Sometimes Babies Just Don’t Sleep and That’s Not Your Fault

I'd imagine almost every woman hears “Sleep while you can!” from at least one well-meaning person at some point in her pregnancy. I certainly did, and as a first-time mother, it really annoyed me. Sleep now? I was huge, uncomfortable, and getting up to pee every 5 minutes. Even if I did manage to stack enough pillows into a position where I could halfway relax, there was a baby practicing to be an Olympic gymnast using my organs for a springboard. Sure, I knew that newborns got up every few hours and that there would be some adjustments, but I just thought I would “sleep when the baby sleeps.”

baby awake not sleeping
Image via Sara McTigue

Then, along came my first born who was so excited to be here that she decided she'd never sleep. And it wasn't long before I couldn't even remember what a full sleep cycle felt like, and I was sure that I had missed some chapter in the parenting book everyone else seemed to have. Other mothers would talk about how their babies slept six-hour stretches at just a few weeks old, and I was sure that I was a failing miserably. I couldn't even get my baby to sleep for 90 minutes straight, let alone 6 hours. 

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I read every baby sleep book I could get my hands on. I spent what seemed like whole nights rocking a baby while scrolling through every parenting forum post on the internet that had even anything remotely to do with sleep. I tried everything. I tried cosleeping. I tried letting her cry it out. I tried establishing a bed time routine, giving her a warm bath every night, changing her diet, not letting her take an evening nap, keeping her up later. None of it worked.

Even when she was in her own room and putting herself to sleep, she'd want to get up at 2 a.m. to work on craft projects. Turn out that same kid didn't sleep a 6-hour stretch with any reliability until she was almost 6 years old. Yep, six. (Don't panic. This is truly unusual, and most children sleep through the night way before this.) Today? She's hitting the tween stage, sleeps 12 hours at a time, snores through two alarms, and has to be dragged out of bed in the morning.

The moral of the story here? Some babies (and kids) don't sleep, and there's very little you can do to change it. You're not spoiling your baby. He probably doesn’t have anything wrong with him. She doesn't need rice cereal at 4 months to help her feel “full.” It's not your fault. It's mostly just the luck of the draw. And sometimes the only way to get through it is to keep letting the hours turn into days and the days into years until they grow out of it. 

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What do you think?

Sometimes Babies Just Don’t Sleep and That’s Not Your Fault

Katelynne has been trying to get the hang of this raising kids thing since 2007 but spends most of her time wondering who stole her copy of Parenting 101. When she’s not playing referee for her two children or writing all the words, she fantasizes about a full night’s sleep, uninterrupted showers, and triple venti caramel macchiatos with coconut milk. ... More

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  1. Ali says:

    yes girls! Urban’s ebook turned out to be a sleep saver for my family! I am quite proud of the fact that I walk into my child’s room, put them in their beds and can walk out without a problem and they will fall alseep without fuss. Helped us a lot! Wishing everyone sleep and sweet dreams!

  2. Chloe says:

    I think that baby should be nurse to sleep for the first few months. Babies just need it. Then it’s time for sleep training and by sleep training I don’t mean sleep training that only teach your baby to fall asleep without rocking but training that teach your baby to fall asleep on their own and sleep properly all night.
    I totally agree with the author of “How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone” guide, Susan Urban ( ). She knows exactly what to do and WHEN! The two parts of the book are for parents with children aged from 0 to 3 months and from 3 months onwards. The author says exactly what to do with babies to make them sleep better since they were born.
    She describes what and how to use (like swaddling, rocking white noise etc) and when and how to stop using them.
    I tried it with both of my kids so I can really recommend it.

    • Olivia says:

      Well I have got to say that the guide recommended by Chloe is great. My daughter turned 5 months and I taught her in 3 days to fall asleep on her own in her crib by following instructions from HOW TO TEACH A BABY TO FALL ASLEEP ALONE guide. I also love the part of the guide about babies from 0 to 3 months. Now I regret I didn’t know about this guide earlier. My girl is doing great and I am sure it is the end of rocking her to sleep 🙂


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