The Month My Baby Wouldn’t Sleep – And What I Did About It
ByKelly Holmes, author and Certified Parent Educator
Inside: Even when you know it’s just a phase, sleep regressions are KILLER. Here’s a story from one mom of what happened when her baby wouldn’t sleep for a month.
In the last month, our one-year-old Bailey has developed a terrible habit – keeping us up until 1:00 am.
She’s not cranky or crying. She just won’t sleep.
So she plays and plays and plays until she can’t walk straight, and then we cart her off to bed and cross our fingers.
Sometimes she sleeps, sometimes she doesn’t. When she doesn’t, we hang our heads and trudge back to the living room for more playtime and stories.
One night, I took her on a walk around the neighborhood at 1:00 am until she fell asleep. It didn’t feel creepy until I saw some dude limping down the street, fidgeting with his shorts.
Another night, we loaded her up in the car at 12:30 am and drove around for 45 minutes. But she never fell asleep.
You name it, we’ve tried it.
But the worst part isn’t Bailey keeping us up late.
When she does finally fall asleep, she wakes up every hour to two hours. Sometimes every 30 minutes to an hour.
She’s killing us, slowly.
We wander the aisles trying to remember what we need. Then when we’re almost done, we realize we haven’t bought anything for dinner that week. So we double back to get dinner supplies.
Sometimes it’s all our brains can handle to think of one dinner at a time, so we end up making several trips around the store – one round for each meal.
As a special treat, we bought a super classy $2.99 bottle of wine.
That night, we pulled into the garage, throwing out dinner options.
“Pasta?” I said.
“Works for me. Oh, is today Wednesday?” Ty asked.
I paused to think because figuring out the day of the week actually does require me to focus nowadays. “Yeah.”
“I’m gonna set out the trash bins before I forget.”
“Good catch,” I said.
I unbuckled Bailey and put her on my right hip, then loaded my work bags on my left shoulder.
As I deposited each of my bags – purse on the counter, pump bag in the pantry, laptop bag on the kitchen table – I felt something wet on my hip.
I figured it was Bailey drooling on me.
She squirmed out of my arms, so I set her on the living room rug to play and headed back to the garage to grab the groceries from the trunk.
The air hit my hip where it was wet.
I looked down.
Definitely not drool.
“Oh shit.” Ty had just walked inside to get the kitchen trash.
“Bailey had a blowout.” I started back towards her in the living room. Maybe there was still time to save the rug.
I scooped her up and whisked her to the bedroom.
This was a two-man job.
We got Bailey cleaned up, I changed my shirt, and Ty scrubbed the living room rug.
I sighed. “Pizza?”
I queued up the pizza place’s web site and ordered.
Our Reward for a Job Well Done
That night, we got our fill of pizza, split a root beer, and after big sister Abby went to sleep we even got to watch an episode of New Girl while Bailey chewed her way through her board book library.
When she started walking like a drunk person, we got her ready for bed and held our breath.
I laid down next to her, nursed her, and she fell asleep.
Before 1:00 am!
I waited a few minutes to be sure it would stick.
Then I carefully inched away from her, slid off the bed, and tiptoed out of the room.
Ty looked up. “She’s out?”
I grinned. “She’s out!”
I turned on the baby monitor.
“How about a glass of wine?” he asked.
“Yes, please.” I walked toward the fridge and opened it.
I moved a few things around. “Did you put the wine in the fridge?”
“No,” Ty said.
“Where is it?”
And then we both realized at the same time:
They’d been in the trunk, in the 80-degree garage, for four hours.
Ty ran out to the garage to grab the grocery bags. I glanced at the baby monitor.
This was burning some serious wine-drinking time.
Thankfully, we didn’t fare too bad on the groceries. The ice cream bars were toast, but the milk still seemed nice and cool.
We danced around each other in the kitchen, trying to put the survivors away as quietly as possible, both checking the baby monitor every 30 seconds.
When we were done, I opened the bottle of wine and poured two glasses.
I walked up to Ty and handed one to him.
We clinked glasses.
I lifted my glass to my lips…
And Bailey cried.
A Kick in the Pants
The next morning, I had Bailey on my hip as I corralled her toys into the toy bin. She prefers a fresh start to the day before she spreads them all over the house again.
Abby was on the couch, reading one of Bailey’s books to herself.
“Mommy?” she said.
“It seems like you don’t smile very often.”
I froze and looked up at her. “What?”
Abby shrugged. “It feels like you smiled more in Hawaii.”
“What do you mean? I smile.” But I was now painfully aware of how the corners of my mouth turned down.
Abby ducked her head and went back to reading.
I continued tidying up, Abby’s comment ringing in my head.
I picked a hairbrush up off the floor and headed to the bathroom.
As I put it away in the drawer, I caught sight of my face in the mirror and stopped.
My own child thinks I don’t smile?
My Breaking Point
After both girls were in bed that night, we got 15 minutes before Bailey woke up the first time.
I opened the bedroom door, my eyes adjusting to the darkness.
Again, I realized I wasn’t smiling. Actually, the opposite of smiling.
What’s wrong with me?
I laid next to Bailey and got ready to nurse her back to sleep.
I knew she’d wake up again in 30 minutes or 20 minutes or 10 minutes and want to nurse again. She was dependent on me to fall back asleep, every time.
And this was okay with me for a while.
But I realized it was no longer just me soldiering through without sleep. My lack of sleep was affecting the rest of the family too.
With my hands on my nursing bra clasp, I stopped. I know you can’t cheat yourself on sleep and not pay the price. It will affect your brainpower. And your mood.
“No,” I said out loud, surprising myself a little. “No milk.”
Bailey’s whimpers turned to full-on crying.
I snuggled up next to her.
She was having none of it. Louder crying.
I sang “Hush Little Baby.”
She didn’t hush.
I let her bury her fingers in my hair – a calming trick that’s worked since she was a newborn.
She was now royally pissed. I was changing the rules on her, in the middle of the game.
It took me 45 minutes to get her calmed down, another 15 to get her to sleep.
After I eased out of the room, I found Ty in the kitchen cleaning up from dinner.
“I think I’m going to night wean Bails,” I said.
He looked up, searching my face for a few seconds. “I think that’s a good idea.”
“It’s probably a little overdue, huh?”
He nodded, slowly. “Probably.”
Related: How to Get Better Sleep As a Sleep-Deprived Mom (Yes, Really)
Did It Work?
So we night weaned our baby, sort of on a whim. With Abby giving me the wake-up call I needed.
The first night was awful. She woke up at least every hour, sometimes more. We took turns trying to calm her down.
She was just plain angry, and none of us slept very much at all.
After she fell asleep around 3:00 am, I picked up my phone to pull up this blog post on baby sleep and re-read it for the thousandth time: Here Are Some Lies People Tell You About Infant Sleep.
I searched for more advice and found another blog post, which I got halfway through before Bailey stirred again.
The whole night, I kept telling myself: It can only go up from here.
The next night, Bailey woke up at 1:00 am. With her strapped to my chest in the Ergo, I paced the house in the dark. After the first hour, my legs felt like jelly.
I just wanted to sit down. But I knew we’d have to start all over getting her calmed down.
She finally settled down at 3:00 am, after two hours of pacing.
And then? She slept for three hours straight.
She hadn’t done that for months and months.
The next night was a little bit better. And the next, a little bit more.
As of last night, we’ve been at it for almost two weeks.
Since we started night weaning, Bailey hasn’t nursed during the night. Plus, she’s getting faster at falling back asleep when she does wake up.
Last night, she woke up once. ONCE.
I feel like a new woman.
But I had to test my theory.
Today, I asked Abby: “Do you feel like Mommy is smiling more lately?”
She paused. “Maybe,” she said. “Can we have dessert?”
If you were blessed with a non-sleeping baby too, my friend Lauren has a ton of awesome baby sleep tips for you. But the real game-changer for me was her book: For the Love of Sleep: Practical Baby Sleep Solutions for the Everyday Mama. Lucky for me, I read this book before my third baby was born, and I was able to avoid some of the hurdles I created for myself with my previous two babies.
But if you’re in a tough spot as in “I need a sleep fix right now, or I’m going to run away from my family and hide out in an Appalachian shack 200 miles from civilization,” I highly recommend this free 3-part video series from my friend Rachel. She’s had five babies in five years, so she knows what she’s talking about. In these three short videos, you’ll learn the biggest baby sleep struggles – and how to fix them starting now.
How do you cope with lack of sleep? Share your tip in a comment below!
Kelly Holmes, author and Certified Parent Educator
I'm a mom of four, a Certified Parent Educator, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. I believe if you want a loving parent-child relationship that will last into the teenage years and beyond, the time for nurturing that kind of relationship is now. The good news? All you need is 10 minutes a day. Start here »