Welcome to the club. We’re a small, select group, but we’ve been there and we feel your pain.

Soon, if not already, you’ll hear from friends with babies the same age that their children are starting to sleep at night in longer stretches. You’ll see Facebook statuses about what other moms accomplish during naptime (their kid sleeps 3 hours, of course!). Well-meaning strangers and loved ones will start asking about how your child is sleeping. Should you choose to reveal the truth, you’re opening the flood gates of “Oh, poor thing. My boy was always a fantastic sleeper, right from the start. Have you tried X,Y,Z? I’ve heard that’s what you need to do.” Then there’s the pity face, that sad look they throw at you that clearly conveys the fact that they’re glad it’s you, not them, that has been up for the past 6 (12, 18, 24?) months straight.

Well, I’m here to offer solidarity, not pity. We must stay strong in the face of tiny nighttime terrorists! We must not feel guilt when we order a triple shot espresso every. Single. Morning. We must not worry that we’ve been in the same shirt for most of the week! We need to be open and honest about how crappy nights at our homes are, if for no other reason than to find kindred souls who know our pain!

I’m not going to offer tips. If, like me, you really do have a rotten sleeper, you’ve already tried most of the methods you’re comfortable trying. Co-sleeping? Tried it. Swaddling? Tried it. White noise, warm sheets, rocking/bouncing, boobs/no boobs (or bottles)? Tried it, tried it, tried it, and tried it! Sometimes something will work for a while, until it doesn’t. All you can do it keep trying, keeping going, keep loving that baby.

Lean on your partner, if that’s an option. Lean on your friends, your family, and your community. Be honest about how tired you are and if people ask if they can help, let them.* Do what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t. Yes, this may mean that the dishes don’t get done because you just want to sit and space in front of the computer in the hour you have before you anticipate the next wake up. That’s ok! You’ll get no judgement from me. I’m just over here, working on my third coffee, sending you rotten sleeper survivor support through the internet.

*On a serious note, sleep deprivation is a very serious thing. If you need more help than a laugh from a blog can give, get it. Don’t let your partner find you sobbing incoherently on the nursery floor. I’ve been there. If you can split up night duty, make sure you do.

Kate Cunha is the mom of a rotten sleeper, who, at nearly 3 years old, is finally mostly sleeping through the night. Mostly.

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6 Responses to “Surviving a Baby Who Doesn’t Sleep”

  1. Kate C says:

    Oh I feel you ladies, how I feel you! Hang in there! Most of them do sleep better,eventually!

  2. Leah says:

    I read this at 8:31pm after my 3month old has been awake since 5am. Catnapping for 20mins does not count as sleep! I am shattered and it’s delightful to read a blog that says how shit it is!

  3. Jess hill says:

    Thanks so much 🙂 have my 2.5yo in my bed again ah will he ever sleep in his own bed without me!!!!! Has never slept a straight 3 hours ( really pushing it!) sleep without me beside him! Ah so glad to hear I’m not alone in the over the nights and people talking about how great of a sleeper their babies are since being born. Not only that but the continuous looks you get down the street at a screaming toddler and a mother who is pulling her hair out and just wants 5 minutes piece. Anyway…. Thank you 🙂

  4. Brie says:

    It’s 1:16am here in Birmingham Alabama and this is the … I don’t know, 725th night in a row my 2.95 year old (she will be three this weekend) has been up twice so far in one night. She is now half-asleep in my bed, deliriously shouting “IT WAS A LADYBUG!” in her “sleep”, if that’s what you want to call it when her eyes are half-open but she’s snoring and talking at the same time.

    My 13 month old, asleep in her crib and has been since 8:30pm, and every night since she was four months old.

    Wth is wrong with our kids?!

  5. Katrina says:

    Thanks for the solidarity! currently have a babe(our 5th) and she is a shocking sleeper, feel like I have been hit by a truck most mornings. I know the feeling of dread well, approaching night time, and the fact that at 6 months, she still thinks she can act like a newborn.

  6. Karen Meyerhoff says:

    Love this post!!!!! I can so relate to this right now as I contemplate 3 p.m. coffee. 🙂