Will my son ever sleep through the night?
If you found this page because you have a child who doesn’t sleep through the night, I can’t tell you when he or she will. But I can commiserate with you. Being an older mom (advanced maternal age as they like to call it), I feel like every night of disrupted sleep is giving me additional gray hairs and wrinkles. And don’t get me started on the dark shadows under my eyes.
My son has slept 10 hour stretches a handful of times. Each time this happens I wake up so hopeful that they mark a turning point. I’ll think to myself “maybe he’s finally ready to night wean” and then the following night will be plagued with wake ups and we’re back to exhausted square one.
Is this actually normal?
There are many, many people who will tell you a child’s night waking is normal. My son is 15 months old and while the common expectation is that he sleeps through the night, the reality is many children his age simply don’t. I would be much more accepting of his night waking if it weren’t for our second problem – he wakes up between 4:45 and 5:30 each morning and can’t fall back asleep.
He wakes up, still yawning and bleary-eyed, but can’t fall back asleep. From my unscientific research I would say this is a bit of a sleep problem. Something is preventing him from sleeping in. Maybe he can’t self settle at that hour? He’s hungry? His diaper is too full? The room is too light? He’s used to nursing during night wakings?
We are at 15 months old and this problem started at about 8 months. Was it because we relocated around that time? Wouldn’t he be settled in so many months later?
What about sleep training?
I’m going to bring up the controversial words “sleep training” now. Ferber, Weissbluth, whatever you want to call it. A cry-it-out-approach works for many families. To the horror of many, I’m going to tell you I let my son cry at bedtime and it did help him learn to put himself to sleep at bedtime (after our bedtime routine) and on rare occasions, self settle in the night.
Crying it out wasn’t easy for us. It was actually pretty dreadful. My son has always been on the smaller side and not a good eater. During the few days we were crying it out, he was so tired and overwrought during the day that he would hardly eat or nurse at all. I felt terrible that he was seemingly so frightened from crying at bedtime that he couldn’t eat and also worried since his weight gain has always been low.
I can’t bring myself to let my son cry-it-out again, so I’ve been trying gentler ways of reducing the night wakings and night feeding. Are they working? No.
So, will he ever sleep through the night?
Like I said at the start of this post, each time I think we’ve made progress I realize we haven’t progressed at all. I obsessively take notes on when he is asleep and awake to try to understand if he’s getting too much sleep during the day or too little, and try to see if anything is improving with his night waking. I have 4 months of notes and unfortunately they’re pretty useless.
After poring through as many baby sleep books and articles as I could, I’m focusing on consistency. Same bedtime routine each night, consistent naptimes and bedtimes, consistent mealtimes, etc. I think this helps because when his schedule is really thrown off due to travel or whatever, his sleep does seem to suffer. I am also working on gently night weaning by nursing for slightly shorter periods each night… this is easier said than done when you’re only half awake.
I try repeating “the nights are long but the years are short” to myself to stay positive while so sleep deprived…. It kind of works, sometimes.