The Sleep Lies

If you have a Mom friend or two (or a million) on Facebook, you have probably seen a status update like this, or something similar, before:

O-M-G! My baby just SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT!! Best baby ever!

If you’re a Mom with a baby, you’re going to feel hate. If you’re childless, you will wonder if it is normal and then you will start counting statuses like this, trying to figure out why parents complain about being so tired. Because SO MANY BABIES sleep through the night. Or so it would seem.

I did this too. I was all over Facebook bragging about how awesome a sleeper Cameron was.

April 23, 2010 (Cameron, 7 weeks old): I am SO proud of my baby who slept from 10pm to 5am! :)

April 27, 2010 (Cameron, 7.5 weeks old): I think this counts as sleeping through the night – asleep at 12:30, still asleep now at quarter to 8 (although not for long, I reckon).

Let me tell you a secret. Cameron didn’t actually sleep through the night for good until he was nine months old. Sure there were a few nights when we were granted a sliver of hope that maybe just maybe he would start sleeping through the night, but as he got older, those nights became few and far between.

Here’s the truth behind many of those statuses. A baby may sleep through the night once, twice, three times even, and it still means nothing. All your parenting hopes and pride will rise up just to be dashed the following night when Baby wakes up every hour. Your baby will have good sleeping nights just long enough for your body to get used to more rest and then BAM! growth spurt; BAM! teething; BAM! sick; BAM! mental leap; BAM!  horrible sleep. In fact, in my experience with my first child, sleep started off great and went downhill from there… for nine whole months.

So this time, I kept my sleep statuses to myself. Why cause envy in other Moms when I already know that a good night’s sleep is just a fluke and not indicative of how the rest of my year will go?

We all have such high hopes for our children. Maybe our baby will be the one who sleeps through the night. Maybe he’ll teach himself to sleep and not have to be taught to sleep on his own. Maybe I’ll be able to brag about how perfect my baby is because he lets me sleep.

Or maybe he’ll be like most babies who need food, comfort, love, and closeness in the middle of the night.

Gavin just turned four months old. I have been dreading this age.

It was at fourth months when Cameron went from being a pretty good sleeper to an OHMYGOSHJUSTGOTHEFRIGTOSLEEP!!!! sleeper. Everything came to a head during his fourth month. He started teething. We weaned him from the swaddle. And of course, there was Wonder Week 19. It was in this fourth month when all my hopes of ever sleeping again were completely shattered.

For the record, Cameron now sleeps very well. Gavin is a different story. Gavin is a baby.

I’m still holding on to hope that Gavin will eventually sleep through the night on his own. I’m crossing my fingers and holding my breath that this month doesn’t represent the spiral into no-sleep territory like it did with his big brother.

And I’m trying to enjoy those sleepy smiles and late night snuggles that strengthen our bond, while simultaneously makes me completely debilitated until lunch time the next day.

What will I do when Gavin actually sleeps through the night? I don’t know. Probably rejoice. Loudly. To anyone who will listen. Yes, you’ll hate me, but at least your hate will be justified. Until then, I’ll just keep complaining about how tired I am and hope that everyone who brags about having sleeping babies actually continue to have sleeping babies.

Gavin Sleeping

How does your baby sleep? When did your baby start sleeping through the night? Did you experience the same sort of dashed hopes that I did with my first child? Did you (will you) let your baby learn to sleep on his own or did you (will you) sleep train?

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About Laura ORourke

Laura is a working Mom of two living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Juggling work, blogging, and life at home with her husband Dan and two sons Cameron (age 4) and Gavin (age 1) is always exciting (that's one word for it) but when she has time, she can be found reading, writing, snapping photos, or awkwardly running. Keep up with the fun by following @LauraORourke on Twitter or liking Mommy Miracles on Facebook. Like what you see? Have something to add? Be sure to leave a comment!

Comments

  1. I’m one of those moms that every other mom hates.

    My babies (BOTH!) actually did sleep through the night at an early age and never stopped.

    When I say “slept through the night” I mean slept THROUGH the night. Anywhere from 8-12 hours WITHOUT WAKING UP ONCE.

    *puts up shield to avoid glaring envious eyes from burning me*

    I have no idea how or why I was blessed with two amazing sleepers but believe me, I never in a million years imagined I’d get two of them. I thought for sure after being spoiled by my first born that I’d pay dearly the second time around. Nope.

    DS1 slept through the night at 6 weeks and is now 3 years, 4 months. I can count on two hands the number of times he’s woken up in all that time through the night. He sleeps like a log.

    DS2 slept through the night at 4 weeks and is now 22 months. With him as well, I can count on two hands – maybe just one actually.

    All I know is that I didn’t swaddle (they both hated it) and both of my boys were tummy sleepers like good old mom and dad from day 1. Both still nap every day (2 hours on weekdays and up to 3+ hours on weekends) and while they might not go to bed until 8:30 or 9:00pm they sleep 10-12 hours a night.

    I wish I knew the magic reason behind it because I can’t begin to imagine how exhausting night wakings are on a continual basis. My heart goes out to you.

    • First of all: How AWESOME! I’ll try to turn down the glaring envious eyes a little.

      One thing I have been really vigilant about right from the beginning with Gavin was getting into a sleep schedule. I wanted both boys to have the same bedtime – mainly so that I could have some alone time at the end of the day, but also because I didn’t want Cameron feeling like he was missing out on family time if he went to bed hours before anyone else. So Gav goes to bed at 7:30, Cameron a little closer to 8.

      I have even managed to do coordinated naps in the afternoon too. And Gavin pretty much insisted on having a set morning nap. He refused to sleep on me, in the swing, in the bouncer, etc during those early weeks and really just wanted to go to BED, so he’s on a pretty regular nap schedule.

      So, naps are good. Just no full night sleeps yet.

      One question – and not a judgement one, but one that might affect how long a baby sleeps – did you breast or formula feed?
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

    • I’m also one of those moms that every other mom hates. My son is now 18-months old. He slept through the night almost from the day he came home (which, in his case, was at 3 weeks old). Like Tammi, my baby loves to sleep on his tummy but I assume that it is only a coincidence. We simply use an easy sleeping routine at night. You can read, if you want, the key components on this post http://athome.kimvallee.com/2012/08/parenting-tips-how-i-get-my-baby-to-sleep-all-night/

      Good luck!
      At Home with Kim Vallee recently posted..Symbol Audio’s Retro Modern, All-in-one Record ConsoleMy Profile

      • Ooops! Sorry for not replying sooner. Your comment got missed as spam. I just rescued it! :)

        I do think babies like sleeping on their tummies. As soon as my oldest son could roll, he would put himself on his tummy every night. Once he could roll on his own, I was fine with him sleeping however he wanted.

        Thank you for sharing your sleep routine. I do totally believe that most kids need to learn how to sleep. Our toddler is now an incredible sleeper. He sleeps all through the night and waits for his clock to tell him when to wake. He still usually napes at least an hour an a half each day, but if he doesn’t, he still takes quiet time in his room.

        As for my four month old, he does know the difference between night and day. I think the hardest thing we’re going to have to face at some point is dealing with the sleep transitions. I know that this happens, and sometimes I worry I rush to him too quickly. But at this stage in our lives, he only has two choices of rooms to sleep in: ours or his big brother’s. So, I’m less inclined to give him a few crying minutes in the middle of the night like I was with his brother.

        I am in no rush to sleep train my baby yet though. We tried Cameron (the toddler) when he was quite young and it was very clear he wasn’t ready. I am grateful that we waited until we were all ready for the transition and because of that he is now an awesome sleeper.
        Laura recently posted..Did You Win, Mama?My Profile

  2. Oh man. Noah was an AWFUL sleeper. He didn’t sleep through the night until about 9 or 10 months old. And even then it took the CIO method to get him to go to bed on his own (after we tried EVERY method under the sun). He started teething early, had colic, reflux, etc. It was one thing after the other with him. And like you mentioned, I used to get so frustrated with moms being all braggy, braggy about their perfect kids sleeping through the night at just a few weeks/months old. Here’s hoping Gavin catches on soon!
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    • Haven’t I made you SUPER EXCITED to have your baby now?!

      I think it is just a perception thing. Sure, we all know having a baby is exhausting, but when everyone talks about their 2, 3, or 4 month old sleeping through the night, it just isn’t realistic in a lot of cases. And then parents like us who have kids who DON’T sleep well start to wonder if there is something we need to do differently. We feel pressure to sleep train very early and to cut out night feeds before baby is ready.

      We eventually used modified CIO with Cameron too. Essentially we tried to make sure he understood that we had not abandoned him but that he was going to sleep, gosh darn it! :)
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

  3. Neither of mine sleep through the night regularly (in one location) yet.

    • Oh my gosh! That would kill me. You are one tough Mama.

      I talk a big game about trying to naturally parent as gently as possible, but by the time I got to 9 months of no sleep with Cameron – he was sleeping in bed with me, nursing every hour at least, and I had thrush which made all of that VERY painful, we decided it was time to sleep train!
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

  4. Coop started sleeping though the night at 9 weeks and hasn’t stopped he averages 10-12 hours no matter what. Love him for that!

  5. My first two were amazing sleepers. My third? Didn’t sleep through until 11 months old. And now the baby has slept 11 hours a night since 4 weeks old.
    Kimberly recently posted..A Brand New YearMy Profile

    • Well, at least the majority of your kids have been awesome sleepers!

      I think what your comment really solidifies in my mind is how much we need to base our parenting on the kids we parent. It is easy to make a blanket statement: “Sleep training is best for baby”, or “NEVER sleep train!”, but all babies (and children) are different and react differently to parenting decisions.
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

  6. Eli slowly slept longer and longer stretches until at 6 months old I could officially say he was sleeping through the night, about 12 hours. We have had our fair share of sleep struggles SINCE that point – he never EVER went to sleep well but ALWAYS cried for 5-10 minutes before giving it up, and of course there have been many rough nights, but for the most part he has slept well. I assumed Theo would sort of wean himself onto sleeping through the same way – but he didn’t. He went to bed fine, not a peep (unlike his shrieking brother!) but would then get up every hour or two all night. At 10 months old I was fed up and moved him into a different room and let him cry it out. It took about a week and then blissful sleeping all night long for Mama :) Now that they are 3 and 15 months they share a room and both sleep just fine. I’m enjoying my sleep for now until April… when it’s going to start being interrupted again ;)

    • What awesome news Emily! Congratulations! I am absolutely thrilled for you!

      Cameron was similar to how Theo was. Only he went from sleeping well to waking up a few extra times a night at 4 months to waking up EVERY HOUR at 6 months. We started co-sleeping so I could get more rest but I never slept for longer than an hour at a time without being interrupted. I also had thrush that I had been fighting for months, and so each time Cam nursed, I was in pain. We eventually decided we couldn’t take it any more, we transitioned Cam to his bed in his room, slowly introduced a night bottle (though I did continue breastfeeding until he was almost a year), and did modified Cry-it-out.
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

  7. We are a house hold of very happy cosleepers. In fact Jace was still breastfeeding at night until a couple of months ago (he will be 3 next month). We are lucky to have two queen beds and two singles in our house for 4 people, most of them will get slept in by at least one person each night, musical beds if you like. With another baby due next month it will back to frequent waking and long feeding sessions, but without the expectation of ‘sleeping through the night’ it doesn’t seem daunting. Hope you find a creative solution that feels right for you x

    • I am ALL FOR co-sleeping. It just hasn’t worked out that great for us any time we’ve tried.

      With Cameron, when his sleep started to go downhill (between 4-6 months) we just started co-sleeping full time. It worked great for a while and made me feel more rested… for a while. But by the time nine months came around, he had been getting used to waking up every hour or more to just nibble nurse. Although I was sleeping right beside him and he could easily access my breast, it still meant a night of many many interruptions. I was more tired than I ever remember being and Dan and I made the decision then to put Cam in his own room at that point.

      With Gavin, he doesn’t sleep nearly as well with me. I assumed I’d just cosleep again, but this time he is the one that doesn’t sleep well with my breast beside him. We still cosleep from about 6am on every morning because he can’t usually go back to sleep in his own bed at that time, but he spends the entire time we’re in bed together (normally 2 additional hours) with my breast in his mouth. If it falls out, he wakes up and gets upset, which means he gets very little rest during this time. I’ve actually been finding that with Gavin, if he is fussy while I’m trying to nurse him to sleep, just laying him down in his bed is enough to quiet him down and he’ll go right to sleep (no cry-it-out). So although this strange baby likes to be close to me and still likes to nurse at night, when he’s done, he usually wants to sleep in peace.

      Also the biggest bed in my house is a double. So there’s that.

      But to your point, I haven’t been expecting a full night sleep. Right now, the thing that is making me most tired is staying up too late at night. Otherwise, the few times Gavin wakes up isn’t really killer (other than a few bad nights). I think I am just scared of how bad it got with Cameron happening again.
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

      • Sorry I am not suggesting that you are expecting a full nights sleep, I just think society expects that for us :) And don’t get me wrong, cosleeping isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, I have been kicked and scratched and nibbled on for hours, but at the times nights were rough or sleep was scarce, I was still happier to persevere with it than the alternatives of sleep training. I tried a little with Jonathan because I thought I should, but couldn’t bare more than a few minutes of him crying alone so tried a gentle version and it was way too tedious for me. For us the key was flexibility, they both had bassinets and cribs, but just never spent more than probably 4 hours straight in either. Also having likeminded support and knowing it wouldn’t last forever helped me, and on other occasions I did love it so much I wanted to go and get them out of their beds (crazy!). No judgements on what you do or don’t do, I just offer my opinion because it took me a long time find the like minded support I was looking for. Always enjoy your blog :)

        • Thanks Jane! And please know I didn’t take offense. You’re right, it is definitely a societal expectation and part of what I was hoping to debunk a little by writing this. I think babies shouldn’t be expected to sleep through nor do I think that we need to tell them when they stop needing to nurse at night. In my heart I very much have a similar parenting style to you, I think. Bed sharing is something that has proved to be invaluable and wonderful for us at times and I suggest it often to moms. I think what you guys do is awesome and wish it were a little easier for us to do. As it is, Gavin spends most of his night at arms length from me and part of every night sharing our bed.

  8. I also found it interesting with both boys that they weaned, were out of nappies (diapers), dropped day sleeps and started sleeping very well at night (still mostly cosleeping/ occasional solo sleep) ) all at once. I wonder if it was after their 2 year old molars were through, or they were just developmentally ready . It made for quite fast and easy transitions on all fronts, but that said 2 and half is a long way from 4 months :)

  9. D’s sleep fell apart at 5 months and I was MISERABLE. I cannot even tell you how awful it was. She’d been such a good sleeper up until then (not a good napper, just good at nights, naps didn’t regulate until she was 9 months). Thankfully within a month she went back to being a good nighttime sleeper, but even now, I still get tense at night when I hear a little peep from her. She cries in her sleep sometimes and it makes me jump. I don’t think I’ll ever really truly relax about her sleeping through the night. Like, ever.
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    • I remember you having sleep issues with Donut. I think it was shortly after Cam’s sleep issues.

      Having a kid who ruins our sleep makes us miserable, but I think another part of it is that it is SO confusing. We assume our kids who started off sleeping great will continue to and then THEY DON’T! It is heartbreaking. And I am sure that increases how miserable we feel.

      As for Cameron – I don’t even HEAR him now. I will totally sleep right through any noises he makes. Thankfully, Dan usually hears him before I do! :)
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

  10. I have no idea what ‘sleeping through the night’ means :)

    My first was a horrible sleeper, right until he turned 18 months, weaned and was moved to his own bed in his own room. Turns out, co-sleeping wasn’t doing him any favours. He’s been sleeping through the night since, with a few regressions which were corrected (turning 2, vacation, getting sick).

    Scrumplet still wakes up every 2-3 hours now. Sometimes, he’ll sleep for 5 hours straight, usually when he first goes down for the night. But that’s far and few in between. Having said that, he’s a far better sleeper than his brother was. After the initial weeks when he would cry for 2 hours before he slept at night, now, he goes down easily. I am not hedging any bets that he’ll be sleeping through the night anytime soon!
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    • I know, right? I shouldn’t even SAY those words until much much later when they will actually maybe mean something in my life.

      You make such a good point about kids. We can easily believe in something (like co-sleeping) and not realize that it might not be best for each individual kid! I thought for sure I’d bed share with Gavin. It just seems so much easier when breastfeeding. But Gav REALLY sleeps better when he is on his own. In fact, on nights when I can’t get him to fall asleep in my arms nursing, I’ll just pop him into bed and usually he goes right to sleep as soon as he is laid down.

      It is hard to quantify how much Gavin sleeps, mainly because he is going through a mental leap right now, and I know that makes their sleep worse. He used to sleep from about 8pm to 3am and then wake every two-ish hours afterwards. But right now he’s probably averaging a wake up every 2 hours.

  11. Coop just started to sleep all night by himself no fussing no crying just fell asleep and stayed asleep. Even before that he would only wake up once a night if we put him down at 10pm he would sleep till 3am Dave would feed him then he’d sleep till 8am. we’ve been really lucky he is a great sleeper. We never did co sleeping (not safe with how Dave rolls he rolled on me once so wasn’t trying with a baby) he always slept in his crib right from the first night. So long as he has one of his special blankets (aden and anais) he falls asleep easily.

    • That is so awesome! What a wonderful blessing! :)

      I do often wonder if being on their own is good for some babies. I even wonder how many of Gavin’s wake ups are because out noise wakes him with him in the same room as us.
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

  12. My oldest didn’t sleep through the night for the first time until she was 6 or 7 months old… which was HARD. We begged for wisdom from our pediatrician and he simply informed us: metabolically, babies really can’t until they’re over 10 lbs. Our baby came home from the hospital under 5 lbs… so… do the math. She did great, eventually, for a while… she’s now 4 and a good sleeper, but it’s been a long journey. I think they go through phases, sometimes, where they’re more wakeful, and it’s hard to go back to sleep-interruption patterns. (I would rate the “night terror” phase around 3 as one of the worst…)

    Teagan slept through the night for the first time at about 2.5 months, and it was a revelation. We stood at her crib holding our breaths, watching for her chest to rise and fall because surely, our infant couldn’t possibly be still sleeping at 6 AM after going to bed at 10 pm? But, she was, and she continues to do it with some regularity. Her new bedtime (set by her) seems to be between 8 and 9, and she’ll go to 6 or 7… she’s 3.5 months, and I know she’s harboring a tooth, I’m just not sure where, because I can’t feel it, yet. I know as that tooth begins to push more, she’s going to be having more trouble… but she’s also not sleeping so great during the day, and I think that’s probably what’s helping her sleep so well at night.

    I did do a little sleep training with Avery and it worked for a while, until the next developmental leap that rocked our world. It was a matter of survival with her, we were both working outside the home and had to have a schedule. I’m not really planning on training Teagan unless she seems to need it. Our schedule works, for now, and she’s setting a pretty reasonable schedule, herself. If it gets to the point where she needs the schedule, I’ll loosely implement one.

    • I think it is so neat hearing how people questioned their pediatrician about babies sleeping through the night. This is why I wrote this post, I think. We worry that them not sleeping is not-normal, when I think it is perfectly normal baby behaviour.

      I once read that babies should be double their birthweight before you even try to forcefully stop night feedings (I don’t remember where, and for goodness sake, who knows if this is even right because there is so much conflicting information about infant sleep!) but at almost 20lbs, Gavin is nearing the double-birthweight marker. Still, I’m going to continue letting him dictate how long he will nurse at night for, at least until I absolutely can’t take it any more (we hit that point at nine months with Cameron – he was briefly nursing every hour, and I couldn’t sleep through them while we bed-shared because of painful thrush).

      I think your plan of only loosely implementing sleep training if your baby needs it. It is so individual to the child. I think that is probably my plan too.
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

      • I think, with my first child, we read a few books and took them as the wisdom of ages, only to bring home a baby that rarely fit into any of the stages outlined by “What to Expect” or even the book that our pediatrician gave us. Oh, and we’d hear things from grandparents that would make us question ourselves, so naturally, we turned to our pediatrician, often for reassurance that we were doing the “right” thing as opposed to what we would hear/read… It seems like my second baby is easier, maybe because I’ve been through some of this before. I think I’ve called our pediatrician once since we brought her home (outside scheduled check ups), and instead, I just marvel at how DIFFERENT she is from her sister.

  13. My first baby slept through the night for the first time at 7 weeks, and was doing it regularly by 2 months, 3 months tops.

    My 2nd was a little fussier and took a long time to sleep through the night, but after the first couple weeks waking up with him wasn’t too bad as we both went back to sleep quickly.

    My littlest had mild colic and nights were rough for about the first 3 or 4 months. He’s 8 1/2 months now and still doesn’t sleep through the night, but I expect that to change soon as he finally got his first tooth and is starting to eat more solids now.

    • This is such great proof that every child’s different. I don’t even know if Gavin will be sleeping through by eight and a half months, but if he isn’t it wouldn’t surprise me. They’re still babies after all! :)
      Laura recently posted..The Sleep LiesMy Profile

  14. 4 month sleep regression was THE WORST.
    Charlotte started sleeping through the night (all night, 12ish hours) at about 6.5 months. Before the 4 month mark, she would sleep most of the night, waking once or twice to eat, and going back to sleep right away. Between 4-6 months, she was up constantly, refusing to feed but refusing to go back to sleep. Her soother started interfering with her sleep and she kept waking as soon as it fell out of her mouth. I remember one night I was literally up every 30-45 minutes to stick the soother back in. The soother went in the garbage the next day.

    We sort of sleep-trained, I guess. There was no crying-it-out involved, but we taught her how to fall asleep “by herself” (and by that I mean that no one put her sleep besides herself). I stayed in the room with her, if she started fussing I’d pick her up and snuggle her and whatnot, but I wouldn’t let my soothing put her to sleep. As soon as she started getting drowsy again, I’d set her down. If she cried, I picked her back up. Lather, rinse, repeat. It took about 6 days before I could just put her in her crib, kiss her goodnight, and leave without needing to soothe her down first. I see learning how to fall asleep as a skill that needs to be learned just like any other skill. She had no idea how to fall asleep on her own because there was always rocking, sucking, swaying, etc. that put her to sleep.

    Now, at 23 months, she’s still an awesome sleeper. Averages about 11 hours a night, with a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon. She’s like her mother, she loves her sleep. She will tell me “gettin’ tired” and ask to go to sleep. We are very lucky because I have an extremely difficult time when I don’t get my sleep.

    • Thank you Lisa! Sometimes I say “4 month sleep regression” and people look at me like I’m crazy. But I SWEAR it happens! So it is nice to at least hear I am not alone at 4 months!

      I think you did the absolutely right type of sleep training! You’re right, I really think kids need to learn to sleep on their own too, but it is SO hard to do. It requires fortitude and PATIENCE. Good for you for sticking through it in the most loving way you possibly could!
      Laura recently posted..Family FirstMy Profile

  15. I feel like I could have written this post myself…so true! Just when you think they are good sleepers bam like you said a new stage keeps them up. Nolan sleeps so well now as an almost 2 year but throw a new baby and a mother’s day out and he’s not. It’s so crazy…and the new baby OMG I had two good nights in a row then 3 he$# nights after that. So I’m hanging out with you in the sleep deprivation dept!
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    • It amazes me how our bodies allow us to function on such little sleep FOR SO LONG. Like really, we weren’t sleeping well when we were pregnant either. And yet, somehow we do it, day in and day out, taking care of two kids, on barely any sleep. Keep it up! :)
      Laura recently posted..Family FirstMy Profile

  16. My daughter is three years old and generally sleeps through the night one night per week. The rest of the time she is up 2-3 times and sometimes will stay awake for hours!!!! This is due to sleep apnea which due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids. I can’t wait to sleep :(

    • You poor thing! I can’t imagine not getting a good night’s sleep years into my child’s life. If my experience with Cameron is any indication, I get fed up with not sleeping right around the nine month point and then I’ll do anything to get my kid to sleep through!
      Laura recently posted..Family FirstMy Profile

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