Several times in the depth of bleary-eyed, sleep deprivation a hideous thought would occur to me:
Both of my children were terrible sleepers – maybe I am the cause of it. I seem to be the common denominator here. And it also seemed like EVERY other baby in the world was sleeping better than my baby. I felt like it was all my fault.
But here I am going to tell you in the clear light of day – a few years later – that it absolutely wasn’t my fault.
It was their fault.
And not even in a “it was their fault, because they’re terrible babies” kind of way. It’s babies in general. It’s perfectly normal for babies, toddlers, even children, not to sleep through the night.
It’s All Normal
And I know. I know. I know. Someone reading this had a baby who slept through from birth, who’s never woken every hour through the night to feed. A baby who’s never woken at 3am and decided that was near enough to morning and then just pushed through all day. You had a toddler who when put to bed just stayed there. And fell asleep. By themselves. You didn’t have to bribe them or anything. They actually like sleep.
Your kid is absolutely perfectly normal too. But they’re exceptional. They are certainly not the rule.
And I’m sorry…. So sorry… but odds are nothing you actually did made that happen. If your baby was an exceptionally “good sleeper”, it’s probably them, not you. Because trust me, I had the routine, the books, the plan – the goddamned plan – before my baby was even born. Then we had that magical sleep-play-feed thing nailed in a couple of weeks! By 3 months he was going down “sleepy but awake” like a textbook champion baby.
I’d done everything “right”…. But then he would still wake up frequently through the night. And then he stopped having day sleeps before he was two. He just didn’t need much sleep. He was a little Duracell Bunny Baby.
Some Things Might Help
I’m not saying there aren’t things you can do that might help get a little more sleep. There are age appropriate strategies you can try. But there is no guaranteed quick fix, because you’re working with perfectly normal, natural human behaviour. So if you’re wanting them to sleep straight though you might need to lower your expectations a little (think about it – most adults don’t even sleep through the night without waking at all). There are some strategies that might help your baby sleep a little longer, but they won’t make your baby sleep through the night before they’re ready. But it’s still worth talking to your doctor, or maternal health nurse, or places like Tresillian to come up with some strategies that might give you and your baby a little more sleep.
I also found The No Cry Sleep Solution book helpful. Also Safe Sleep Space has great videos that show you exactly how to use their settling techniques (which I borrowed from my local library). And The Baby Sleep Company post helpful videos on their Facebook page every Friday – which are often highly entertaining, but also contain some great advice (they also do sleep consultations).
One other great resource, more for comforting parents, is Pinky Mckay.
Focus On How To Cope With Less Sleep
Even though it’s normal, doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’ve been there. It’s so hard. It takes a village. Ask for help. Cut yourself some slack. Try to take care of yourself and your needs as well. Take any opportunity for a break. I’m sorry there’s no easy solution for that either, but try to reach out to your family or friends for support. And I don’t know how much this helps, but I promise it’ll pass. They’re not babies forever. Not in a “Cherish this time” way, but I mean “Just hang in there, it’ll be over soon.”
Take care. xx