Why Won’t My Kid Sleep?

by Kim on June 13, 2012

In a country where 99% of the adult population is chronically sleep-deprived, we’re flabbergasted when we realize that one of the top challenges in infant care is getting them to go the $#@& to sleep. (And stay sleeping for more than 5 seconds without being shocked awake by some dramatic involuntary limb seizure.)

We figure if they’re tired, they’ll sleep.

Before you laugh: really, this should be a natural behavior, shouldn’t it? You don’t hear mama lions saying to other mama lions: "I let him cry it out for 20 minutes, but then I couldn’t take it anymore and stuck him in the swing…"

Although…what if…


But then again, mama lions probably aren’t all up in their cubs’ faces with the crazy eyes going "WHO’S THE CUTEST BABY IN THE WORLD???" and overstimulating the crap out of them. So maybe we bring it on ourselves.

At any rate, it is sometimes tricky to get babies to sleep properly. Even if your baby follows an amazing to-the-minute schedule at home, the second you take him to visit your parents, he’s all "What up, Grandma! Wanna see me kick my feet?" and before you know it, a nap has been delayed. Or worse, skipped altogether. At which point your baby is hit with sleep withdrawal symptoms so bad the last thing he wants to do is use again.

I thought Mason was sleeping well for awhile. At eight weeks old, he’d only get up once at night between about 8 PM and 5 AM. (Those 5 AM wakeup calls were pretty painful though…) I didn’t think that was bad, considering his age, and assumed he’d start sleeping through the night naturally at some point.

But now, at almost three months old, he’s randomly starting to sneak in extra wakings at night, rather than trimming out the original one. And he’s starting to blow off his afternoon naps, so he’s a total monster by the time Dad gets home. Naturally, I assume this is all my fault. Now what am I doing wrong?


I’ve read the BabyWise philosophy and I like it…theoretically. Basically, babies’ days are supposed to run in consistent 3-hour cycles of eating, playing, and sleeping (in that order). But unfortunately, babies aren’t robots, so if the schedule dictates that they’re supposed to sleep for two hours and they sleep for 45 minutes, everything goes haywire. When this happens (as it does for me), you have to start troubleshooting the 20 possible reasons it could have happened. For example:

  • Baby stayed up too long before the nap and was overtired (given that newborns supposedly have about a 2-5 minute window between not tired and overtired, during which you’re supposed to heroically swoop in and get them to bed, it isn’t hard to allow this to happen)
  • Baby was overstimulated last time he was awake (enter Grandma)
  • Baby’s hungry or has a gas bubble
  • Baby’s hot/cold
  • Baby botched a previous nap and hasn’t recovered
  • Baby likes to mess with parents
  • It’s Tuesday (in other words, no reason)

So, every time he wakes up 20 minutes into a nap, my brain starts flying through all of possible reasons this could have happened. And then I basically go insane.

This morning, Mason woke up at 4:30 AM and decided he was up for the day. Despite my best efforts to get him back down, he’d stay sleeping for no more than 5 minutes at a time, so I ended up running in and out of his room until 6:00, when I finally melted down, totally exhausted. Thank goodness the hubby took over for an hour before work so I could get a few Z’s in before officially starting my day. Ugh.

He’s now happily napping in his swing-a habit I’ve been trying to break him of, but was not willing to mess with after this morning’s shenanigans. With the swing, the pacifier, and the swaddle, we have an abundance of annoying sleep props I’m going to have to break him of eventually…I’m terrified.

In conclusion: my brain feels like a pile of mashed potatoes, and if this sleep stuff doesn’t resolve itself soon, I’m going to lose it. Does it get easier??


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucia November 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm

As much as you’re going to hate to hear this, the only way he’s going to learn to sleep in His crib is if you lay down and let HIM HIM cry it out. The first 2 or 3 times will be very upsetting to you, but I guearntae he’ll learn after A Few times he will not get picked up and he’ll When He cries fall asleep. That Happens When I know you’ll be glad you did it. Trust me I have 3 kids and 1 grandchild. Hang in there Mom


Jessica Berry June 29, 2012 at 3:39 am

haha lol!! That pic of you two is hilarious – and I know the feeling oh so well… sigh! The best part of this post though? Hands down the lions.


Monse November 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm

my daughter is 4 mhntos and i am starting to try her in her crib Also! this is the 5th night. . . for the first 3 nights i rocked her to sleep, or if she fell asleep on the couch its ok 2. . . then after she was sleeping in her crib the layed her and then she woke up there on the night of the 4th layed her in the crib at her bedtime and she fussed a little then fell asleep, same thing tonight she is getting the hang of it. . . Maybe You Should try this, They have to get comfortable with the crib she was first ITS very scarywhen younger i would lay on the crib sheet A Few nights and get my scent on it, That Way When She was in bed She Could I still smell . . . That Was Easier then putting a shirt of mine in the bed with her. . . . .


K June 29, 2012 at 1:06 am

Yes, this napping/bedtime nightmare does pass! We too had the pacifier (which i dreaded and never wanted to use, but worked so well!), the swing, the swaddle sacks (yes more than one) and the crying it out. I too was worried about all the props we would have to wean and get rid of, and JJ just kind of let us know when he was ready to be done with them. The pacifier we were told by the pedi to get rid of by 12 months I desperately wanted to to be earlier so we gave plenty of time. I was a big into the 3 hour pattern stuff too, but its hard when they’re so young and require so many feedings at unpredictable times! This too just kind of worked on its own. After JJ was about 6 months and slept great on his own for about 6-7hrs we decided to do the cry it out method, and stick to a good schedule of bath, feeding, book, and bed. This has worked great for us! It was rough for the first few days maybe a week? Its never fun hearing your child cry, but it was helpful to have to learn to put himself to sleep. To this day he picks out his own book, we read it, and he knows its bed time no fusses. Best of of luck to you, all of this shall pass, it does seem like an eternity but it does go quickly, as they are tiny and are newborns for such a sort time. Enjoy all the cuddles while you can!


E June 28, 2012 at 1:47 pm

It does pass :) We went through similar sleeping issues for the whole first year…Patience and reminding yourself, they won’t be doing this when they are 18 (F cried herself to sleep for each nap/ bedtime until 13 months for at least 15 minutes at a time) was reassuring for us… Hang in there lady, and at the frustrating times, remind yourself of all the great other things about parenthood :)


K June 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Some really great advice given to me: celebrate each small sleep victory and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. My little guy is also 8 weeks,but sleeps from 9p until 4:30a and wakes every hour :/ thankfully most people look ok in “purple eyeshadow”! Hang in there!


Kim June 16, 2012 at 2:06 am

Thanks for the encouragement–that’s great advice! “This too shall pass” right? Best of luck with your little one!!


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