My babies hate sleep.
No, that’s not exactly right. My babies love sleep. But after three babies in the span of eight years, I’ve lived this inconvenient truth all three times: My baby will only sleep on me.
We’ve tried it all, I promise you. And we have confirmation from two separate babysitters, both well-versed in sleep-training even the most stubborn of babies. More often than not, our babies will sleep only when held.
By baby number three, I’ve made some peace with this reality. It helps to know that by the age of two or three, my kids’ sleep sucks approximately 37 percent less. Before my littlest one was born, I also learned a few things about baby sleep that opened my eyes to how I was getting in the way of my baby’s sleep. (More on that in a bit.)
Even so, she still struggles with sleep. And I’ve come to believe that there must be something physiological about my babies that for the first couple of years, they need to sleep on or near me in order to thrive.
What I Do When My Baby Will Only Sleep on Me
All this means that in the eight years since I first became a mom, I’ve spent a fair bit of time stuck under sleeping babies.
- With my first baby, I used the time to read the Hunger Games trilogy. (Also the Twilight series, but I’m not proud of it.)
- With my second baby, I used the time to write on this blog.
- And with my last baby, I wrote a book to help parents find happiness in the chaos of parenting life.
But sometimes, you don’t feel like being super productive. And for those times, I have a few suggestions for you.
7 Things to Do When You’re Stuck Under a Sleeping Baby
I consider myself an expert on what to do when you’re trapped under a sleeping baby. And so the next time you find yourself stuck holding a snoozer, I got you covered, my friend.
Here’s what you do:
- Stare at your baby and savor this moment. Your sweet baby won’t be this tiny for long! If you do this savoring thing properly, it will use up 2.7 seconds, so let’s get to the rest of the suggestions…
- Make a mental list of everything you should be doing but aren’t. A sink full of dirty dishes, a leaning tower of clean laundry to fold on top of the dryer, and cat hair tumbleweeds in every corner of your house? Add them to the list! Paying off your hospital bills from baby’s birth or – more realistically – calling the hospital to negotiate a 72-part payment plan? Add it to the list!
- Watch a movie you’ve been meaning to watch for a long time. This is your chance for some high-quality “me time” with no interruptions, so the sky’s the limit! But you will want to keep it pretty quiet so you don’t wake the baby, so try to pick something with very little dialogue. On second thought, best to stick with nature documentaries.
- Read something educational out loud to your baby in a soothing tone, such as The No-Cry Sleep Solution or Go the F**k to Sleep.
- Perfect your phone photography skills so when your baby wakes up, you can post the most kickass baby photos Instagram has ever seen. A few ideas: a still life masterpiece of the pile of dirty diapers you’ve been collecting in the corner of the bedroom, a biting commentary on our stuff addiction as told by a collage of baby toys, parenting books, and empty Frappuccino bottles, or a close-up of cat hair tumbleweed to represent the stress and overwhelm of modern-day parenting life.
- Being stuck on the couch or in the bed is no excuse for being lazy. Do 200 calf raises, leg lifts, or butt squeezes. I have no idea if butt squeezes are effective, but you’re moving a muscle and that has to count for something.
- Do some ninja training! Slowly, ever so slowly, inch yourself out from under your baby. No, make that centimeter yourself out from under your baby. This will take you at least 15 minutes if you do it correctly. And then, at last, you’ll be free! You’ll sneak out of the bedroom, close the door so, so quietly, turn on the baby monitor, and take a deep breath. You can tackle those dishes, fold the laundry, and maybe even vacuum a tumbleweed or two. But first, a potty break while your hands are empty. And as you turn toward the bathroom…guess what? Your baby’s up! Next time, try being more ninja.
Baby Only Sleeps When Held? Here’s What Helped Me
If you were blessed with a non-sleeping baby too, you need this book by my friend Lauren: 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. My littlest one still needs to nap on me some days, but it’s once in a while instead of every single nap. I can do the dishes, fold the laundry, and vacuum, too. I don’t do all that, but I could if I wanted to. All thanks to this book:
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.
What’s your best tip for killing time when you’re stuck under a sleeping baby? Share in a comment below!
I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.