Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Curse of the Bad Sleeper

There it is, that little pink line on the stick you just peed on and in a moment you life is changed forever. Instantly, images of the perfect family life flash through your mind and your heart is filled with joy. You will spend the next nine months planning to ensure that you have that perfect family life. You read every book, browse through Pinterest, join every mommy friendly Facebook page, you even start a blog to tell everyone how you’re going to have that perfect life.

Then, the unthinkable give birth to a bad sleeper.

The curse of motherhood! Yup, it happened to me. My hubby and I were so excited to have a baby and I naturally imagined a life of nothing but happiness. You know, the kind where your child sleeps on command and is perfectly behaved. Needless to say, reality is much different, especially when nighttime is involved.

I could tell we were going to have sleeping issues during that first night in the hospital. I had a pretty rough delivery and was extremely exhausted. Since I had chosen to breastfeed, I thought it would be best for my son to stay with me in the hospital room so that I could have easy access to him. I never knew how much noise an infant could make! He didn’t cry or fuss, but he kept grunting and groaning all night. None of us got much sleep, and I desperately needed it.

The next few nights were not much better. We tried to start a nighttime routine and lay him in the cute little bassinet that we purchased just for him and set by our bed. The grunting and groaning continued keeping all three of us up at night. Strangely enough, my son seemed to drift into a deep sleep just as the sun peaked over the horizon. My grandmother laughed as she told me that the baby simply ‘had his days and nights mixed up’ and he would settle into a new schedule soon. When that didn’t happen she grimly stated that we were cursed with a ‘bad sleeper’. 

My son did not want to be on his back. When we tried to lay him down on a flat surface, he would either fuss or grunt. We then tried keeping him in a sitting up position by trying to get him to sleep in his car seat, which is what our doctor recommended. She also gave us medicine for infant heartburn to see if that would soothe him. The medicine helped a little, but not much.

First shift!

Things were really taking a toll on me and my husband. We started a routine that I was not happy with. He took the ‘first shift’, meaning he stayed up with baby while I got a few hours of sleep, then we would change shifts around 2 am. He would go to bed while I stayed up with baby.

This went on for weeks. I was overtired and cranky. Motherhood was not sitting well with me and I started to feel very depressed. One night when the baby simply would not stop crying no matter how much boob I gave him, I woke up the hubby in tears and said, “I can’t do it tonight. I’m so tired!” My husband graciously took over for the night (what a saint!).

We visited a friend who had a baby a few weeks older than my son, and she showed us her baby’s Montessori style nursery and told us how she co-sleeps with her children for the first nine months of their life. I never really considered co-sleeping because I had read how potentially dangerous it was. My friend then gave me some advice that I will never forget. “Just remember that there is no right or wrong when it comes to parenting. Do what is right for you and your baby.”

It was difficult for me to rummage through all of the articles on getting a baby to sleep through the night, and people seem to be very passionate about their approaches. Almost to the point of getting angry or judgmental. I had seen Facebook threads full of cry-it-out versus non-crying methods of sleep training. I couldn’t seem to make sense of it all. I simply wanted my child to sleep at night in his crib while I slept in my own bed with my husband. Was that too much to ask?

Six weeks after my son was born, we were still doing that hideous night time routine. Hubby taking the first shift and me taking the second. One night, I simply had enough. My son, was still grunting and groaning in his little car seat. I picked him up, breastfed him for a few minutes, then I laid down on the sofa with him belly down on my chest. He slept for 4 hours straight and it was the best night sleep I had had since he was born!

I did the same thing the next night, and then the next. We were finally getting some sleep! I then remembered what my friend told me about co-sleeping with her babies, and I figured that maybe it would work for us. One night, I took my baby to bed with me. I laid down on my back and placed him belly down on my chest. He slept soundly and only woke up a few times for his regular feedings.

My son loved to be cuddled and he also loved to sleep on his tummy. Now, I could have tried to lay him belly down in his crib to see if I could transition him that way, but I have a friend who lost a son to SIDS, and I could not bring myself to leave my son alone in a crib while laying face down. We stuck with co-sleeping where I could keep an eye on him. Yes, it took a little getting used to since I had to sleep more on my back, but adjust I did! 

I fully understand that co-sleeping is very controversial and that there will be a number of mothers shaking their heads at me, but I don’t care. Co-sleeping saved my sanity and my baby is a sweet and healthy child. He can sometimes be a little restless at night, but I still treasure the moments when he cuddles up into my arms.

I am not saying that everyone should co-sleep with their child. If my husband and I are blessed with another child I will still break out that beautiful bassinet and try that route first. I am just saying that if you are cursed with a ‘bad sleeper’, you may want to give it a try. Just make sure you do it safely.

The hubby snuck a pic at night...


  1. We did the exact same thing! We took shifts in taking care of our daughter because she was not a good sleeper. I hated doing that because I felt like no one ever got any sleep. Then we switched off nights but it was lonely. After trying everything I could think of we put our daughter in our bed and we all slept. I know it's not for everyone but it really worked for us! Now she is three and we still have some nights that she crawls in with us but she starts out in her own bed.

    1. Richard is 21 months and we have not yet started to transition him. Granted, we have a really cool looking race car bed in his room that is ‘mostly’ put together, but it doesn’t look like we’re gonna try anything until after the holidays. He is still sleeping in mama’s arms!

  2. My granddaughter is probably the worst sleeper I've ever seen! I had 5 kids and several had their own nighttime issues, but this baby girl, whew! My daughter has gotten much of the same comments and "advise" as you, and read so many differing opinions. Hopefully one day they'll both get some sleep. Personally, I think whatever works is best! Sleep becomes such a precious commodity!