Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I'm now convinced that, if you wanted to become a millionaire, you should publish yet another "How to Get Your Child to Sleep" book, because it appears to be a saturation-proof market.  And you can feel free to contradict every other sleep book out there, because heaven knows there's no consistency at the moment.  Cry!  Don't let them cry!  Crying is good!  Crying is evil!  They'll get over it.  They'll never get over it.  Never let them sleep with you.  Always have them sleep with you.

Meanwhile, the exhausted parent is trolling the bookstore aisle looking for the shortest of these books, because you can hardly stay awake long enough to read them.

We started with a good-sleeping baby, which is different than many, I realize.  She started sleeping for long stretches at about 8 weeks old, with nary a sleep-book in sight.  You know what that is?  Sheer dumb luck.

Then she hit four months.  And it all fell to shit.  Down to sleep by 8pm, which was great.  And then...up at midnight, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, or some combination of the above.  I put it down to the "4 month sleep regression" phase and hoped she'd work it out.

Today she is five months.  (Editorial note: 5 MONTHS?  Where did it go?)  And not that I expected her to figure out her sleeping in one month exactly, but I've had the sneaking suspicion for the last week or so that she's developed some bad habits and doesn't really know how to get out of them.  Kind of like she was when first picking up objects: good at clinging to them, not so good at letting go.  She'd be clenching to some small item and look at me like, "are you going to help me get rid of this thing on my hand?  Because I'm done with it, but it won't go away."

The other thing about the sleep books is the minefield of opinions people have about them, and about your choices.  I had a feeling that she just needed to, yes, 'cry it out' for a few nights to get herself through this phase, but I was afraid to do it: both because I hate to hear her cry, but more because I felt the ghosts of a thousand judg-y parents hovering over me, whispering, "oh, I could never let my child cry.  It's just cruel."

But, ghosts aside, we did it.  Friday night, we girded ourselves up for a scream-fest.  Down to bed at 8pm: check.  Up at 10:30pm: check. minute, pat her and soothe her and assure her we are here.  (We're right next to her, given that she's still sleeping in our room, but she can't see us.)  Then, three minutes.  And five.  And ten.  And another ten.  By now she's CRYING, but not in a scared or panicked or painful kind of way: mostly in a SUPER PISSED OFF tone, which is less heartbreaking than the others.  After about 45 minutes, she feel asleep.  I breathed out.   And waited for the next wake-up.

When she started to stir, I rolled over, figuring it was probably about 2am.  I checked the clock.  5:30am.  I checked again: 5:30AM.  Holy.  Mackerel.

For us, it took one bad night.  And that was it.  Since then, she's down by about 7:30pm, and sleeps until 5am.  It is a freaking miracle.  And I am starting to recover the pieces of myself that had been scattered across six wake-ups all night long for the last month.

I don't know what works for every kid, but this is what worked for ours.  At least for now.  At least until the next developmental spurt, or teething festival, or...whatever.

Naps are another matter.  They're getting better, slowly, but certainly not as dramatically as the night-sleeping.  But we'll take what we can get.


  1. No kidding!! Why is it that all sleep books are long? Don't they know their audience? Give me 10 pages, lots of bullet points and call it a day.

    And honestly, I think you did right. Yes, it is hard to hear your child cry, but they also need to learn to self-soothe and figure out how to fall asleep on their own too. You did a great job Mom!

  2. I love this for so many reasons. For one, you are hilarious. For two, I've so been there. I remember one desperate night that I was awake with my sleepless diva- I thought about ordering a sleep book online to be shipped next day, but then realized that I would never have time to read it... I am so glad things are better for you. It makes the world a happier place!

  3. The ghost of a thousand judgy parents. Yup, that just about sums it up, except to add that I'm the harshest of those judgy parents - judging myself - not you, of course! I find it really helpful to read how other people handle the sleeplessness. I know our babies are all different and what works for some won't work for others, blah, blah, blah, but it's reassuring to know I'm not the only one, and that these methods may actually work. I sincerely hope that she continues to sleep peacefully for you.

  4. Yay for sleep! Our foster child (9 months) had a regular-ish sleeping pattern, and then got a nasty ear infection so I have been sorely reminded of what it's like to be awake every two hours, and wake up feeling worse than when you went to bed.

    It sucks, in short.

  5. I've tried the cry it out with the twins and it works at first. but then within an hour one of them is up, wakes the other one up and it's chaos. I usually end up picking one or both of them up and rocking them back to sleep. Maybe I need to just suck it up and be consistent for a few nights. Hmmm...

  6. Oh how I love your posts. And to your first point, about writing a sleep book to become a millionaire, I have also come to the conclusion that I can write a "Cure All Baby Book" and to each chapter write "But every baby is different, do what works for your baby" and become a millionaire. What? Seriously? It's like I just spent X amount of money on all these books so I expect a step-by-step method to go by. Not just a "oh, well, every baby is different, do what works for you!"

  7. Ahhh...such a refreshing post! We, too, have had to let our twins cry it out and had one awful week. I cried nearly as much as they did as I felt those ghostly shadows as well. But, now, they sleep wonderfully at night and wake up happy in the morning. It is glorious for us and, more importantly, for them!

    So glad to hear your little one is sleeping at night. Please let us all know the secret if/when you figure out the trick for napping. One of mine does great, the other is addicted to the swing...and although I'm sure I'm ruining him for life, I need a little more recovery time before more tears at naptime. :)

    Thank you for sharing...your posts always help me feel like a more confident and capable mother as we've had many similar experiences. Thank you!

  8. Good stuff! Three cheers for a well rested baby and a well rested mama!

  9. in the midst of reading a few books myself right now as i attempt to negotiate the sleep issues with my twins right now... Happy to hear your little ones seems to have gotten the hang of it so quickly!

  10. Mom keeps telling me I need to do exactly what you did. So far I keep giving in, but I just reaaly love holding her! I'll get serious about it when i go back to work, tho.

  11. Yes yes yes. And it works. and I never thought I'd say that. :-)