Bad Moms Sleep Badly

By on June 4, 2012

So here I am, a mother of three and both a producer and consumer of vast amounts of parenting literature, and I still find myself googling things like, “at what age will baby sleep through the night.” I'm pretty sure my recent search queries read something like this:

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  • when will baby sleep through night
  • at what age can I stop the dream feed
  • teething and sleep training
  • getting baby to sleep
  • somebody please help me
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Because, holy shit, the whole baby sleep thing is insane. I know I shouldn't be surprised at this point in the game, but I am. I am completely caught off guard and have forgotten everything. And, guys, my kids are not even that old! They're only six and three … I should still have some shadowy memories of their infancy, right? I can only assume sleep deprivation is to blame.

Here's my current deal. I nursed my first born to sleep every time for a full year, pretty much, and then had to lay on some pretty difficult sleep training to get him sleeping through the night in his own crib. My second baby was much more high strung and sensitive, so I had her on a pretty regimented sleep schedule right from the get go which actually made her my best sleeper. So with baby Mary, I thought I'd already learned how to avoid sleep issues. For months I refused to nurse her to sleep and always put her down awake. There were no issues.

I mean, of course, she always woke up around 4am at which point I'd just bring her into my bed for the rest of the night. I didn't think that was an issue per se, though, until the hours between 4am and 7am became one big breastfeeding fest followed by, “Let's party, it's morning!”

And then there's the nap situation, too. Since my oldest kid is in half-day afternoon kindergarten, both her morning AND her afternoon nap are interrupted on a daily basis and she has basically no proper nap routine at all. This would be a disaster if she weren't the happiest, most easy going and adaptable baby on the face of the earth.

Then when she started solids I got into the habit of breastfeeding her in bed just before naps — even though I had not been nursing her down ever. I don't know why, exactly, except that it seemed like a nice window for the feeding. I really like breastfeeding in bed and I thought we had this sleep thing down, so why not?

Add to that some serious bouts of teething, a baby who can now sit up and pull to standing in her crib and the advent of separation anxiety and suddenly … I wound up needing to nurse her down to sleep every single time just to get through the week. Naps, bedtime, all through the night; you name it, she had one of my boobs in her mouth.

My reluctance to serve as a human pacifier has nothing to do with breastfeeding (which I love) and everything to do with her sleep habits. I have three kids and I work from home with only very occasional child care. I need  to be able to count on solid daytime naps. I can't spend hours putting children to bed at night. And when I finally crawl into bed myself at some godforsaken hour, hoping for a solid four hours of sleep, I can't be waking to nurse every hour. I just can't.

So tonight, I fed her in my bed and then tried to rouse her just a little when putting her down so she'd remember how to settle herself down. That kick started a 45-minute up and down screaming fest throughout which she expected me to just breastfeed her down again and I kept lying her down in her crib instead. I don't know if I have the energy to see any sort of proper sleep training through right now. But I can't see ever having any energy again if I don't.

When did your kids start sleeping through the night? Did co-sleeping help or hurt? Do you have any magic tricks? Please share the magic!

About Rebecca

Rebecca (aka @rebeccakeenan) has been neglecting her kids to mess around on the internet and work on her blog since 2007. Her hobbies include late-night grocery shopping, stepping on Lego and buckling three kids in and out of car seats over and over again. She then regurgitates it all at Playground Confidential. Of course.


  1. Lisa says:

    Not sure if I can be any help at all… my second baby just decided, at 15 months, to sleep through the night 4-5 nights a week. She was always able to be put down drowsy and napped well, she just never slept more than 3 hours without waking. I totally feel for you.
    Lisa´s last [type] ..June 2, 2012

    • Rebecca says:

      Okay, there’s hope! My baby was just like that until very recently. I could deal with the night waking as long as I could put her down easily enough. I’m hoping this screaming at bedtime is just a fleeting phase.

      • Lisa says:

        There’s totally hope. It seemed grim, I was losing all hope of getting any type of real sleep.. and finally, suddenly, she changed her mind. At first it was one night here and one night there… More annoying than recuperative actually… then it slowly became two nights, then three. And the sleep happened. And it was good. Oh, so good.

        Thankfully, the now three year old slept well, once she got down and still does…
        Lisa´s last [type] ..June 2, 2012

  2. MMM says:

    Mary sounds like the same kind of sleeper that my oldest was. I fought the good fight until he was almost a year old and then I/we finally let him sleep in our bed. Best. Thing. Ever. He actually woke up to nurse LESS when he was there…and if he did get up it was much easier for me. My husband and I had to be more, um…creative but at least I had the energy for it…and for life in general. ;) (TMI…I know. Sorry!)

    • Rebecca says:

      Well, she HAS been sleeping in our bed for the second half of the night and waking up to nurse every hour. (I couldn’t do it at all if she were in her own crib.) We’ll see how it shakes out, but I *would* like our bedroom back too. Ahem.

      • MMM says:

        My parenting philosophy quickly became, “do whatever works”…if she wants the boob, I say whip it out. Especially if it means that you get to go back to sleep sooner. We actually put our guy to bed in our bed and everything. He went to sleep more easily and it was just the best thing for us all around. We worried about whether or not we were going to have a 10 year old in our bed someday but once he started sleeping through the night more consistently, we moved him to his own bed and he happily slept there…and he actually slept. Not going to lie, though…it took several months but I did not care as I was totally hooked on the sleep. :)
        I remember seeing every hour on the clock during the night…seemed like I was never going to sleep again. I’m sure it will soon be a vague memory for you too….

  3. Jennifer Grant says:

    Hi – sorry to hear about the sleep deprivation. It makes the daytime one big shit show, that’s for sure. Each baby is different so whatever worked for one is not ever going to work for two or three (Thank you Mrs. Obvious for your excellent insight). And I was just saying to a friend yesterday that all of the bloody literature I read prepares me for parenting as well as teacher’s college prepared me for teaching. Nada. My best advice would be to just try to go with the flow. I have a 2 year old and a 5 month old right now and the latter is very high strung and sensitive to EVERY noise (rustle a bag and good God, you’d think I just dropped a tray of glasses onto a cement floor). We are co-sleeping because she also nurses herself back down (clears throat) all night. I am carrying her in a pack all day long because her brother is very into screaming and making loud whipper snipper imitations and it’s the only way she sleeps through that (probably security). Her older brother – nothing like this – Mr. Independent, gregarious, sleep through a nuclear blast kind of kid. He was also given exactly what he asked for as a baby. So, that brings me back to my original point about “going with the flow” – a baby knows what a baby needs. I think we spend too much time intellectualizing and “training.” If she wants to bf down, let her. If she still needs that at 16, THEN you’ve got some sleep issues. All of that being said – if any of it is not working for YOU or other members of the family, then changes have to be made. In which case you can refer to this excellent book i just finished…..

  4. Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown says:

    I was a BIG fan of “The Baby Whisperer”. My first NEVER slept. Like, ever. For anything. It’s a friggin’ miracle that we have 2 (soon to be 3!) kids. I read that book and it was a huge help. I applied the same techniques with #2 and we’ve been fine all along. Planning to do the same with #3 and am preparing for good nights sleep all around. GOOD LUCK!!!
    Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown´s last [type] ..Doing Less to be Better

  5. C C says:

    My story sounds eerily similar to yours. I haven’t slept more than three hours in a row in over FOUR YEARS, and any night I do get three hours in a row, I feel refreshed, rejuvenated even. Did you know we can sign up for some sleep at Guantanamo Bay? I hear their sleep deprivation torture program allows prisoners a GUARANTEED three of sleep IN A ROW. Once word gets out, there will be boat loads of haggard mothers crawling ashore, eager for some sweet, sweet ‘torture’.

  6. Andrea says:

    I am having the exact same issue with my 7 month old. Like EXACTLY. We could switch kids at night and not even know it. Well, unless yours ISN’T a biter. But I digress. My husband and I have tried every sleep tactic possible. EVERYTHING! Even the all terrible ‘cry-it-out-on-your-own’ method, and nothing has worked even remotely. So we made the decision to just co-sleep. Everyone’s stress level went down. There is MUCH less crying a night and not just for baby. He nurses less through the night (unless I’m just not waking up anymore) and seems happier all around. Yes we miss our bed…. But we’ve conclude that this is worth it so we all sleep. We figure he’s been a good self regulator until now so why stop letting him self regulate? I’m hoping he’s back in his own bed by the time he’s a year old because I am worried about him napping at daycare.