Night Terror

Psssst, guess what sleep deprived mama? We’re awake too.

There was a moment a long, long time ago, when my son was about 4-months-old, that I remember walking around drunk with baby love and proclaiming, “I think I’ll actually miss waking up with Oliver when he starts sleeping through the night.” Huh? What sane person says that? This is your first piece of proof that sleep deprivation screws with your head.

Our sleep troubles started simple enough, with Oliver waking up two or three times per night. We thought that was “fair” for a newborn. We’d heard so many horror stories of babies waking up every hour or even 30 minutes. “Those poor people!” Of course, as soon as those words popped out of our mouths things got worse, and all of a sudden we were “those poor people!”

We were resolved not to sleep-train. We didn’t want to, as some experts say, “scar our child for life.” He was a baby, so his only way of letting us know that he was wet or hungry was by waking up and crying. Obviously he needed something, and after being in my womb for 41 weeks, he was used to getting round-the-clock buffet service. How soon was I to pull that plug? He would just start sleeping on his own, right? RIGHT?

There were nights we were fooled into thinking, “This is it! He’s finally learning to self-sooth and sleep through the night!” But as soon as we’d say it out loud and got ready to release him from his swaddled shackles, rest assured, he’d begin his cries (demands) juuuust as we were about to fall asleep. Repeatedly through the night. Parent lesson learned: There’s a fine line between being proud and gloating. The latter will always bite you in the ass.

Night-weaning at 9 months — which was prompted by a failed co-sleeping attempt where all my child wanted to do was nurse all night — didn’t help the situation. If anything, it got worse. As time went on, his wakings became more erratic, and we became more sleep deprived.

We became fearful of sunsets that marked the insanity of the night ahead. So after much debate, tears (mostly from me), 2 a.m. “reasoning” with our baby, and 2 a.m. reading about not sleeping, we entered our first encounter with “never say never” — believe me, you encounter many as a parent — and we attempted Ferber-izing our child at 11-months-old by letting him cry for 3, 5 and 7-minute intervals.

Miraculously, by night three he was “sleeping through the night!” — meaning he was sleeping from around 7:30 pm to 5:30 am. But because 5:30 is an ungodly hour for any human to be up for the day, I would bring him into bed, nurse, and squeeze in another hour or so of sleep. But then 5:30 became 5, and 5 became 4:30, and you get the drift. A few months went by, and we were back to not sleeping.

(Sidenote: Ever notice that it’s never a bumping bass or obnoxious neighbors that wake your child, but the sound of the slightest creek in the floor on your late night bathroom trip? Stop drinking water before bed.)

At 16 months, we threw all of our previous beliefs out the window (you genius parents who slept-trained your children at four months! Why was I such a fool?) and decided to do complete Cry-It-Out. “No more Mr. Nice Guy!” But really, it was more “I love you so much, please don’t hate me tomorrow” pleading before going to bed, followed by hours of torture.

And then he was “sleeping through the night!!” again… until at 2 years old, we hit another developmental stage/molar coming in/growth spurt. Whatever it was, we weren’t sleeping anymore (or maybe we’re always half asleep at this point?). We tried training for another few days, but now a few months out, we’re done. Mostly because we’re just too freaking tired. And also, toddlers are really loud.

If I’m scaring you, new mama, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to. I have plenty of friends who had luck sleeping-training their kids. I even have friends whose kids are just natural sleepers and have to be woken up after 9 a.m. (or even later)!

But for those of you who are not sleeping when your baby is 6, 9, 12, 18-months and so on, you’re not alone. All those people who said, “Don’t worry, your baby will be sleeping through the night soon enough” they have been lying to you! Or maybe they’ve blocked out their own sleep deprivation memories like childbirth because the pain is just too much.

Either way, know that when you’re cursing the night (and maybe even your child) because your exhaustion is just too much to handle, there’s another parent out there doing the same. There’s another parent stomping to the crib like a toddler, or nursing her baby for the ninth time. There’s yet another parent rocking her little one to sleep again, and another having her third cup of coffee to get through the night.

Me? I’m the mama pouting because her toddler just woke up wailing for no reason. But I’m also the mama letting out a big sigh of love because her toddler woke up at 4 a.m., said “love mama so much,” and fell back to sleep resting his face on my face. Sleep deprivation has its perks after all.

Kaity Velez

Kaity Velez

KAITY VELEZ is the Co-founder and editor of Well Rounded. Kaity is a former menswear editor who cannot believe she was ever scared of being a mom. Currently residing with her toddler and fiancé in her beloved Brooklyn, she is kept in a constant state of awe by her two little guys. You can often track her down at her local pie shop working on anything pregnancy and new mom-related. And trying to not to eat pie. At least not too much of it.

Comments {8}

  1. Thank you for sharing we all have something/I’m sorry/At least you find the upside, Kaity.

    Courtney
  2. I had some of my best Facebook conversations ever at five o’clock in the morning with the women I met on maternity leave. We’d scout each other out with a status update. Anybody out there??? Somebody was ALWAYS awake.

    Sari
  3. Oh, I’ve so been there! I was totally that insane woman who said I’d miss my son when he finally slept through the night. And I actually did…until he woke up as soon as my head touched the pillow, of course. Now that my son is 2 and finally sleeping, it all seems like some sort of hazy dream. And while I was exhausted, I really do remember those late-night moments of snuggling and sweetness most of all. But remind me how tired was when I eventually have baby #2, OK? 😉

    Dawn at Momsanity
  4. OMG. This is our life. Ever since we brought our kiddo home back from the hospital, she’s been a terrible sleeper. She’s 17-months old now, and she hasn’t slept a single night all the way through. A SINGLE NIGHT. We sleep trained her so that she sleeps in her crib from 8:30 pm to around midnight or 1:00 am (the wake up time varies on a daily basis). The catch? Her crib is in our bedroom so she’s gotten used to waking up at that time and then, inevitably, we bring her into bed because we have to go to work the next morning, people, so we just can’t break this habit. We realize we have to move. That’s the only solution. I hope. Once she’s in her own bedroom, we’re simply putting earplugs and not waking up for the entire night. Hopefully, she’ll then sleep all the way through… argh!! So, yeah, we’ve been sleep deprived for 17 months… totally sucks. But, of course, we love her to pieces. But it still sucks…

    Laura
    1. I feel for you mama! My friend insists that having a completely separate bedroom helped her son. I wish you guys luck. Thanks for sharing!!

      Kaity Velez Post author
  5. I sleep trained my son at 4 months and he started sleeping thru the night up until 9 months. All of a sudden since the past few days he seems to have unlearned how to self soothe and go down on his own and has to be rocked every time to go to sleep. How did this happen? I said to myself. I left him to cry it out for almost 30 mins and he wouldn’t sleep. I eventually gave in and rocked him to sleep. I must say here that he does sleep thru the night for 12 hours straight but i am frustrated with his daytime nap schedule.
    Is this common around 9-10 months?

    Mansha khithani
    1. Hi Mansha! We’re working on getting you an answer from a sleep expert, stay tuned!

      Jessica Pallay
  6. Hi Mansha, I’m Carolina Romanyuk, Certified Child and Family Sleep Consultant. Awesome job on having such a nice long and consolidated bedtime sleep 🙂 A few pieces I would like to address is that at 9months, that is a stage of “separation anxiety”. Also that he is older, he is more aware of his surroundings. Placing a child down to bed (naps or bedtime) is a little more cumbersome at this stage. Specifically because they want to par-tay lol. I suggest to look into his schedule first. Is he taking 3 or 2 naps now? What time are his naps and the quantity(how many hours total)? Our goal is to provide him the best sleep possible. The morning nap is mentally restorative and the afternoon nap is physically restorative. Regarding the self soothing and going down on his own, how is his sleeping environment? Is there distraction? For example, light in the room. Black out shades are optimal for sleep to block out light. Specifically because light suppresses our sleepy hormone (melatonin). I would be happy to discuss this further with you and answer any other questions you may have. You can email me at ItsMe@achievewithcarolina.com

    xoxo
    Carolina

    Carolina Romanyuk

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