Mama in the City

A blog about raising my family in downtown Vancouver

Sleeping Through The Night: Our Family's Experience

I knew that lack of sleep would be something that naturally came along with having a baby but I guess I thought that once we got through the infant stage my boy would sleep. Sleep well for naps, sleep all night long. I heard these sleep stories from my girlfriends and thought that this was the normal progression. Their baby slept and they told me about it. Their baby slept through the night at 6 weeks or 3 months.

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What I did not realize is that parents of babies who DO NOT sleep just do not discuss it as much. The parents of babies who sleep well and sleep through the night DO talk about it. Sure you hear about the sleep deprived parents but you don't think that it could be an actual standard in early parenthood.

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You can't help but compare your baby to those sleeping babies and feel like maybe you are the problem. I would feel like I was doing something wrong with raising my child. I didn't think it could possibly be the developing brain or a child's unique temperament or the fact that some babies require 24/7 parenting. It must be something that I was doing wrong.

Ben was like clock work, he would sleep 45 minute max during the day. If he squeezed out an hour my husband and I would dance and feel like we won a huge prize. If he slept 4 hours in a row over night we continued our dancing and would pump our fists in the air in victory. Sometimes Ben would wake every 2 hours over night and cry out with an escalating cry...and sometimes more.

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We read so many sleep books and listened to many parents give us a slew of mixed sleep advice. We learned that not all babies soothe easily and that was a huge light bulb moment for me as a mother. Ben was also that boy who woke up at 5 AM and was ready to play and eat. So, up we rolled out of bed after catching a few hours of sleep and started the day.

The past 14 months we have had our system for sleep and dealing with lack of sleep. After he stopped nursing at night around 8 months, one parent would be on call and the other sleeps through the night. The parent on call over night would get a nap whenever they needed it during the afternoon. My husband took a lot of night shifts and was so incredibly helpful and supportive.

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Ben would need gentle parenting back to sleep when he woke through the night. We would hear him cry and he would quickly become hysterical and escalate. A soft touch on his back or a 'shhh' would calm him and let him fall back to sleep. Sometimes it took us 5 minutes and sometimes 30 minutes. We didn't pick him up or play with him but encouraged him to relax and fall back to sleep. We were also consistent each time with our soothing and sleep settling. Even sometimes after 30 minutes you would silently walk out and if the bones in your feet cracked his little head would shoot up and he would start howling all over again.

After 14 months something magical happened in our house. After a full 14 months of fitful sleep and night time wakings our boy slept and he slept all through the night. 12-13 hours. He didn't cry out and he welcomed laying down in his crib. He naps for 2-3 hours in the afternoon instead of his 45 minute sleep cycle. We silently counted each night that he did this.... 3 nights, 8 nights, 10 nights...this isn't a fluke! Our boy is sleeping through the night. I am still counting though.... 14 nights...15 nights...16 and more!!!

Nothing changed on the part of our parenting style. We had been helping him learn to sleep for 14 months and one day he got it. I can't really express how amazing it feels to have a boy who sleeps through the night. I have a little burst of happiness when 8 AM rolls by and he is still sleeping.

I have written about Ben's sleep HERE and HERE. Any parent going through this deserves a large cup of coffee and a cheer.

PS. A fancy expensive swing or vibrating baby chair will not help a non sleeping baby sleep.
PPS. We were always so happy when Ben would sleep that we kept a close photo documentation of each wink of sleep ;)


Mum Shirley said...

Having experienced Ben's sleeping pattern or lack of it, it is wonderful that he's finally sleeping through the night. The best part is the morning when he joins us in our bed and has his milk while us grandparents are able to enjoy our cup of tea!

December 15, 2009 at 8:13 PM  
Heather O'Conner said...

Thanks for sharing your sleepless story. I too have encountered friends giving me advice about how to let my child sleep through the night. I think those people are just delusional and have never had to deal with a child who just is not a naturally good sleeper. I think it is awesome that their baby slept through the night at three weeks or whatever..but they are really in no place to offer advice. Obviously I have had enough annoying experiences on this topic.

I am interested to hear what kind of gentle parenting you and your husband did over the 14 months. How did you deal with the sleep deprivation? I am losing my mind!!

December 16, 2009 at 11:20 AM  
Hailey said...

That is really good news. Congrats to you. Our last son didn't sleep through the night till age 2.

We tried the Ferber CIO and after awhile it DID NOT WORK. I think each child is different. Some children will be okay with CIO and it will help them but I do not believe that each child will benefit from CIO.

December 17, 2009 at 2:58 PM  
Selena said...

This is a monumental moment in motherhood. You will for sure remember this time for years to come. I am sure you will stop counting nights! My daughter slept through the night early on so I can't really relate but I do know how good sleeping all night feels. When she was 2.5 she started having bad dreams and went from awesome sleeper to sleeping in our bed.

December 17, 2009 at 3:39 PM  
Celina said...

I know this post is quite old, but I happen to have a 14 month old who breastfeeds all night long and I enjoy the fantasy of it all coming to an end one day. Thanks for sharing. :)

September 5, 2010 at 12:46 AM  

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