You Can Sleep When You’re Dead?


Friends, I need help. We need help. Maggie used to be a great sleeper. We’d put her down in the crib, and she’d sleep for nine or ten hours, maybe waking once or twice in the night for a pacifier. Those days are gone.

It all started about two months ago when she got a cold. She caught her first real, slight fever, snotty nose, can’t breathe cold. Understandably she couldn’t sleep in her crib. So she slept in her car seat and woke up a lot. Then the cold went away. But she still isn’t sleeping. In fact, it’s getting worse.

Let me lay the scene for you:

Monday night: Maggie falls asleep in Atticus’ arms. Put down in crib. Sleeps for 1-2 hours. Wakes up. Takes pacifier. One hour later, wakes up. Wants out of crib. Move to car seat. Falls back to sleep. One hour later, wakes up. At 3:45 am, Atticus takes her out in the car, drives around until she falls asleep, then comes home. Sleeps in car seat until 8 am.

Tuesday night: Maggie falls asleep in car sear. Stays in car seat until morning, taking pacifier once.(sleeps nine hours)

Wednesday night: Maggie falls asleep in car seat. Wakes up two hours later, wants out. Rocked to sleep. Put in crib. Repeat every hour. Realize around 3 am that she will only sleep if someone is holding her. Sit/sleep in recliner until 7:30 am.

Thursday night: Maggie falls asleep in car seat. Sleeps for three hours. Wakes up, wants out. In sheer frustration, take Maggie to bed with us. She sleeps fitfully, tossing and turning, keeping everyone awake. Finally settles at 4 am. Sleeps until 7:30.

Friday night: Maggie falls asleep in Atticus’ arms. Placed in crib. Sleeps two hours. Wakes up, takes pacifier. Wakes up again in an hour. Moved to car seat. Sleeps 7 hours.

And so on. Her sleep is so unpredictable it’s impossible to know what to do to make it better. One night she’ll sleep in the car seat for eight hours, the next night she won’t sleep unless someone is holding her.

We have a bedtime routine. She gets a bath, jammies, some quiet play time in her dim room, a story, a bottle, and a lullaby CD. Then more rocking, and either placing her in the crib or car seat. Some nights she lasts a few hours or all night (though never all night in the crib), other nights only two or three hours, then she wants to be held for the rest of the night.

Even taking her into bed isn’t great because she sort of sinks down into the mattress, which seems to make it difficult for her to be comfortable. Then Atticus won’t sleep in bed with me if Maggie is in bed, and I’m not choosing between my husband and child. I made vows to Atticus, but not to Maggie. The marriage bed is for us. I feel very strongly about this. A night (or part of one) every once in a while (especially if sick) is fine, but I’m not willing to do every night co-sleeping. Anyway, she doesn’t seem to sleep much better in bed with us than anywhere else.

Really, she wants to sleep curled up in someone’s arms. In fact, during the day she won’t sleep anywhere else for any length of time. It’s been over a month since she has napped during the day anywhere but in my lap. It’s getting old.

Our pediatrician told us to try cry-it-out or some variation thereof if we felt comfortable with it. That was several weeks ago, and we hesitated because she does have two teeth coming in. But now, those teeth are most of the way in, and really, it’s not teething pain because we give her a small dose of baby advil every night before bed. We’re open to the possibility of sleep training, though I am not excited about it.

I’d love some suggestions on how you’ve dealt with sleep issues in the past (or present!) and any ideas that have worked for you. I know every baby is different, but I’m sure there have got to be things that work for lots of people. Don’t hold out on me here! Thanks in advance for the advice.

PS: If you’re going to leave a comment telling me I’m a bad parent for (a) not co-sleeping or (b) considering the possibility of CIO, save your breath. What I really need is help, not judgement.


13 thoughts on “You Can Sleep When You’re Dead?

  1. Google “Dr. jay Gordon sleep technique” if she is about 1 year old…sorry I forgot her age and need to run and grab my 14 month old…

    It is loving and compassionate and teaches independent sleep for an 8 hour period…

    We co- sleep…7 kids over 19 years, currently with baby adopted from Ukraine…but not everyone likes it…that’s ok, we can still encourage and learn from each other!

  2. It sounds like she wants to sleep sitting up… have you ask the doctor to check for any chest congestion related issues?

    I’m sorry you guys are having a rough time…. Henry’s patterns often change for a week or two when he’s going through a growth spurt.

  3. Sarah I understand how frustrated you are. Sleep is for the weak was my mantra for months. Gabe got sick at 4 months and never spent more than 4 hours asleep straight for the next 6 months. By the time we hit 8 months I was beginning to feel like I was losing my mind from sleep deprivation. My mom and husband both wanted me to try CIO, and kellymoms kept suggesting co-sleeping. Co-sleeping never worked for us. I didn’t sleep and woke up so sore from the awkward positions, Joe didn’t sleep in our bed and Gabe didn’t sleep well either. CIO seemed so impossible- how do you not comfort a crying baby? The first night (he was about 9 months) I tried CIO was probably the worst. I had to take the dog for a walk just so I wasn’t there to hear him cry. With his bedroom door closed and our bedroom door closed I also didn’t hear every time he woke up either. I tried to give him 5 minutes to calm himself if he woke up in the middle of the night. If he was still crying after 5 minutes I’d go in and cuddle with him for a bit. Each night was a little better. At 10 months he started sleeping pretty consistently from 8:30-6:30. I think it helped that he finally mastered walking too. He still has no teeth, so I’m not looking forward to whenever those start showing up. He got his 1 yr shots today so I’m preparing myself for a rough night.

    If you don’t want to try CIO don’t. I refused for months because I wasn’t ready to try it.

    There are a few other things I’ve noticed that really help with his STTN:
    *If he doesn’t eat well during the day he tends to wake up either in the middle of the night or earlier than normal. Not every meal/snack has to be a good one, but if I estimate he ate less than 1/2 C for the day he’ll definitely be up.
    *If he doesn’t get enough of a nap. For him that’s 2-3 hours/day. It used to be twice a day but he’s starting to shift to just one nap a day now. Thankfully he was always a pretty good napper so I can’t really help you with Maggie only napping in your lap. Perhaps you should start trying CIO during the day. You can leave some toys in her crib and let her play if she doesn’t want to sleep.
    *If he’s too cold or hot. He always sleeps with a blanket (***not recommended but it works for us) so I vary his pjs as needed.
    *Doubling the diaper liner. We use cloth too and he’d wake up from the wetness until I started adding the newborn insert, folded in half, to the front of his diapers.

    Good luck!

  4. Curious question, since she seems to sleep better in her carseat or someone’s arms (aka not flat) have you talk with your pediatrician about the possibility of reflux?

    Have you considered giving her something warm to snuggle like a rice sock? Helped to get Liam out of my lap at nap time.

  5. I can’t believe I am even attempting to give you advice. Me, the mother of the 13 month old who has only slept through the night once. But I’ll give you my 2 cents.

    Is there a certain reason you guys are putting Maggie in her car seat to go to sleep now that she is over her cold? Maybe just try putting her in the crib and when she cries rock her for a bit and then put her back in the crib instead of the car seat. Maybe the change of scenery for her is getting her all out of sorts.

    Also, I did NOT want to try CIO. But we have done it and I’ve gotten to know Joe’s cries. Sometimes he just cries because that’s his thang, so I ignore him and he usually goes back to sleep in 10 minutes or so. Then there is his “Get me the hell out of here I am really upset and will explode of rage if you don’t get me out of this thing!” cry and I know to go get him. If I got up every time he cries then I’d be put into a mental institution. Just go with what you are comfortable with.

    Again, this suggestion will probably be useless. Please don’t be thinking, “What the crap does this lady know?! Her kid is practically nocturnal!”

    Also, don’t worry about people judging you. I think it is safe to say that your readers are of the non-hostile persuasion. Unless you get a nutcase that will condemn you for giving your child Baby Advil. I’ve been judged for that and it’s AWESOME. Not.

    Hoping that everything gets better. I know it is rough!

  6. Sarah, I feel your pain!!! Elise slept great from 3-5 months and then everything fell apart. For months, we had the same routine: she would fall asleep nursing, sleep in her crib for about 3 hours, then wake up and spend the rest of the night with us, waking every few hours to nurse. For a long time, I was too exhausted to even get up the nerve to try to do anything about it. Finally, when she was a little over a year old, we decided we HAD to get her back in her crib all night and sleeping through the night.
    I had been hoping for a “no-cry sleep solution,” but for us, there was none. So we did CIO. We knew we had to go into it fully committed, even if it meant temporarily getting even less sleep and feeling like the scum of the earth. It actually went much better than we thought it would. When she woke the first night, I went in, nursed her in her room, and then put her back in her crib. She cried for about 40 minutes and then slept the rest of the night. Then I gradually reduced the length of her feeding from 20 minutes down to 1 (in the meantime, she quickly stopped crying afterwards altogether). She generally wouldn’t wake again after the feeding; if she did, we would either ignore her, or Colin would go in and tell her it wasn’t time to get up. Finally, after maybe 3 weeks, I stopped going in entirely, and I think she stopped crying after about 5 minutes. Soon she was sleeping through the night almost every night (she still wakes occasionally if she loses track of her teddy bear — we give it back to her and she falls right back to sleep).
    The gradual decline seemed to help us a lot. Maybe you could try something similar with the pacifier and holding her? I think all our babies would prefer to sleep in our arms, if given the opportunity! 🙂
    Naps aren’t great here, either. Elise now naps on a big pillow in the middle of the living room floor. It seems I can transfer her from my arms (or the car…my go-to nap inducer these days) to the pillow much more successfully than to the crib. Oh, and the times vary widely — Monday was 10:45-11:45, yesterday was 2:40-4, today was 11:40-1. Woo-hoo.
    When we finally tried CIO and it worked, all I could think was, “I wish we’d tried sooner!” We initially made a half-hearted attempt when Elise was 5 months (and her sleeping first started going downhill) and failed miserably, so I think she was just not ready yet. But I think Maggie is at a good age to try!
    I’d like to end this dissertation of a comment by saying two things: 1) you’re in my prayers! I really hope that things get better soon. The dead don’t need sleep, but we moms sure do! And 2) remember you are not alone. I used to get the weirdest looks sometimes from other moms when I would mention Elise’s sleep troubles, and they would say things like “oh, well my kid has slept great since he was 2 weeks old and takes awesome regular naps too!” It was like the idea of a baby who wasn’t a champion sleeper was completely foreign to them. AUGH. I don’t know if you’ve encountered that or not, but it was really deflating for me, and it helped me to talk to other moms who understood the frustration and exhaustion I was experiencing! And PLENTY of moms do understand, so I hope you hear from a lot of them! 🙂

  7. I do not have kids (obviously :)), so take this with a grain of salt (or just hit delete :))…

    I would try the CIO first during the day with naptime. If she doesn’t sleep, she may just be exhausted by bedtime to sleep all night. I would do the same (or as close as possible) routine for naptime as bedtime, and make sure she naps in the bed you want her to sleep in. Just from my experience with young children, routines are so important and it can be confusing to her to get to sleep in mommy’s lap during the day, but not at night. If she seems to be sleeping better in her car seat, maybe she likes the incline and maybe try one of the hard wedges that you can place under her crib sheet so that she can be inclined more.

    Again, feel free to delete or not publish this comment from this non-mommy adding in her 2 cents.

  8. Sarah, is it possible that she is teething and in some pain and just wants some comfort of holding? Has anything else been going on that might be causing even the slightest bit of unrest to her senses? Have you tried any foods that might be impacting her ability to settle down?

    I know that she used to sleep 10 hours, but 7 hours is still a really good stretch for a 10-month-old Is she napping on a new schedule (does she still do two naps per day?)

    The routine is good. 🙂 I wish I had a quick fix that was sure to work, but I don’t. Every kid is different and while they are still small like Maggie, sometimes they just need a little more cuddling than they did before and they eventually go back to a more manageable pattern.

    Hang in there…

  9. Hi Sarah, Oh man I’ve so been there! I know it seems like time has stopped and it will never move on and when will you get some sleep, but it’s coming! Hang in there!

    I have three girls, ages 8, 4, and 2, and I always struggled the most it seems when they were between about 8 months and 14 months old. There’s something about that age! I would get them to sleep, then never know if they were going to wake up a few min. later, and we could do this over and over all night long. After reading the No Cry No Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, I did realize that those daytime naps make such a big difference. I also read the 90-Minute Baby Sleep Program by Polly Moore and that book seemed extremely helpful as well (relying on your baby’s natural sleep rhythms).

    So that’s my 2 cents, consistent daytime naps, and knowing too, that this can be a truly difficult age, at least it was with my 3 :). Blessings to you!

  10. I agree with the writer above who says that maybe the same procedures should be used for the daytime naps as are being tried at night. No need to bathe before the afternoon nap, but do everything else the same. Read the same books, snuggle for the same length of time and in the same location, listen to the same music, darken the room for the nap, and place in the bed.
    Always draw back the curtains and keep the room light when it is not naptime and not going to sleep time.

    Try the idea you had about giving her a “lovey” that has yours or her daddy’s smells on it. Maybe the smells of both of you. So you and daddy take turns wearing a shirt until it has some nice smells and then always have it in Maggie’s lap when you snuggle her before naptime and before bed time. Put it her crib.
    Since that clothing item would be too big for her to sleep with, cut it into pieces that would be a safer sleeping item than an entire T shirt might be.
    If you or the Daddy ever feel the least tinge of suicidal thoughts because of this sleeping situation, find someone to talk to.
    Whether you do C/O or not, eventually things will get better.
    At what age is there no risk of crib death?

  11. Oh Sarah, I am soo sorry for you. Exhaustion is awful, especially since she used to be such a solid sleeper!

    I know I’m late to the party here, and hopefully this comment is completely worthless because you’ve already found something that helps and she’s starting to get back on track. But you asked for our experiences, so here’s mine.

    As you know we co-slept, which I loved. Greg liked it for the first couple months, then was ready for her to get out. (Part of that was probably the fact that she started sleeping poorly around that time and he had to start waking up to help out!) During our crazy cross-country move, we transitioned her out of our bed. I did not expect to do it at all during that time, but in the bustle of all those different beds, Miriam discovered she could roll over in bed. She fell asleep on her stomach, and we never looked back. Since I know she can roll over I don’t feel like it’s dangerous at all.

    So stomach sleeping is how we got her into her crib. But there was still the whole waking up all the time and not wanting to go down, etc. I wanted to do no-cry, Greg wanted to do CIO. I read over a dozen sleep books. We settled on The Baby Whisperer. [The first book is a general overview, the second one (The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems) is better for detailed problem-solving.] She advocates “pick up, put down” so you pick her up when she cries and immediately put her back down when she stops. Greg dubbed it “crying with compassion.” It was not easy, but definitely easier than flat-out CIO, and it did eventually help. She woke up less (but still did wake up some) and got into more of a nap routine.

    We still weren’t all the way though, and a good deal of that is because I haven’t weaned her at night. (We haven’t had the energy to even try!) But what has ultimately made everything so so much better in the past several weeks is that Greg simply took over. Yes, he let her cry. Yes, I was furious at first. But he never let her cry for more than 5 minutes at a time, and we never actually increased that time period. And when I finally gave in and started doing it, too, both nighttime and naptime are finally getting into a consistent place. And since he had laid all the groundwork and done all the 1:30 a.m. hard work, I have never had to let her cry very long at all. Just going in once or twice and she’s down.

    And I can’t believe this is so long. I am so wordy. Sorry about that. I’ll say a special prayer for you all and your sleep tonight!

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