a(nother) word about sleep

When Taylor was 9 months I hit a wall. I hadn't slept well in 2 years. There was a fluke night here and there but I rarely got more than 2 hours at a time. My friend gave me a book. I read it. I believed it. It made so much sense to me. That night I let Taylor cry for 40 minutes until he fell asleep. The next day at nap time I let him cry for 25 minutes until he fell asleep. It was working! Only it wasn't. It didn't work for me. I felt horrible and I didn't care what experts or science or friends said. I had ever before my eyes my little Jack who, at 22 months, was a great sleeper and a very happy child. He had been a rotten sleeper for the first year too. I knew that I had done my best by him and I liked the results. I had to know that I was doing the same for Taylor.

I worried that while the immediate goal of sleep may be accomplished by temporarily sacrificing his happiness, the long term goal of an emotionally secure child might be compromised. I know many many amazing mothers who have allowed their children to cry it out with only positive results. Their children are happy and charming. I know that now and I knew it then. But still I couldn't bring myself to continue what I had started and that night I went back to our old rotten but nurturing sleep routine. In spite of it's exhausting results, it just felt more natural to me for my baby.

Perhaps it is because I knew that his status as baby of the family would be short lived. I was already expecting Noah by this time (which added to my fatigue for sure). I do feel the need to really baby my babies and make that first year really count. After that point we ease into a "stuff them full of dinner then give them a bottle in bed" routine and soon they are sleeping soundly through the night. And sleepless nights are a thing of the past...for about a month (until the next baby is born).

While my lack of sleep does make me "fuzzy" I try not to let it make me cranky as a mom. I have less energy but I try to spend it on the most important things and on higher energy days I try to catch up on the laundry. Kevin has been amazing at being understanding and picking up the slack as needed. Our house is normally (fairly) clean, we typically eat all 3 meals each day, and we are all generally genuinely happy.

This isn't to say that I feel like I'm doing things in the most right way. I don't. I know I'm not. And I know there are books out there that could solve my problem in a way that doesn't go against my grain. Books full of great ideas and formulas that result in a healthy, happily sleeping baby and a well-rested, kinder, happier me. (I have to admit, that really sounds great right now.)

I've just been too tired to track them down and read them.
Baby Tays and me


  1. I've been hesitant to comment because i think mothers are too quick to shell out advice when everyone works so differently, like you mentioned.

    My opinion (take it or leave it without offense): I don't see how anybody, let alone any baby, can function without a routine.They thrive on schedules. "On-demand" fed babies (there are a few approaches to that and I don't know what you use) usually eat shorter and more often than they need to. Snackers and cat-nappers. First of all, I think that if you just simply took track of when Austin ate and how long and then tried to lengthen that time during the day (no longer than 4 hours or so though), you would start seeing results right away, WITHOUT having to let him cry through it, day or night. If his body knows that it's time to get in a good meal every 3-4 hours or so (I forget how often a 9 month old eats), then he will naturally get into a day and night time pattern. Anther great piece of advice I use is to never "feed to sleep". Make sure the pattern is Feed, Awake/Play, THEN nap: this is so they get to sleep on their own, wake up hungry and you don't have to try and drag out a hungry baby's mealtime when they are fed to sleep.

    Second, try to sacrifice a few nights where you KNOW you will be UP all night with him and a binki. If you don't want him to "cry through", first get him out of your room and in the hallway or other room ASAP, then when he starts fussing, hold him and soothe him with a binki and set him back down tired but awake. Then be prepared to do it over and over again until he falls asleep on his own without eating (you may still need to feed him once in the night, but you'll be going in and out of his room several times). This will take MAX three days. But 3 days is worth 365 days, right?

    I don't know how ANYone survives an entire year of not sleeping more than 2 hours! I only have maybe 1 or 2 nights TOTAL where that happens in their first year, and I still feel like ripping out my hair when it happens. I have never once let my baby cry through the night (maybe tops 15-20 min a couple of times, but never screaming just fussing). I think they feel secure with a routine that is flexible yet still reliable (or I very well could have just gotten good sleepers).

    I wish you luck. Some times the hardest things and the right things are the same. I hope you find a solution and get some well-earned ZZZZ's!

  2. I hear you. I also raised 4 boys, who are all grown now, and I shared your same philosophy. Sometimes I think back on those very sleep deprived years and I wonder if I could have handled it differently. But no, probably not. Our last 2 were in bed with us until they turned 5. I absolutely cherish those memories. Children, but especially boys, grow up so quickly and I'm thankful I milked their babyhoods for all they were worth.

  3. Nats, you are a great great mom and I think about how much you sacrifice and love your kids daily. Soak it up and love it...good luck!

  4. Hi there! You don't know me, but I read your blog =). I'm a friend of Heidi's... anyway I HAD to comment on this post because I totally relate! I have two boys close together and have a similar sleep philosophy and similar inner battles over it. I think there is a lot to be said about doing what feels right/natural for yourself as a mother. Maybe I would sleep better if my baby was in another room and I worked harder at "training" him to sleep, but then again maybe I wouldn't. Maybe he'd have reflux, or night terrors, or some other thing - or I'd have anxiety about whether he was warm/happy/breathing. Babies DO have a need to be comforted in the night, to have teething pain soothed, to reconnect and nurse etc... and knowing I have my baby's warm little body tucked next to me, and being able to nurse him practically in my sleep a few times in the night helps me sleep more peacefully during the hours of shuteye I DO get =). They grow up so fast that once through it, I look back and think less upon the lost sleep and more upon the fond memories... Also, that being said, I know the toll it can take on your mood and thought processes to lose so much sleep. I appreciate your first commenter's thoughts about the clear routine and not feeding to sleep. Good luck and thanks for the post! You seem like a very neat mom! =)

  5. I love hearing what everyone has to say and have yet to be offended by a comment. I have noticed since reading your post, Jourdan, that I do feed Austin really frequently for short periods of time. It has been out of necessity at times. I'd sit to feed him, then just as he was getting started I'd have to stop in order to help my other kids or stop them from doing something naughty. Then we'd go back to feeding, then have to stop again...How can I expect him to go for more than a few hours at night if he eats so frequently during the day? Very good point and that is something that I can easily change to make things better. Your solution with the binky also feels like a great alternative to the CIO method. I'll let you know if we see any progress.

    I also really appreciate everyone and your words of encouragement. It is so nice to hear that there are those who relate and understand. I especially relate to the worrying about the many factors that contribute to poor sleep and the desire to know that if he's crying because of a tooth or upset stomach, or hunger due to a growth spurt, I was there to comfort him. Most of the time I suspect that is not the case, and he wakes up so often because that is the way I've inadvertantly trained him to be. I expect that at 2 months. By 8 months he should be doing a little better. But like you said, it does go so fast, I have definitly learned that.

    So much of motherhood is intuition, and what works for each mom and baby. But there is something to be said for great advice and support. I'm really grateful for everything that was said on this topic. You all are wonderful!


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