Dylan has never slept through the night, but for quite a while he was only waking up once and I found that to be totally survivable. Not pleasant, exactly, since having someone jolt me out of a drooling coma at 2 AM is never my idea of a good time, but it wasn’t garment-rendingly horrible either. I got so I was basically dealing with him on autopilot: at the first few cries my legs would swing out from under the covers on their own and I’d be down the hall with bottle in hand before my eyelids even cranked to half-mast.

In retrospect it seems this wasn’t maybe the best strategy in the entire world, if the goal was for everyone to eventually sleep through the night unaided. With the exception of a few horrible nights when I tried to let him cry it out but eventually caved, I’ve apparently been doing my level best to teach this child that room service is available 24/7, no matter how many times he presses the call button.

I thought the situation would get better over time, but it’s just gotten worse. He now wakes up an average of 2-3 times per night, and that difference seems to represent the proverbial straw on the camel’s back for me. It’s not just that it’s annoying, or tiring, the real problem now is that it’s making me angry and resentful. When he first starts complaining, I lie there for a few minutes just feeling this overwhelming sensation of GODDAMN IT TO HELL, KID, before trudging in his room and making irritable shh! shh! shh! sounds at him. Once I pick him up and we’re settled in the rocking chair, I find myself calming down almost immediately, and the ritual of rocking him back to sleep — his body burrowed against mine — is soothing and pleasurable and part of me really enjoys it. I just don’t enjoy it enough to do it at 11 PM, 2 AM, and 5 AM, you know?

I’m also having a really hard time waking up in the morning. JB usually gets up before I do and dresses the boys and starts Riley’s breakfast while I creak my way out of bed, and thank god for that, but even once I’m up and moving it’s a while before I feel ready to deal with two small loud-ass children, which is unfortunate, because THERE THEY ARE, and shockingly no one’s willing to leave me be for twenty minutes while I suck down half a pot of coffee. Now, to be sure, I’m not much of a morning person to begin with, but I have to assume that the interrupted sleep is no small contributor to the way I feel at the start of each day: cranky, headachy, and generally mentally impaired. I had quite enough of that during my drinking years, thank you very much.

So: sleep training. I hate having to do it — not because I think it’s cruel, but because I hate the feeling of lying there listening to the crying (there is no escaping it, by the way, sound travels at an alarmingly effective rate from one end of our house to the other and easily permeates earplugs and Unisom-dosings, both of which I have tried) and feeling something like a full-body heart attack in response and KNOWING that if I just got up and went in there I could be back in bed and sleeping in less than 15 minutes — but I don’t know what else to do. Dylan’s over a year old now and there seem to be no signs that he’s going to figure it out on his own.

Things we have tried:

• Different bedtimes (7:45-8 PM is his usual bedtime, at least before the beshitted DST, and it doesn’t help to push it back later.)
• Feeding him as much as possible before bed. Makes no difference.
• Adjusting his temperature (using warmer/cooler bedclothes). Makes no difference.
• Benadryl. Shut up. Also, doesn’t really help — he maybe goes a little longer before the first wakeup, but that’s it.

Things we aren’t willing to try:

• Bringing him to bed with us.
• Messing with his naptime: it’s pretty steady at 12-2 PM or so and I see no reason to fuck with a good thing there.

Things I tried before that sucked and I didn’t stick with them but I guess I’m willing to try again:

• Crying it out, Ferber-style or otherwise
• Watering down the milk in his bottle (oh my GOD. He was SO FUCKING MAD. It was like holding a LIVE HORNET. A FAT ANGRY BOTTLE-THROWING HORNET)

Your sleep-improvement suggestions are more than welcome, as always.

Lastly, to hopefully offset my kvetching in some small way, here’s a video I posted on Flickr this weekend of Dylan first learning to walk. Ah, babies. Even if they suck up your sleep for an entire year and change, they’re worth every compensatory Red Bull.


174 Responses to “Sleep cycles”

  1. Jamie on March 10th, 2009 2:28 pm

    Linda, I hear you girlfriend. My, now 2, darling went through this. Nothing worked. Until I smartened up. Here’s what happened.
    1. until he was about 18 months, he took 2 naps-one at around 10am for an hour then at 1pm-3pm. If these didn’t happen, he was up at night from being overly tired. No shit.
    2. We stopped the milk before bed and made him drink before we even gave him a bath and got him ready for bed. That worked.
    3. We still hold him for a few mins. before bed each night then stick him in the baby prison aka-the crib. no probs.
    4. except when he when apparently had HORRIBLE allergies that we had NO EFFIng clue about. He had crap down the back of his throat and that’s why he would wake up several times and want milk/juice. That has ended thanks to little drug called ZYRTEC. The answer to my prayers-and his. I am the dumbest parent on the planet.
    Those little mofos are enough to put you 6 feet under. I swear to god. When my son is in college, I’m going to call him several times during the night for weeks on end. Good Luck. Don’t let him suck the life out of you.

  2. Kathy on March 10th, 2009 3:03 pm

    I couldn’t understand why my third couldn’t sleep through the night like his two older brothers, and at 12 months old, he was STILL waking up during the night screaming, only soothed by the bottle. I felt like I was in the same situation you are in, like we had spoiled him, and he was never going to outgrow it. Here’s the thing…I FINALLY figured out that the broccoli I was giving him every other night for dinner (one of the only 2 vegetables he eats) was making him get gas in the night, and waking him up. DUH! And me giving him the bottle wasn’t helping matters in the gas department. So once we stopped giving him the broccoli, and only rocked/bounced/sang to him (no bottle) when he did wake up, things have VASTLY improved. He’s 20 months old now and sleeps through almost every night (except one night last night when my husband gave him broccoli at dinner – no comment on that, other than HE was the one getting up with him that night.) We also did some of the cry it out too at bedtime, when he was overtired…but at 4am it’s so hard to do that.

    I think it’s so easy to think that it’s all behavioral, and we the parents are to blame, when sometimes there are underlying digestive problems or other physical issues. Just thought I’d share that, for what it’s worth.

  3. babelbabe on March 10th, 2009 3:31 pm

    I’m sorry, i am lazy, so if someone else said this, ignore. It may seem completely counterintuitive, but put him to bed earlier (courtesy of Dr Weissbluth, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child). You are still going to have to endure some midnight wailing but know you’re not the only one, we’re training Q right now and I think he and Dylan are within days of each other’s birthday…

  4. Chibi Jeebs on March 10th, 2009 4:26 pm

    To elaborate on Melissa’s thought (“…and since he knows that the crying makes you do what he wants to do…he cries for you.”), is it possible and/or have you guys tried having JB go to him when he wakes up? Maybe if it’s someone other than Mom (who he knows will do what he wants), it will peter off.

    And I totally made grabby hands at the computer when he clapped for himself.

  5. ikate on March 10th, 2009 5:09 pm

    I didn’t read all the comments but at about 10 or 11 months we went cold turkey off the night feedings and progressively let our girl cry longer. 5 min on night one, 10 on 2, etc. We also after a few days switched from me going to her to her daddy since I was the food source. I HATED it and quaked in our bed listening to the cries but after about 3-4 nights she more or less learned to settle herself and after about 2 weeks of random wakings she slept through the night.

    But oh sweet jebus, I hear you on the YEAR of not getting a real night’s sleep – worse torture could not be invented.

  6. Carrot Cake on March 10th, 2009 5:23 pm

    Not sure if you’ll even see this, what with all the other comments so far. What works for us is the CIO method, but we generally don’t let our 14-month-old cry longer than 5 minutes. REAL crying. The exception is if we notice he’s getting into the habit of crying just to get us to come back in. Then we might let him cry a little longer before intervening. Sometimes he just needs a little extra reassurance or another few minutes of rocking until he’s calmed down. I’m a first time mom, but I know that he needs to understand that we’ll be there for him if he needs us but aren’t pawns in an anti-bedtime game. Sometimes he puts up a fight, but eventually sleep wins. And if he wakes up in the middle of the night…I’m the only one who hears it. My husband is the sleeping dead (no fair!), but I jealously guard my sleep and am usually reluctant to spring out of bed. I let him wail for a while before checking on him. The exception to this is if his cry sounds particularly scared or urgent. Hope you find the help you need and sleep you crave. I hear you on not being a morning person! Can’t wait until he’s old enough for me to sleep in a little later! Is that bad?

  7. Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com on March 10th, 2009 5:31 pm

    I’m not a parent yet, so what do I know? I certainly don’t want to offer advice when it’s entirely possible that in two years, I’ll be wishing I could take back what I say here and just flip the old me the bird.

    So instead, here’s an internet *hug* I hope that the two of you find a happy medium and that you get some more sleep soon!

  8. Mychal on March 10th, 2009 8:08 pm

    Okay, this has nothing to do with this post.

    What is the brand of that headband that you really like? The one that keeps your hair back really well while working out?

  9. Abby on March 10th, 2009 8:13 pm

    It seems to me that he’s a pretty smart kid – he’s been on the move for so long! He’s probably going through some physical adjustment and he doesn’t know how to deal with it all so he wakes up and wants you. Understandable.

    A lovey is a good idea, but maybe you could let him hold it while you rock him to sleep for the first time at night so that he gets used to it being there and comforting him. Plus it may start to smell like you and that may help him, too. (We use those animals that are really tiny blankets for their bodies with a head on top.)

    You could try blocking out the daylight in his room with foil on his window (which we used to help train our boy to nap during the day and have left it on there). If it’s the lighting difference making him feel weird maybe it will help to make the room look the same no matter what time of day it is.

    Definitely get a noise machine. We got ours off Amazon – about $35, but I can’t remember the brand. It has a radio and clock but also has several sounds: rain, white noise, heart beat, etc.

    I think I read through most of the comments and they suggest putting him down to bed earlier, but you said that doesn’t seem to work. Have you tried getting him to take a second nap? I know he’s older, but even if just has “quiet time” during the day – maybe with some books in the crib with him – he may feel more rested. I know it’s hard for ME to fall asleep if I’m exhausted from not having had enough sleep the night before. (Of course run him ragged all day, but that goes without saying!)

    Good luck. I know it sucks. Mine sleeps through the night, but I work at night so I get home at 1:30 and he’s raring to go at 7:30. I get about 5 hours a night, which sounds okay, but it’s really and truly not enough!

    And remember: this too shall pass. (When he’s 16 he won’t get OUT of bed and he’ll be driving you nuts in another way!)

  10. ChelseaLI on March 10th, 2009 9:36 pm

    Well, it took me a while, but I did it.
    As of 10:32 pm on March 10, 2009, I have read every single post of the archives both here and on Diaryland.
    I’ve laughed, cried and laughed some more.
    I’ll try not to be a stranger :)

  11. Andrea on March 10th, 2009 9:59 pm

    Just be prepared for the ‘checking in’ on him to backfire and rile him up more. I tried Ferber and increased the time of every check in, but for my baby (and a couple of moms in my mom groups) we finally had to go cold turkey and let ’em cry for around 1.5 hrs straight with NO check ins. :( Having a video monitor to make sure they’re not stuck between the rails or something helps. BUT! The second time was only .5 (next day nap) and .5 after that (next nite) and then no crying at all. Took about TWO days total. Like ripping off a band-aid.

  12. Red on March 11th, 2009 5:34 am

    Why why why doesn’t JB help? Hubby and I take turns every other night and thank god or I’d have died months ago. Use the monitor. Put it right next to his freakin’ ear. He’ll hear it.
    Kids do regress a little bit when they reach a significant milestone. I seem to recall our son woke up multiple times (usually just 1x) around the time he started walking. Teething also sucks majorly and can contribute. Consider teething tabs for a few nights and see if that helps. But enlist JBs help before you go off the deep end!

  13. birdgal on March 11th, 2009 6:27 am

    I did a version of CIO with my first (we nudged her into a ‘schedule’ of sorts early on, the ‘Babywise’ method), she was, and still is, a great sleeper. I did the exact same thing with my son (now 5.5 months); there was some crying, but he is already a champion sleeper. I think the only thing that may work for you now is CIO or the more ‘touchy feely’ version of CIO recommended by the ‘Healthy Sleep Habits’ book. I know the little dude likes the comfort of you holding him in the middle of the night, but at this point, there is no physiological reason he should be waking up (ie, the boy should not need a bottle at 2am).

  14. sdg on March 11th, 2009 6:39 am

    My parents dreaded my bedtime. I did NOT dread the bedtimes. Because I learned the trick. As child, i had the lowest enviroment tolerance. Odd sounds kept me awake or woke me up, and sometimes it was the *lack of sound* that woke me up. An over-riding, soothing sound should keep him sleeping. I used one of those wave/beach sounds noise makers. Dont bother getting the battery one, no matter what they say, it needs to be a plug-in model. Using it through the night certainly isnt going to melt the polar ice caps. Good Luck!! :)

  15. Renee on March 11th, 2009 7:19 am

    I haven’t read the comments, so I am probably repeating, but I owe you so desperately for the 30 Shred that I wanted to share. My youngest, who is now two and a half, had roughly the same sleep pattern as Dylan at roughly the same age. Only, he was even trickier about it because he would go for one or two week stretches where he would sleep all night. We were never able to duplicate the magical set of conditions for longer than a couple of weeks. Finally, around six months ago (I know, right?) I reached the point where lack of sleep was going to lead to a mental breakdown. So, we pushed his bedtime up, not back. He now has his bath at 6:30, and after a brief rock in the chair, is down for the night by 7:00. And he sleeps until 7-7:30. If I hadn’t witnessed it myself, I never would have believed it. So, my advice is an earlier bed time, if possible.

  16. Dana on March 11th, 2009 7:55 am


    If you want to change his bedtime, may I suggest putting him down 5 minutes earlier each night?

    That way, it’s not a drastic change.

  17. Christy on March 11th, 2009 8:51 am

    I’m sure this is repetitive, but with Swaid, our 6.5 mo old, we did a combo of CIO, white noise machine, and omitted the 1st wakeup feeding (only rocked and put back to bed with pacifier). It only took a few days and it worked well for him. Lately, due to allergies/sickness/increased reflux, etc, he began waking up again- so we stuck a pillow under his mattress to provide a slight incline in order to help minimize drainage/coughing and that worked for us. He’s back sleeping though. Also, he was diagnosed with reflux (even though he NEVER spit up, it would come up and go back down)and began taking Zantac too so THAT alone solved all the world’s problems for us.

  18. Wendy on March 11th, 2009 8:54 am

    I absolutely agree with those who recommended Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I have not met anyone who read it that did not say that book absolutely saved their lives. You are going to think this is crazy, but it seems like he might not be getting to bed early enough and may need more daytime sleep as well. Sleep begets sleep.

  19. Hanna on March 11th, 2009 9:41 am

    We were recently having issues with nap-time – crying out mommymommymommymommmmmeeeee until I went in. Over and Over. Until we finally put him in the carseat and went for a drive. It was seriously pushing my buttons so I picked up HSHHC again. CIO he says. We had tried it before a couple of times but caved after 15 minutes. I was convinced he was one of the kids who just gets more worked up rather than the kind that gets tuckered out. Our guy is 2 1/4 so the concern is jumping out of the crib (which he has not figured out yet, thank heavens).

    Anyway, we tried it. 10 minutes of singing, laughing, jumping up and down (we just have an audio monitor), followed by 40 minutes (pure hell) of sitting downstairs listening to him cry on the monitor. He tried all kinds of things, from throwing his binky on the floor and calling for us (I went in, no eye contact, and put it back in the crib) to saying “I need help” (he’s pretty smart). But, after 40 minutes, he dropped off. Woke up 1.5 hours later happy and chipper.

    The next day, he cried for 10 minutes. No crying since. (Still some laughing and jumping, but generally drops off after 15 minutes.)

    The best part is that I don’t feel that icky feeling – that resentment and anger I was feeling toward him.

    Good luck!

  20. Karen on March 11th, 2009 9:41 am

    I’m sure I’m repeating stuff, just can’t read all the comments first, must dash to a meeting….. BUT — I echo anyone who has recommended Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Weissbluth. It saved our sanity. One tip that wasn’t in the book, that I recall, was agreeing ahead of time with spouse on how it would work. Because there was another version of CIO going on in parents’ room it seemed… one of the first nights I was nearly out of bed at the half hour mark, one hour mark, and so on, and without a husband to hold me firm I would have undone it all. It took a few nights, but worked. OH, and definitely give a slightly earlier bedtime a whirl. If they get overtired before bed, apparently the sleep is not as restful, and there are more wakings.

  21. Clover on March 11th, 2009 10:02 am

    Since I’m the 170th comment or so, I’m doubtful you’ll get to this comment but… My daughter is weeks younger than Dylan. When she started that awful 5am wake up – where you can’t really go back to sleep afterward knowing you have to get up soon anyway – honestly, I’d just turn the monitor off. I’d set the alarm for 30-45 minutes later to check on her, and she was always fast asleep. Crying won’t kill them – I know you said you hear him monitor or not, have you tried a fan in your room to drown out noise?

  22. Shutter Bitch on March 11th, 2009 10:50 am
  23. jen on March 11th, 2009 1:13 pm

    Oh man…that video is great. Thanks.

  24. Amy on March 12th, 2009 9:13 pm

    Cereal and fruit in an infant feeder followed by a bottle and we were sleeping through the night from 4 months on and were much happier people in general :)

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