Bad Sleepers

There was a time that I really thought I had kids that were bad sleepers. They needed me in order to fall asleep, they needed me in order to stay asleep, and they didn’t have regular nap routines. What else could they be but bad sleepers? Moms around me seemed to have kids that slept on their own, napped regularly and slept the amount of hours needed, per their parenting book’s guideline of baby sleep. It got to a point where I truly was stressing about how to get my kids to be “good sleepers.”

Then one day, a friend of mine gave me some advice that truly changed how I viewed the whole thing. She simply said, ” Stop expecting your kids to sleep how you or some parenting book thinks they should sleep.” She then pointed me an informative website on mother-baby sleep that really opened my eyes. I learned that what we often consider “bad sleep” is really quite normal sleep. Our society has fooled us to expect unrealistic sleep in our children and so in order to achieve that sleep, we find ourselves training our kids to sleep and when we don’t go that route, we still stress about their “bad sleep”. At least….I did.

Once I realized that my expectations for sleep were unrealistic and I changed my own patterns (i.e. went to bed early so that I could catch up on my own sleep and not be so tired myself, did some research and bought a quiet fan to run in the night to keep me from sweating all over the pillow), I was able to more than cope with how my kids slept. It’s amazing how just changing my expectations of sleep made it so much easier for me to parent my kids and even find ways to get rest myself.

19 thoughts on “Bad Sleepers”

  1. I second the resounding YES. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is something wrong with your child when everyone around you says so. Instead most people are just doing what is most convenient for them. That’s fine for them maybe, but I resent it when people criticize me for not “training” my daughter to sleep, as if sleeping isn’t a natural thing that we all do as we need.

  2. before i had my LO i owuld never ever dream about falling alseep at 9pm… now i do with him snuggling in my arms…

  3. I agree and disagree with some of the thoughts and comments. Yes, sleeping is a natural thing we all do. Some children, however, have an amazing ability to fight sleep and not get enough simply because they refuse to lay down and sleep, if allowed to refuse that is.

    Yes, some children do nap more easily. Some children need more and longer naps than others. However, having brought 5 children through the infant-2 year old phase, I can tell you, they must all nap. I don’t think it is fair of people like me, who realized after allowing baby #1 to rule the sleeping world and turning toward the realization that I am the adult in charge and I should rule my household, not a toddler, should criticize people who choose to allow their child to control their own sleep. That is, I believe that under the following 2 conditions: 1. You don’t criticize me for wanting to be in charge of the sleeping habits of my home and 2. You don’t complain that you don’t get enough sleep because your child won’t.

    The bottom line is, we all have to make the decisions for our family that we think work best for us. We shouldn’t make fun of others, envy others, criticize others for their choices. We have to live with the choices we make. We cannot complain about how our children behave and refuse to change the expectations for that behavior.

  4. So true! I used to stress about it, too. Now I relish the time we have together co-sleeping. I know the time will pass all to quickly and try to enjoy every moment – even the sleepy ones. Or – especially the sleepy ones!

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  6. Thank you, thank you! My 2 1/2 year old still has not slept through the night. I was beginning to think I was doing something wrong. He still needs me to fall back asleep in the middle of the night (Daddy can get him to sleep, but my little one seems to need me to stay asleep.) We are still all sleeping in the same bed, and I’m still breastfeeding, so of course I was blaming myself. “If I had weaned him already, he’d be a better sleeper..” etc, etc.
    Thank you for this article! I am sure we’ll all sleep better tonight! 🙂

  7. I really can relate to this blog post. When I changed my expectations regarding sleep with my children and learned to accept it without resisting it, I felt so much more rested. It wasn’t that I was getting so much more sleep, but that I wasn’t using my energy to resist my situation. Resistance exhausted me and acceptance freed me from wasting that energy.

  8. This post is correct, but when you feel very tired it can be hard to keep in mind the fact that your baby is normal. When I am exhausted I feel like I would do anything to get her to sleep better. But then the reality of this hits – if it would mean putting her in a cot and letting her cry it out, I would not be prepared to do it.

    Sometimes, just letting go and accepting things is the only way to go. And never looking at the clock when your baby wakes up at night!

  9. You could be describing my baby! I always feel like an alien when I describe our sleeping arrangements, because of the reactions I get, you’d think I was talking about a sixteen year old needing to sleep next to me to get quality sleep, instead of my four month old! thanks for writing about it.

  10. This post totally described how I felt just a few short months ago. The pressure that I felt from books/websites/friends/family to get my baby to be a “normal” sleeper almost drove me insane. It was only when I just accepted that my baby was an individual person with unique needs just like everyone else that I stopped worrying about his sleep habits and started to feel the real joy of being a mum. I regret every having listened to people who insisted that there was something wrong with my baby because he didn’t sleep through the night in his crib the way he was “supposed” to. I wish I had found AP before I had him; I am convinced that I never would have been sleep deprived!

  11. I totally agree!!!

    We used to think my DS 13 mos old is a bad sleeper just because he only sleeps 10 hours at night and takes two 20 minute naps. We thought that because sometimes he does get alot more sleep like in the car and he so much happier when he gets much more sleep..

    But thanks to ap we now know no book has all the answers (other than doc sears of course lol! jk but really). Just because he yawns and struggles on his ‘natural’ amount of sleep doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. It’s just his temperament.

    It is so helpful to just let go a bit and accept!!!

  12. I so agree, Jen. Acceptance is such a part of the attached life. It is more than attachment “parenting.” It is attachment “living.”

    My lovely girl struggled so with sleep in the early months, but I have never regretted the long nights of nursing and often crying, many times both of us. Knowing I was there with her was worth all the pain and my spirit could never have accepted allowing her to cry. Allowing a child to cry without intervening to meet their needs immediately is soulless cruelty.

    The price was high. I had to quit my job to manage the naps (our nanny could not do it, when I went back to work ever so briefly at 6 months). Financially it has been a burden. We may lose our house.

    But even with the turmoil financially and professionally, when I look at how much closer all those long nights of nursing and cuddling have brought my lovely girl and I, I say it is all worth it. Every bit.

    What is a house or savings compared to a spirit-strong and resilient little girl?

    We are almost 2 years old now, we together, and I cherish our nights together. Where once she woke up constantly, she now sleeps deeply, waking for a snack or cuddle only once or twice in the night.

    And we are close. Loving. Attached.

  13. my 4 mo. old son protests sleeping so much, sometimes even at night. i will nurse him to ‘sleep’ only to have him wake and spit up- do i then keep nursing him to get back to sleep? all other methods of soothing don’t work without histerical crying! what do i do?

  14. Amaria….if it were me, I’d nurse him back to sleep if that is what soothes him. Do you have oversupply? I ask because you mentioned the spit up. I did with my second and third and found a great resource for my oversupply. Your local La Leche League group is also something you should connect with. LLL is amazingly supportive and informative. But, back to the sleep, I would nurse him at night. The grand majority of breastfed babies wake up throughout the night. If you cosleep, you can soothe him right at the moment he starts to fuss and before he is fully awake. Then it usually only takes a quick feeding to get him back to sleep and you too. During the day, you may want to consider babywearing and carrying him for naps. The movement of you going about your day (plus some background noise), as well as easy access to nursing can really help for babies that have a hard time settling down for naps.

  15. i am so glad i read this my lo who is eight months has been a bad sleeper since birth i tried cry it out method( my tears were worse than his) and we tried putting him down half asleep(failed miserably). i was at hair tearing point from waking up at least 3 times a night until reading this. i am his mother i know best not the books and other people if he has to co sleep and hug to sleep so be it.i will deal with consequences when he is older. thank you so much.

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