A Nurse’s Guide to Your Baby’s Sleep

At one point I thought I was an infant sleep expert. After all, my daughter started sleeping 10 glorious hours at night when she was only one month old.

While most of my mom friends pounded back red bulls and told me how their children regularly got up before the sunrise, I always felt well rested.

They would complain about how they were up with their babies every hour and I would smile and nod, having absolutely no clue how to empathize. I didn’t want to brag so I tried to avoid those conversations altogether.

My baby had always slept through the night so I must have been doing something right…Right?

Wrong! How very wrong I was. Now that my son is nine months old and is still not sleeping through the night I can safely say that I am not a baby sleep expert! I was just lucky with my first.

I was not prepared for the continued sleepless nights as I had been expecting to have a second super sleeper. I started to understand how the other sleepless moms felt, and I noticed the unfeeling expressions on others’ faces when I told them that I was up all night. You just can’t understand until you have been there.

There would be nights when he would sleep right through and I would think that we were finally turning a corner, but then he would start nursing every hour again. I started co-sleeping because it was the only way I could get some sleep, but he then was perpetually attached to my nipple at night.

Not a fun way to sleep.

One month, two months, four months, six months went by and still my adorable son was getting up every 3 hours to nurse and would need to be rocked for 30 minutes only to nap for 30 minutes. My husband and I were exhausted, my daughter felt ignored and my son was over-tired and grumpy. I felt like we had tried everything possible.

So I started reading sleep training books and researched online. What was I doing wrong? Well, apparently everything!

While one sleep expert suggested letting baby cry it out, others recommended night nursing and rocking baby to sleep.

Some said to stick to a schedule and others said to nurse on demand. Most told me not to allow my baby to have sleep associations such as breastfeeding, soothers or rocking.

The Infant Sleep Issue (2)

They told me to put baby down drowsy, but I couldn’t figure out how to do so without using these so-called sleep crutches. When he finally was ready for sleep he would bolt awake as soon as his body hit the mattress and I would have to start all over again.

I tried everything. He wanted to fall asleep nursing but I couldn’t manage my days with a baby sleeping on me.

I tried letting him cry it out but his perseverance was stronger than mine; he would only scream louder and louder.

I attempted to get him onto a schedule. This worked for awhile but then my milk supply started to dwindle because I wasn’t nursing as frequently. As my supply lessened, my baby became fussier and even more difficult to get to sleep. I ended up switching to bottles. I was really at a loss and felt like I was doing everything wrong.

I felt like my son’s poor sleeping habits was a direct result of my parenting skills.

The moms that I have since talked to about their baby’s sleep patterns have all had different experiences.

No two babies are alike in their sleep habits, so why do we expect them to fit into a norm?

Due to my high expectations, my son’s sleep habits seemed tortuous to me, while I’m sure a more realistic mom would have thought them to be perfectly acceptable.

After worrying and researching and adjusting and not sleeping I just gave up. I threw in the towel. Baby 1, mommy 0.

I decided to let my son’s journey be his own. He continues to get up most nights for a bottle while experts suggest he shouldn’t need one after six months of age. He still has terrible nights where he wakes up crying every hour just to be consoled. I am still tired, but I’m learning to live on less sleep. I am finally starting to realize that there is absolutely nothing I can do to change his sleep pattern, besides providing adequate time for him to sleep so that he does not become over-tired.

Life isn’t perfect.

I am definitely not perfect.

Why should I expect my baby to be?

If you are a mom or dad like me who takes your baby’s sleep cycles to heart, please stop. Never let a parenting book make you feel like everything you are doing is wrong.

It was a difficult realization for me, but all of the “sleep experts” do not actually have a magic formula to make babies sleep well. Most of them are making a living off of selling books to sleep deprived parents such as myself who are looking for the perfect solution.

I recommend that you do your own research (there are good suggestions out there that you can pick and choose from to suit your needs) but just be forewarned that most of what you will read concerning infant sleep will contradict one another. No one truly knows what babies want, even those with a PhD.

Either way whether you are nursing, rocking, crying it out, scheduling, or feeding on demand… If it’s working, stick with it! One day something will work, but the next day it won’t. Flexibility is the key to survival. While this journey can be very frustrating and exhausting, this too shall pass. Just do whatever works for you and try not to lose any sleep over it. Good night and good luck, mamas!

Do you have any stories about your baby’s sleep habits? Any advice or suggestions? Share in the comment section below!

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Hi! I am a Registered Nurse on a unit that encompasses labour and delivery, postpartum, medical, surgical and palliative care in a rural hospital in Ontario, Canada. I am a mom of two and am passionate about women's rights, mom and infant care, parenting and nursing. I hope to create an educational, entertaining and highly relatable resource for women around the world. Thanks for stopping by! Xo, The Mama Nurse

7 thoughts on “A Nurse’s Guide to Your Baby’s Sleep

  • November 12, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Great post! My kids were opposite. My first (son) was just an OK sleeper. My second (daughter) had horrible reflux and NEVER slept!!! Just had my 3rd (daughter) and at 2 weeks she basically started sleeping through the night (8+ hours). She is also the first baby that I’ve been able to just put into bed at night and walk away (for the most part anyways). I just couldn’t believe it! Really a testament to every baby being so very different. It’s all just trial and error until you figure it out for that baby…then as soon as you do it all changes. I have very similar posts on my blog regarding newborn sleep frustrations! She may sleep through the night, but NEVER during the day.

    • November 13, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      Every baby is SO different! It was such a big revelation for me when I had my second that I had absolutely nothing to do with how my daughter could sleep through the night so easily! Well for you at least you had one good sleeper out of three! I often wondered if my son had an issue with reflux because he hated being on his back at all times!

  • November 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I hear ya. Mines a little different my daughter is almost two and we are sleep training all over again. I think she may be getting night terrors. Bottom line no ones sleeping.

    • November 13, 2015 at 11:22 pm

      I know, everybody’s journey is so different! My daughter had night terrors around that age too and would cry out but would go back to sleep shortly after without help. Hope the sleep training goes well! It’s so hard to function without any sleep 🙁

  • November 14, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Very similar experience! We did sleep training with my daughter at 18months but I agreed to it reluctantly. With my son, he slept really well until 6 months and then started sleeping poorly until now (he’s 19 months). I read books and articles until I came to the realization that time would be the only thing to help. It was awful living in a sleep zombie world but I see the end now, my family and husband didn’t understand my need to not sleep train, so I found supportive moms who understood. Even though he still gets up 1-2x a night, I try to cherish our quiet night cuddles because they’ll be soon over and my baby will be grown up!

    • November 15, 2015 at 6:31 am

      Wow Kate, I really feel for you! It may not seem too bad, but waking up 1-2x/night really takes it’s toll in the long run! Sounds like you may soon see the light at the end of the tunnel (their ages) and I wish you all the best! As moms I believe we are often judged in our parenting abilities for things that are out of our control. As my post suggests, I have quickly realized that your child’s sleep habits is one of them! Hugs!

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