Getting Baby to Sleep Through the Night

Sleeping BabyReading about how a few new-found Twitter friends are going through sleep problems with their kids made me look back on that  baby-induced sleep deprivation I also went through with my babies.  I shudder just remembering the sound of the first whimper at 3AM, and how scared I felt when I had to get up and feed the little, umm, darling!

It seems babies are born with their clocks turned around; they sleep during the day, and are determined to stay awake all night when WE need to be asleep. Whether they’re awake because they’re hungry, have a dirty diaper, or are just plain not sleepy, we are barely coherent after 8 weeks of this torture. I remember I tried every tale suggested to me to get baby to sleep: from lettuce baths for the baby, Melatonin for me, and putting rice cereal in the baby’s bottle to fill their tummy for a few hours. Nothing really helped – well, the Melatonin worked enough  that I recall sleeping  “like a baby” for a few hours. (Whoever came up with this saying should be eternally punished with babysitting!)

Fortunately, one of my husband’s co-workers gave us a glorious book I still have today, and have even given copies away as presents because the recommendations in “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”  by Dr. Richard Ferber, really worked for us! One especially marvelous solution to the night feedings is on page 85. This chapter deals with Feeding As a Cause Of Trouble. There’s also a chart in there (in fact, there are many interesting charts I used to figure out  why the heck the no-sleeping curse was upon us!), about systematically reducing the amount of milk or formula, once by ounce, over a period of time until there was nothing in the bottle. Presto! The baby would sleep.

Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. This solution worked to wean my children off the bottle at night, but NOT to get them to sleep all night. So, how did I solve this problem? With another solution suggested by Dr. Ferber: let them cry it out, little by little.

At this point, however, I was at the end of my rope and had no patience for the little-by-little approach. Instead, I chose to, well, condense the time it would take to follow his process ‘by the book’.

First, as the terrible mother that I am, I did not reduce the formula one ounce at a time.I did it two ounces at a time! Second, to solve the crying and sleep situation, I waited until they were about four months old, and once I had started giving them a little solid food. I also waited for my husband, who is the softy in this house, to go on a business trip because he didn’t have the heart to let the baby cry to sleep. But, once he was out the door  the tactical assault was on! The kid got moved into his/her own room, and the door shut to muffle the shrieks for attention that would emanate from the seemingly possessed ‘bundle of joy.’ 

OMG! The lung power these little things have is deafening!

Anyway, desperation had set in and I had no time to waste – four days and only sleep to gain. So, while my husband was away, I contrived my version of a solution to the sleep problem. After moving the kids, cradle and all, into the nursery (permanently) I’d go through the drill first: Feed. Check. Burped. Check. Change Diaper. Check. Warm and comfy bed. Check. Then a kiss good night and … walk out of the room, quietly, and wait.


Hang on! I remember thinking. Nothing’s wrong. Or, is it? Could there be something wrong with the baby? No, well, just maybe.

NO! DO. NOT. GO. IN. THERE! This is the mental fight I had with myself for four nights.

I didn’t go in there. But I didn’t sleep either.

This went on for about, oh, five hours each night, and then on the fourth night the crying stopped.  I went through this for a solid three days, but on the fourth night, after the drill and walking out … not a sound was heard.

And I still didn’t sleep. WTH!!!!!

I kept waiting for the screaming and the crying, but it didn’t come.  I only poked my head in enough to catch a glimpse of the crib (no eye contact) to make sure baby was asleep.

After a few more time of the drill, I dared myself to sleep the following nights (should have armed myself with a glass of Merlot first). Though it was hard to get a deep slumber, I eventually did.

For the next couple of days, guess who kept waling up for no reason? ME! Oh, for goodness sake, what’s this all about? I thought.

 It’s called P.A.R.E.N.T.I.N.G.

I finally understood all those unsolicited pieces of advice I used to get from all the well-intentioned ‘parents’ around me: “Sleep all you can before baby gets here.” “Go out because you won’t be able to when baby’s here”.  Yes. You were right, and thank you for the heads up. I only wish I’d known what you were talking about then.

Now I have a 14 year old and an 18 year old, and guess what? I still don’t sleep!

It’s a different kind of sleep quality that we assume once we have children. Don’t get me wrong. I still get to sleep, and even dream. But that carefree, deep REM I used to have pre-kids, it will never be the same … and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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