How to cope with a baby who doesn’t sleep.

When I had the twins, I remember thinking to myself, why didn’t I sleep more when I was younger? Or, I don’t think I’m ever going to sleep again! And I literally believed this. I felt like I could see the rest of my life stretched out before me, and there wasn’t a full nights sleep in sight. The worse part is, I would later look back and realize that the twins were by far my very best sleepers, and I would someday wish the others slept the way they did! My third daughter, Sienna, was a pretty terrible nighttime sleeper, but a great napper. All three older kids regularly took two naps a day until they were over two years old, and still slept well at night. So when Adele came along, I thought I knew what to expect sleep-wise. A few weeks of a baby who slept nearly around the clock (but with frequent nighttime feedings), then months of waking a couple of times a night (which I could handle when she took her three-hour-naps, of course), and then before I knew it she would be sleeping through the night. Now mind you, Sienna is going to be 5 in a couple of weeks and she still rarely really “sleeps through the night”, so I’m not sure why I thought this. But anyway. I should add that even without children waking me, I don’t really sleep through the night either, so it’s all about perspective. But more on that later.

From the beginning, Adele has been in a league of her own where sleep is concerned. She just doesn’t seem to get what all the hype is about, and is perfectly content to constantly leave us guessing when it comes to her sleep needs. She has never, ever had any sort of a sleep routine. She has never, ever napped longer than a single, two hour nap that I remember vividly. I believe I tweeted it (twice!) and posted more than one picture of it on Instagram as well. It was monumental in our household, and I couldn’t help but hope that it was a sign that it would someday become a pattern.

It didn’t.

Most days, Adele takes one nap that never lasts than 40 minutes. If she takes a second nap, it will be another short one, generally closer to 15-20 minutes. Nighttime is really no better, with her waking to eat every hour, or two if I’m lucky. She has also never slept longer than three hours in a stretch at night, and that also happened only once or twice.

So why am I giving you such detail into Adele’s sleep habits? Believe it or not, it’s not to elicit pity or to surround myself with kind words from strangers. Although I have had many rough days where I break down and bawl my eyes out in pure exhaustion, I can say with complete honesty that there are more days than not that I feel great. Well rested, even. I do not resent her, I do not feel like the walking dead, and I still have a great relationship with my husband. So although I don’t have any advice on how to get your little one to sleep more, I do have a few things to share about coping with a baby who doesn’t sleep.

{1.} Change your mindset. 

Having a baby is a huge adjustment. Whether you classify your baby as easygoing, fussy, difficult, a sleeper or a non-sleeper, babies turn your world upside down. And honestly, the thing is, that is never going to change. If you go through your journey as a parent constantly wishing for your child to not be a “bother” to you, you are going to live in a perpetual state of disappointment. I used to feel resentful when the twins robbed me of my sleep. The more babies I’ve had, though, the more my mindset has changed. While I realize you need sleep to function, and that it is a very important part of being the best parent you can be, having a child means forfeiting certain things, and unfortunately, sleep is often one of them. If you can change your outlook on parenting, set different expectations, you will suddenly be able to look at the positives rather than the negatives. Is baby up at 10 pm when you had hoped for a 7 o’clock bedtime? Well, take the time to play with him, because before you know it, he will be going to bed like a pro and will no longer need your comfort to drift off to dreamland.

{2.} Utilize what God gave you!

I nurse Adele to sleep. I have always nursed my babies to sleep, and it has always worked best for us. Since my other three were great sleepers, even with breastfeeding being their preferred method of sleep induction, I know that this is not hindering Adele. All babies are different, so all babies will have different sleep patterns. So despite warnings from well-intentioned doctors, friends, and family members, nursing to sleep is what works for us. It provides comforting mama snuggles, a warm, full, belly, and fulfills a baby’s need to suck, all right before sleep. It is truly the best, most comforting way for a breastfed baby to fall asleep. And trust me, they won’t need you to nurse them to sleep when they’re in middle school, so allow yourself to relax and not worry about forming a “bad habit”.


{3.} Co-Sleep!

I realize co-sleeping is not for everyone or every baby. However, I could not nurse Adele as often as she likes at night if she were not right beside me. I can latch her on and go right back to sleep, and often, I think I even just do it in my sleep! It’s second nature, and we’re both happy. I can’t imagine having to get up out of bed every single time she woke up. I’d be a walking nightmare the next day.

{4.} Wear your baby.

Adele has probably taken over 85% of her naps in a carrier of some sort. She’ll nap in a sling, a mei tai, or a wrap. I wrapped Sienna a LOT, so it only took a few times to remember how to wrap her. I quickly learned that back carries are the best thing to happen to a busy mama. She can nap, I can work. I joke that I can do anything other than shower while wearing her, and really, it’s true. I guess I can’t drive, either, but you get the picture. I could go on and on about the merits of babywearing, but we’ll save that for another time. It is sufficient to say that wearing a baby who doesn’t care to sleep is a life saver. Whether they nap while being worn, or just hang out near mama so that you can accomplish something, wearing your baby is one of my favorite tips for coping with a baby who doesn’t like to sleep.

Please ignore the drool spots in this one!

{5.} Really, truly, relax. 

I know, I know. It is so much easier to tell someone to relax than for a person to actually put it into practice. But it really is the very best piece of advice I have. It goes right along with changing your perspective. When you focus on the negative, all you will see is the negative. However, when you allow yourself to stop and fully grasp how truly short these days are, but how quickly the years fly by, you may be able to stop stressing about your lack of sleep. Your baby will sleep one day, and that day will come sooner than you think. And in the mean time, you will never regret extra cuddles. Your laundry, your emails, your errands will all still be there. But your baby won’t be. Soon enough they’ll be begging to be outside, doing their own thing. They’ll be sleeping in their own bed, they’ll stop crying out for you in their sleep. And when they do, I guarantee you’ll look back on this sleepless stage of life with fondness. So as crazy as it sounds, enjoy it. Because the sleeplessness really is special, in it’s own crazy, twisted way. Just like most of parenting.

*I realize that this amount of sleeping-Adele-photos seem to contradict my post. However, I assure you they do not. I think my excessive picture taking when she is asleep is my way of enjoying the brief respite! Maybe that should be point number 6?!

No Comments

  1. Charlee -  April 4, 2012 - 1:54 pm

    Love your story, it’s unfortunate that she’s not the best sleeper :/ but she is pretty awesome!!

  2. Xza -  April 4, 2012 - 10:14 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel fortunate that Atticus sleeps more than Adele does, but the days he goes without napping make me want to climb up a wall. I know other moms can appreciate this post too

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