Somebody left me a comment recently about how their kid was a tough nut to crack when it came to sleeping, and I’ve been rolling that particular turn of phrase over and over in my mind over the last few days. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out and I’m ready to taste the sweet sweet nutflesh of a full night’s rest, behold! Another indehiscent layer resisting my various husk-gnawings.

When I first stopped giving Dylan a bottle at night, he was furious with me. He’d wake up and start blatting, I’d go in there and pick him up, and the instant he realized a bottle wasn’t making its way to his cry-hole he’d fix me with a penetrating stare and bring his little squirrel-paws together in the “more” sign. Bap bap bap went his hands while he bored intense holes in my eyesockets, and when I shook my head firmly and said no, he would dramatically arch his back and attempt to fling himself from my arms headfirst onto the floor, FOR WHAT WAS THE USE OF LIVING.

I took this as a good sign, really: he got it. We were, like, communicating. He at least knew I wasn’t sitting there slackjawed and clueless as to his state of despair, I knew what he wanted and I was saying no.

Things picked up after that, after a few angry wailing nights he was waking up with a different set of expectations — that one of us would soothe him, but the midnight milk train run had ended. We gradually adjusted from picking him up and rocking him to simply reaching in the crib and patting his back. That seemed to put him back to sleep, and I figured we were inches from an interruption-free night.

Then he started waking up as soon as I’d walk away from the crib after the back-patting routine. I pulled up a stool and reached through the bars of the crib, in order to deal with the discomfort of leaning over the top of the bars. Then I realized he was okay as long as I was nearby, I didn’t necessarily have to be touching him after a while. I just couldn’t leave, because no matter how comalike he appeared, his eyes would fly open the instant I straightened up and started tiptoeing from the room.

The last few nights I’ve found myself in Dylan’s room at 1 AM, trying to sleep on a stool while leaning my forehead against the crib bars. Right. Might as well get the BOTTLE back out, right? At least I could be in the goddamned rocking chair then.

So last night when he woke up, I picked him up, held him for a bit, then gently/firmly told him, “It’s time for night-night, Dylan.” I put him back down with no lingering, patted his butt, told him I loved him, and left the room. Then I huddled in bed not breathing, waiting for the inevitable shrieks. Which didn’t come. Sure, he woke up for good at the ungodly hour of 7 AM, but still.

I very much doubt I have cracked this nut yet, but I sure hope we’re on the right track. Because, seriously. I am not nearly smart enough for this shit. As much as I love this kid with all my heart, I can’t help finding myself wanting to scream into the wee-hour darkness: IT IS JUST SLEEPING OH MY GOD IT SHOULD NOT BE THIS HARD. When clearly, it IS.


50 Responses to “Heh. Nutflesh.”

  1. Ashleas on March 19th, 2009 8:15 pm

    I KNOW, RIGHT?! Actually I have no kids. Nevertheless.. I Wish you luck with this endeavor. Personally, I’d LOVE to get 8 hours of sleep a night right now. It’s like we say at my university’s Digital Art program where staying up till 4-6 am when you have a 8:30 am class the next day is the norm: We never appreciated nap time when we had it.

  2. molly on March 19th, 2009 8:28 pm

    Sleep ‘re-training’ starts tomorrow night here. This kid KNOWS how to sleep through the night – he did it around 7 months until he learned to stand up in his crib. Since then – jack-in-the-box party every night. I’m beat, husband is pissed, toddler is thrilled mom gives up and takes him to sleep with her in the guest bed each night. We’re going for a modified Ferber-ish thing. I’m committed. I miss my bed and I’d give anything (second born son anyone?) for an uninterrupted night of blissful sleep.

  3. Sadie on March 19th, 2009 8:31 pm

    It’s terrible, but it kind of makes you understand how people can lose it and shake their babies. SLEEEEEPOMGWHYWONTYOUSLEEEEP?

  4. Kate on March 19th, 2009 8:37 pm

    I know! Hello! Sleep…is GOOD. Don’t fight the sleep…EMBRACE the sleep. :)

  5. kalisa on March 19th, 2009 8:41 pm

    Good move. Sounds like you’re on the right track with the minimal contact strategy.

    My kid’s 15. I can’t get him to wake the hell up.

  6. Carol Snider on March 19th, 2009 9:08 pm

    Just a reminder from “the other side”:

    There will come a day when you will open the boys’ doors at noon or two in the afternoon, imploring them to GET UP and my god, how can they sleep ALL FREAKIN’ DAY?!

    This I promise you.


  7. Carine on March 19th, 2009 9:15 pm

    I think some kids are just better wired for sleep than others. My son has never been great about amounts of sleep and especially going to sleep – he is almost 2 now and has never successfully gone to sleep by himself quietly and I feel like we’ve tried it ALL. Sleep IS good – why fight the good stuff? Ugh!

  8. ritchiewoman on March 19th, 2009 9:20 pm

    I’m typing this as I lay on the twin mattress on the floor of my 4 year old’s room. This past week or so, he’s suddenly “scared” of going to sleep. My only hour of peace during the day is between 8 and 9pm, after he goes to bed and I start my editing job. He’s been sucking up that hour and it’s really pissing me the hell off. I don’t know what it is that is upsetting him. Part of me thinks he’s onto the fact that there’s a baby coming his way. Part of it may be the Saturday night date nights his father and I are now taking. All I know is I’m exhausted and I really, really would like to crack this nut. Hard. Good luck, sistah. I’m thinking of you.

  9. Bekki on March 19th, 2009 9:28 pm

    Yeah, so, I was in tears because both of my boys (5 months old) refused to sleep longer than 30 minutes this afternoon. They were screaming crying because they were exhausted, but because they were screaming crying, they wouldn’t sleep. And I had no idea what to do then. None. So I cried too, and then banged my head against the bed.

  10. Briana Pavey on March 19th, 2009 9:34 pm

    I saw on one of those nanny tv shows where the parents move just a few inches further away from the attached child each night, so the transition is gradual. And after about a week, the kid doesn’t even need you to come in the room anymore! I don’t know if it works or not, but you could try it?
    My kid just pooped himself while we were trying to let him CIO for a few minutes. Parents of the week!

  11. Kirsten on March 19th, 2009 10:03 pm

    Oh how many times have I sat on a damn stool with my arms through the slats doing the SAME EXACT THING – I would get so frustrated because he would be SNORING, and I would quietly get up to leave and nope…instantly, eyes open, head is up, eh-eh-eh-eh. Man, did that suck.
    We ended up trying to let him cry it out – but he gets so upset that he PUKES. lovely. There are never enough crib sheets.

  12. ChelseaLI on March 19th, 2009 10:42 pm

    The minute they start really understanding you is weird. I remember thinking shortly after that time, “Oh my God, I just had a *conversation* with my baby. WHERE IS MY BABY GONE?! MY BABY CAN’T TALK!”

    I’m glad the sleep thing is getting better. Every lucky penny wish is going towards the “Linda needs sleep” cause.

  13. Kathy on March 19th, 2009 11:20 pm

    My oldest was like that. I tried to tiptoe from the room and he would wake right up and howl as if to say “Come back mom! Can’t sleep if you’re not here! Waaah!”

    Eventually I couldn’t take it any more and I’d lay him down, pat him on the back, tell him I loved him and “night-night!” and then go outside with the baby monitor and smoke a cigarette for, like, half an hour.

  14. Marvyn on March 20th, 2009 12:22 am

    It’s 3:20 am right now and my almost 2 month old boy needs to eat soon. Some nights he’s fussy and other nights sound asleep between feedings.

  15. Kathie on March 20th, 2009 12:57 am

    Yes, yes, yes! We had almost night-weaned Toby, then he got sick this past week and so we regressed – I couldn’t bear the crying when I knew he was feeling pants. Last night, he was basically awake from 2 -5am. I would go in, nurse him for a minute (we’re using the Dr. Gordon method), put him down to sleep and start patting his back. He would fall asleep, I would remove my hand and leave the room. And then, just as my head hit the pillow, he would wake up and start screaming again. I ended up curled up in the crib next to him, comforting him through like 4 brief wake ups, until I finally managed to creep out. He then slept till 7am. Call Ripley’s Believe it or not, I have the Baby Who Needs No Sleep

  16. Dynamita on March 20th, 2009 2:44 am

    Hi. I don’t have children but I do have a story. According to my Mom when I was a baby I did the exact same thing. I did not like to sleep on my own. I wailed if she left the room and many nights I slept with them. Fast forward to married life. Everything wakes me up. Plus, I CANNOT SLEEP IF MY HUSBAND IS NOT THERE. It’s the worst curse ever! He has to be in bed, asleep, in order for me to get some rest. It is so irrational and embarrassing! I am not free to sleep at whatever time I like, and neither is he free to stay up playing on the xbox. I have tried everything, sleeping pills, boring books, movies, etc. It doesn’t work. I drift off, and wake up 20 min later feeling something is missing. And my bets are on Dylan doing the same thing. He drifts off, but has now learned that any noise = you are leaving= he must stay alert so he doesn’t lose his source of comfort.

    So really, you are doing him a favor by letting him cry. Seriously. I would have loved it if my mom had been firmer and just let me learn to sleep on my own, even if it meant we would both be crying for a few nights. He has to learn how to comfort himself without ANY outside help. At the moment he has transferred bottle comfort, for mommy comfort. Do it for his future wife.

    PS. I don’t blame my mom for my lack of sleep now. I know it’s my problem, and I have to deal with it. But I do think it could have been solved earlier. And btw, my sister is the same way.

  17. beach on March 20th, 2009 4:04 am

    the hardest part is sticking with it, literally you have to train YOU….not to slip back into the old habits….and you are doing it….he will get it!!!….don’t let that cute baby get the best of you in those midnite hours…

  18. Swistle on March 20th, 2009 4:24 am

    AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Blatting! Squirrel paws! Bap bap bap! For what was the use of living!

  19. danielle on March 20th, 2009 4:36 am

    Makes you wonder how that Mom with 18 kids does it. Seems like one would just start sleeping through the night before the next one came along!

  20. Amy on March 20th, 2009 5:10 am

    He sleeps until 7!!!? I wish. 5:30. Every freakin morning. 5:30… and I am so not a morning person.

  21. Jen O. on March 20th, 2009 5:30 am

    We are sleep training our 8 month old right now. We started because she was waking up every hour to be fed. What am I? An all-you-can-eat buffet? It began with crying for an hour and a half and after a week, she’s only crying for 15 minutes. Naps she only cries for 5. Although, I’m still feeding her when she wakes up. Luckily it’s only twice a night now. I’m not looking forward to weaning her off the night feeds. I think she’s going to be an angry ball of hornet-y fury, like Dylan.

  22. Jean on March 20th, 2009 5:41 am

    Don’t even pick him up!! Just a pat, just make sure he’s okay and leave.

  23. Erin on March 20th, 2009 6:05 am

    My 2-year-old wakes up no later than 6:00 EVERY DAY (most days it’s closer to 5:00 and yesterday it was so lovely to hear the first noises at 4:30). We went through a stage where we had to stand near the door until he was SOUND asleep but now he’s pretty good about getting there on his own… It did take until about 16 months for him to actually sleep through without waking up to eat (and that was only after I got scolded because he was still taking a bottle at night) so I remember that very well. My in-laws are just distraught that their 12-week old isn’t sleeping through the night – are you freakin’ kidding me?!? I have been tired for 2 years now. And I’m more than slightly terrified that #2’s arrival, which is about 5 weeks away now, will be the end of ANY sleep I have been getting.

  24. cbrks12 on March 20th, 2009 6:33 am

    You are doing great. Tell him good night and walk away, he understands you.

    Hang in there. Waiting up and praying that your teenager isn’t doing what you did when you were that age is just 10 short years away. :) See, the sleep deprivation never ends….

  25. Jill on March 20th, 2009 6:46 am

    It is SO. DAMN. HARD. BLAH!

  26. Angie on March 20th, 2009 6:47 am

    Wait, did somebody say they curled up IN the crib next to their kid??

  27. LJ on March 20th, 2009 6:57 am

    Oh yeah, you’re smart enough – just no one’s that smart in the middle of the night in an almost sleep deprived coma. Good luck. Stick with it – I know we weren’t smart enough to. Years of no sleep won’t kill you, but you’ll think it’s going to. Thank God my kids are almost grown… I can so relate to your pain.

  28. Erica on March 20th, 2009 7:14 am

    My husband and I had been so desperate for our son to sleep in his crib that we would get in there with him! Yes – we would climb in the crib in order to get him to fall asleep in there and then try to gently and quietly get out of the crib – never did work – we still sleep with him – just in a plush full size bed now.

  29. katie on March 20th, 2009 7:32 am

    don’t knock getting into the crib with your baby until you have to! i finally gave in and get into the crib with my son (and i have to say his crib mattress is super comfortable). it’s also nice cuddle time for us bc i don’t want to co-sleep with him. i manage to get out quietly and he sleeps 10 -12 hours a night. i had to let him cio it a few nights when his brother was born (they are 11 months apart). he cried for 5 minutes and went back to sleep. his brother, on the other hand, is not that great of a sleeper. but hopefully getting there.

  30. Tracy on March 20th, 2009 7:45 am

    we went through a similar “must-be-in-the-room” just before my son turned 2. we started out next to the crib with one hand in, then moved to the rocker, then to the door and then i sat in the hall reading a magazine and eating dinner just in case i heard “MOMMY?!” i could just calmly say “i’m right here.” which was all he needed. it was a long process – maybe a month or so – but then we got into a good bedtime routine of books, blankets, stuffed animals and milk that seemed to work in cueing sleep time.
    of course now that he’s 3 he gets up whenever he pleases and i just dont care as long as he doesn’t come downstairs :D

  31. babelbabe on March 20th, 2009 7:47 am

    ohmigod. Right. There. With. You.
    have considered a giant cutout of me, left next tot he crib….whaddya think?

  32. Alexandra on March 20th, 2009 7:49 am

    Hi – I mentioned the back-patting worked for me a few days ago when you were first starting this process … and now I know what you are going through and there was only one way to trick my daughter after she started waking up the minute I walked away (even though I thought she was in a DEEP sleep). Instead of sitting by the crib where she could see me, I would actually lie down on her floor where I could not reach her but she knew I was there, then I would slide out of the room combat-crawl style …. she never did wake up … it feels stupid doing it, but at this point it’s worth it!!

  33. Maria on March 20th, 2009 8:11 am

    I know. SO hard. Trying to sleep “leaning my forehead against the crib bars”…I’ve done it too many times to count.

    Keep at it though- you’re doing great.

  34. Sharon on March 20th, 2009 8:14 am

    Stick to your guns. No bottle. You can do it. It’s so hard. I’ve been there and I didn’t make the same mistakes the second time around. Getting a full night of sleep is priceless.

  35. Nicki on March 20th, 2009 8:15 am

    I promise you, you are doing just fine. For what it’s worth, we did the CIO thing with all 3 and they got it and did well, until they didn’t if you know what I mean. So, yeah, there will be the truly sucktastic periods of time when you do have to revert back to the coffee IV to get through the sleepless nights, but then your little guy will get back on track and things will get much better. I will raise a sleep-deprived fist of solidarity to you tonight when I am lying on the toddler bed next to my 2-year-old (yeah, there’s a pretty picture, thank god I’m short)who has a surprisingly strong death grip for someone so small because, yeah, we have hit another patch of waking up and wailing all night. Sigh. Wait, what was the point of this novel? Oh yeah, it does get better, just hang in there.

  36. Valerie on March 20th, 2009 8:33 am

    They all regress from time to time.

    My little guy was sleeping from 10:30pm to 7:30am at 6 weeks and then from 8:30pm to 7:30 at 14 weeks (DON’T THROW THINGS AT ME). He’ll still have a couple nights every now and then when he wakes up and needs some help settling.

    Don’t be discouraged. He’ll get it.

  37. Jan Ross on March 20th, 2009 8:35 am

    I just had to let you know that you stumped the librarian this morning – and that does NOT happen very often. I actually had to look up indehiscent.

  38. Michelle on March 20th, 2009 9:55 am

    So, should I refrain from telling you that my 4 yr old STILL doesn’t sleep through the night? And, in fact, the only way he or I can get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep is for me to sleep on the sofa with him, or for him to sleep in the bed with me? He absolutely does not sleep in his bed. Has not for over a year. I am hoping when we finish building the new house and he helps decorate his new room, it will be so wonderful and exciting, he won’t be able to stand it, he will HAVE to sleep in his own room!

  39. Julie Momster on March 20th, 2009 9:57 am

    So I found your blog through a reference on CafeMom, and I kinda fell in love a little bit (in a totally non-stalker sort of way)

    I think you’re doing a great job with the sleep-training. Despite off-nights of inhuman screaming, I’m sure it will get better. If not, there are always earplugs.

  40. radio on March 20th, 2009 10:14 am

    You are an amazing and strong woman, but you baffle me on this topic. Forgive me for saying this, but you need to grow a pair.

    Israel, Russia,the US, etc. are feared because they don’t negotiate with terrorists. And neither should you. I think you’re sending a lot of mixed signals and giving him hope that if he keeps it up you’ll come in and give him what he’s after. The answer is just “no, dude. It’s time to sleep.” Petting through the crib, tiptoeing in and out aren’t sending that message.

    I know it’s easy for me to say, as this is in my rear view mirror. I know it’s horrible to lay there while he screams. It goes against all of our wiring. But you need your sleep, girl. Get mad, get tough, do whatever it takes to be firm.

    Good luck.

  41. Red on March 20th, 2009 10:23 am

    We’ve had luck the last 3 nights. I’m not saying it is here to stay. no no no, I know better! But we’ve done the following (he is 19 mo):
    Reduced milk intake. Only gets a 7oz bottle before nap and 5oz before bedtime. Eliminated majority of protein from dinnertime. He gets the equiv of one cheese stick for protein and then whatever is in his veggies/crackers/whatever else. Pushed veggies. I’ve got him eating stage 2 jars again (go figure! I think texture has been an obstacle) and he has eaten at least 1/2 a jar each evening. I stop giving him food unless he wails for it after he has reached these two milestones.
    Water he can drink has much as he wants during dinner and after, even if I have to refill that sippy cup.
    Dessert – I’ve started giving him a mini waffle or a french toast stick or 2 animal cookies after the meal. For whatever reason this seems to satisfy him.
    I dunno if it was cutting back to 5oz at night that did the trick. maybe he just decided it wasn’t worth waking up for that amount, or if maybe the veggies back in the diet has helped or maybe we were overstuffing him before bedtime (no puking in a couple weeks now!!). But whatever it is I’m grateful and hopeful it will last but not holding my breath.
    You are right sleep shouldn’t be this hard. It is SLEEP!!!!!

  42. Parkingathome on March 20th, 2009 12:51 pm

    When I was a wee one, I wouldn’t sleep unless my back was being patted too. My dad would take me into their room, put me face-down on the waterbed, and pat my back. He eventually got bored of the patting, and decided that a phonebook would be a good replacement.

    From then on, I slept face-down on a waterbed with a phonebook on my back. And I’m still alive!

  43. sundry on March 20th, 2009 1:12 pm

    Parkingathome: I am laughing myself sick over that. That’s even funnier than crawling in the cribs or slithering from the room on the floor commando-style.

    Can’t. Stop. Picturing. It. The phone book! The nearly-disappeared infant body, smashed into a WATERBED. Oh my god.

  44. Lesley on March 20th, 2009 3:26 pm

    “little squirrel-paws together in the “more” sign. ” oh my god, I am so glad it’s not me facing a sweetly-imploring baby employing sign language (of all things!). ack, i can’t even say no to dogs who fake famine-victim stares to get my food.

  45. Kristin on March 20th, 2009 10:25 pm

    I remember being up at 2 and 4 and 5 AM, shuffling through blogs while Nolan refused to sleep as a 1 year old and Riley was so sleepy and…good and I envied you so much and wondered what the hell you were doing that I could not and so now..I just sympathize. Three years later, I still remember, with vivid clarity, the sleep deprivation. It licks.

  46. Leah on March 21st, 2009 8:22 am

    Kids are like the Borg. I’m serious here. In case you’re not familiar with that geeky Start Trek reference (I married a geek so I’m up on all this stuff now), the deal is this: the Borg are these evil aliens that operate with a single mind (hive mentality) whose sole purpose is to travel the universe assimilating all races and technologies into itself, thereby eradicating them. The thing is this: no defense or weapon works against them for more than a couple of shots. Then they figure it out and adapt, forcing the poor humans (and friends) to constantly innovate in order to survive.

    So, Kids=The Borg. In my experience, no approach or technique works for long. They adapt. They figure out what you’re up to and change their reaction. Sure, that worked great for two nights abut watch me NOW! As soon as you think you’ve found their weakness they’ve changed again. It’s endless. “Resistance is futile”, but somehow we keep banging our heads because, well, we believe that there’s some limit to their adaptability and in the end we’re supposed to WIN!

    But if there’s winning to be had I’m sure I haven’t tasted it’s sweetness yet. I feel your pain!

  47. Anonymous on March 21st, 2009 4:41 pm

    I would love it if my son slept in until 7 a.m. As it is, he is up around 5 a.m. Now THAT is an ungodly hour.

  48. Philos on March 22nd, 2009 4:13 pm


    You’ve taught me a new word, which is unusual. I’m glad to see from scrolling the comments that I’m not the only one.

    Also, I heartily endorse Swistle’s comment.

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