When Your Baby Hates Sleep
Cribs Mental Health New Baby

When Your Baby Hates Sleep

By Amy Morrison

My son wasn’t a sleeper.

I remember going to my Moms’ Group with a woman who had a little boy that was born the day after my son. When the boys were around six-weeks-old she came in beaming, “Kai slept through the night last night!” All I could think was, “hallelujah! The light is at the end of this sleepless tunnel!” I went home and told my husband that any day our son should be sleeping all night!

He didn’t.

I read every sleep training book out there

I had read a ton of sleep books when I was pregnant so I could be prepared for the long nights. I was under the impression that if I just did it “correctly” my infant would say, “Oh, I see, you need me to sleep. Fair enough,” and then fall in line. Except it wasn’t working.

I was reading everything I could get my hands on. I was shush-patting, letting him cry it out, sitting in the room assuring him I was there without making eye contact, and something with the word “extinction” in it, which I can’t remember now because it failed so miserably.

I had ordered yet another sleep book that promised the holy grail of sleep when I just couldn’t take it anymore. I thought I was going to have some kind of mental collapse from the fatigue, the stress and the sheer guilt of not being able to figure it out, so I just tossed him into bed with us and threw him a boob if he woke up. We slept like a bag of hammers.

I felt like a failure

Still, I had failed because I wasn’t kissing him on his freshly bathed head, swaddled perfectly in his crib, then gently closing the door like a Pampers ad.

I was at the Moms’ Group Christmas party and Kai’s mom looked at him and said, “Buddy, are you tired?” She then spread a receiving blanket on the floor, put this slightly cranky child down and he fell asleep. He fell asleep! What the hell?!? Clearly, she’s drugging this kid. No shushing. No patting. No nursing. No driving around the block pleading. The little bugger just fell asleep. I swear to God I wanted to drop kick the fruit tray across the room and scream, “What the fuck am I doing wrong!?”

It turns out nothing. Because I have decided that there are certain kinds of babies.

  • There are babies who are smart and say, “If it’s really quiet or I’m not moving, that means that they’ve forgotten me and I don’t want to be left under a bush somewhere so, helloooooo!”
  • Then there are some babies who are smart and say, “If I can’t feel a warm body near me then that means I’m unprotected and a dingo is going to eat me so, helllloooooo!”
  • Then there are some babies who are smart and say, “You know what is great? A boob (swaddle, pacifier, rocking, or whatever) because it totally does the trick to get me to sleep. Yet, you seem to have forgotten that so, helllllloooo!”
  • Then there are some babies who are smart and say, “Hot damn, I’m a baby and get to sleep whenever I want. I’m just going to lay into this swaddle sack and catch some serious zzzzs.” I’m also convinced that these were the babies that were historically left under bushes and/or eaten by dingoes.

All of the sleep books out there? They work. They just don’t work for every baby. You are standing in front of a door with a thousand keys and only one of them fits.

So my advice is this, absolutely keep reading the books. Keep trying new stuff. But don’t feel like you’re failing if you have to hold, swing, rock, move that baby to get them to go to sleep because that just happens to be the type of smart kid they are. That door will eventually unlock and swing open whether you find that magical key or not.

This Too Shall Pass

Think of it this way, babies are constantly changing, so anything you do today can all go out the window tomorrow.  Some people think of this as a negative: “You better be careful when he starts teething because you’ll lose all of that sleep training progress.” Whereas, I think we should think of it as a positive: “Who gives a crap if I have to sing her to sleep? Next week she may have it totally figured out because she isn’t going to be 22 at college asking me to sing ‘You are my sunshine’.”

Do what works now and pat yourself on the back for knowing what that is.

I refer to it as the “Haggard Mother Method”, although I should call it the “Haggard Parent or Caregiver that needs to get this kid to sleep Method” but you get the gist.

Mine was strapping him to my chest and bouncing on an exercise ball while humming during the day and co-sleeping at night (try to find a safer method than this, though). My friend’s baby would only go to sleep if the Gypsy Kings were playing while she drove her around the block. My other friend’s baby would only sleep in his bassinet in the downstairs shower stall because the echo seemed to soothe him.

Keep pushing the peanut

Sure, you always want to move in the direction of the goal – whether it be a Pampers ad or just sleeping without a soother – but don’t sweat it in the meantime and if you don’t push the peanut today, well tomorrow’s a new day, another night and possibly a totally different kid.

For the record, my son – the terrible sleeper – now announces that he’s tired and goes to bed, in his room, all by himself. As for Kai, I can only assume he was left under a bush and eaten by a dingo. *

* He’s fine and is still a damn good sleeper but his mother is always asking me what the trick is to get him to eat because he’s a terrible eater. Go figure.

Our next reco:
How to Survive with No Sleep

Leave a Comment