After a long, sleepless night at the hospital after delivering our oldest son, we thought we’d get more sleep if we went home the next day, to sleep in our own beds. We should have been more suspicious when the nurses started laughing.
Because, sometimes, babies (and kids in general) just suck at sleeping.
There’s a bazillion reasons why kids suck at sleeping
Sometimes you get a baby with colic. Or maybe it’s food sensitivities or gas. And sometimes it’s just because. Some kids grow out of it. Other kids just need less sleep (which is a totally foreign concept this this 8-hours-or-I’m-a-zombie-mama). And others… it’s just because.
Then, beyond the regular “awful sleeper” are sleep regressions… times when even the best sleeper suddenly forgets that sleep is a vital part of life. With our third child’s 11 month old sleep regression, it coincided with Daylight Savings. It. Was. Awful.
And those evil, nasty, awful sleep regressions seem to hit just as your baby is hitting another milestone. The usual sleep regressions are when:
● Baby learns to roll over somewhere from 3-5 months – and you get the 4 month sleep regression
● Baby learns to sit up between 7-9 months old – and you get that 8 month sleep regression
● Baby learns to crawl or walk or pull to stand somewhere between 10-12 months – and you get the worst 11 month old sleep regression
In any case, having a bad sleeper doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It means you need a nap and some support.
Dealing with a non-napper or a non-sleeper: it’s okay to ask for help
Our kids did not sleep well until they were a year old. They did better if they were held 24/7. But even held, it was more like catnapping.
We read everything we could. We tried countless “guaranteed” sleep techniques. And none of it worked.
What worked was taking shifts, doing our best, and asking for help.
When my husband came home from work, we ate dinner, I nursed the baby, and then I went to bed. Around midnight, my husband handed me our crying infant (who just wanted mama) and then he went to bed for a few hours before he had to get up and go to work. Generally, this “shift” idea worked pretty well… until it didn’t.
And then family and friends would volunteer to come over to help out. Many times, that meant they held our crying baby and watched our other children so I could take a nap.
Our best won’t look the same as your best.
Because what also worked for us was modified co-sleeping – in a recliner. My pediatrician was very understanding – he readily acknowledged that it wasn’t the ideal or safest situation. But a sleep-deprived zombie for a mother was, in his words, far worse.
You and your family will come up with a plan that’s far better for your family. It may take some time, outside advice, and practice. Maybe it means trying 7 ways to survive an 11 month sleep regression. But that’s okay. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
But no matter what shifts or plans or co-sleeping ideas you come up with, remember that it’s okay to ask for help. Because this whole child-rearing thing takes a village – so let the village help.
Besides – family and friends love holding babies. So let them hold the baby, hang out on your couch, and you go nap.