Coping with a Sleepless Baby

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I’m sorry to say that this post doesn’t have any magic tricks or super tips that will coax your child into dreamland, but I am here to say that you WILL get through the rough patches and your baby WILL eventually nap or sleep. You are tired, drained, defeated, and sleep-deprived.  I was there—for 13 solid months.

Despite all the encouraging advice from my friends with sleeping babies, Judah just did not want to nap.  The ONLY thing that seemed to put him to sleep during the day was the car (or nursing), but the problem with that was I was still attached.  There were no dishes I could clean from the car or clothes I could fold.  I was “trapped” sitting in my car for 2 hours a day—but hey, at least my baby was actually napping.

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I felt like a failure.  Why doesn’t my baby nap?  What am I doing wrong? Thoughts, comparisons, and lies all raced through my mind, and I was at a loss—mentally and physically.  I had tried letting him cry it out, keeping him awake during longer (and then shorter) increments during the day, reading books and blogs on sleep, rocking, singing, swaying, swinging, bouncing, swaddling, adding a blanket, sound machines, the “5 S’s system,” laying next to him, making him a palette on the ground, putting up black out curtains, talking to my pediatrician—you name it, I tried it and then tried it again and again.  Each week came with new attempts, until I finally would give in and just let him nap in the car or would nurse him to sleep on the floor or bed.

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I eventually realized that I had to learn to be patient and content.  I still attempted naptime with my methods, but I didn’t let it get me down when we had to resort to the car or nursing. The biggest piece of advice that I took comfort in during those times was that everything is a season with babies—good or bad.  I was in the middle of a rough season, and it was time to buckle down and look for positives.

So I wrote a list.  This is my actual list that I fished out from the bottom of a drawer that I referenced whenever I was feeling defeated or down about Judah’s lack of napping.

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That little list of seven items did wonders for me and my perspective (and sanity!). And then the day of sleep came. Like yours will too! One day in the middle of summer, he finally responded to one of my many attempts and napped.  And then he napped the next day and the next and has been napping every since.

He still doesn’t nap longer than an hour, but that’s OK. I learned a lot of things about myself during the process and was even able to stop and reflect on positives that I may not have noticed if Judah was a skilled napper. So in a way, I am grateful for that rough season, because I am able to appreciate this new season of rest even more.

What are some coping mechanisms you use during your child’s “rough seasons”?

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2 Responses to Coping with a Sleepless Baby

  1. Amy December 18, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    This is a great post to explain the saying “they’re only babies for a while” and “it’s just a season.” With my twins, I HATED when people would say that! For the longest time it drove me nuts, and I didn’t care that they were just babies – I JUST wanted sleep!! After probably 8-9 months of each baby waking 1-2 times a night (so anywhere between 2-4 night wakings for me), I chose to shift my perspective – much like you. I focused on the good moments when they woke…I really embraced the fact that they would only be babies for a little while and used my time to kiss and snuggle them. For me, I also focused on the fact that these moments were coveted one-on-one time with each baby since that is so rare. When I made the decision to shift my perspective, those nights got remarkably easier!!! Also, I always prayed for the sleep that I was granted to be sustaining for me. I felt those prayers answered daily!!!

    • Jenny Gilbert December 18, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      Thanks Amy! That’s a great perspective too: “only be babies for a little while.” That thought also kept me going, especially when I would try to rock him or swing him to tire him out. Hard to imagine that eventually they outgrow your arms!

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