How To Ensure That Your Children Become The Worst Possible Sleepers, Ever, In The History Of The World

143 Comments

I am a sleep failure.

If I were to write a book on sleeping, it would be called “How To Ensure That Your Children Become The Worst Possible Sleepers, Ever, In The History Of The World.”

Bestseller, yes?

I have a guest post on one blogger’s experience getting her kids to sleep. She’s anti “crying it out,” and has chosen to keep her kids with her until they are 15-18 months and then move them gently to share a room with a sibling. It’s sweet and comforting and what works for her family. Like everything else in parenting, that’s really all that matters. There are no rights and no wrongs; It’s parenthood, not the SATS.

Actually, I take it back. There are wrongs and where sleeping is concerned,  and I did them all.

If there are any mothers out there struggling with sleeping, or wondering how to best approach it, I’d like to share with you exactly what I did so you can do the complete opposite.

You’re welcome.

• Force your newborn to sleep on top of you. I couldn’t breastfeed Lily, and was convinced that she would never bond with me because of it. To achieve a sense of closeness, I forced her to sleep on top of me during her early days, which of course resulted in nothing but a newborn who couldn’t sleep unless she was on top of me. It took months and months to undo.

• Don’t make them cry. Ever. Despite my name, I am quite a pussy when it comes to hearing my children cry, especially when I know they can be soothed simply by my presence. The minute they let out the slightest whimper, I’d be in their room rescuing them. (From a restful sleep.)

• Don’t set any type of routine. I always thought it was annoying when people couldn’t leave the house because their kid needed to nap at a particular time and vowed that my children would be flexible. And, they are, right up until 11PM.

• Fall asleep with your kids. Evan sleeps in his own room, but only if I’m with him, in his twin bed, crammed up against the wall.

• Become an accidental co-sleeper. Most nights, at least two out of three of my children end up in my bed. It happened out of laziness (it’s so much easier to just let them in bed than walk all the way down the hall,) but is now a pattern that we just can’t escape.

• Get them used to sleeping in the car. So they only, you know, want to sleep in the car.

• Have no plan. I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of parent, but sleep is the rare exception where I think a plan is valuable. There are a gazillion books on different sleep methods for a reason– they work. It may have been wise to have read one.

So, there you go. Heed my warnings and I see many restful nights ahead for you and your children.

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Comments

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  1. 1

    Paula @ thewilyweez says

    My boys are good sleepers, I think they were just born that way because I’m a fly by the seat of my pants parent as well…and we’re stopping with these 2 good ones….why press our luck right?!

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  2. 2

    Kimberly says

    So glad I’m not the only one! My toddlers are also extremely “flexible” with nap and bedtimes. The only time they’re ever not cooperative is when I try to put them to bed before 10 p.m. Sigh. On the upside, they sleep in until 9, which is great for my husband (a stay-at-home-dad). Not quite as great for me, since I have to get up at 6 for work.

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    • 3

      Sue says

      My son likes to stay up late, too, but I’m an early sleeper/waker, so if he wants to stay up late the rule is that he does it in his own room watching a movie on the old TV that only plays DVDs n VCRs.
      During the week, TV is off by 7:30 or 8p and he has to be in/on his bed doing something Quiet until he falls asleep. I let him know way ahead of time that popping out to talk to us or asking to hang out w/ us downstairs is a no-no and that a privilege will be taken away if he interrupts grown-up time after I’ve said niters.
      He still sometimes comes out to get a last snack/drink of water, but leaves us alone and goes right back to his room.

      There’s just no reason that they should need you after bed- “time” and it’s called bed- “time” for a reason.

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  3. 4

    Momma Sunshine says

    Y’know what? I think you should cut yourself some slack. Sure, you’re not getting good quality sleep, but I think it’s more important to foster a sense of security in your children (i.e. knowing that their parents will be there to respond to their needs).

    My oldest was a rotten sleeper; partly my fault, and partly because that’s just the way she’s wired. But she’s 8 years old now, and she never comes into my bed unless she’s sick or has had a terrible nightmare (both of which are rare). Your kids are only small once; and I can promise you that they won’t be coming home from parties in high school to snuggle up with mom. ;-)

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    • 6

      Headacheslayer says

      My 16yo asked to sleep with me after a hellish week that came after she broke up with her boyfriend of 2 1/2 yrs. It was sweet and broke my heart all at once. And it was just what she needed–the next day she was better than ever.

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  4. 7

    Reading (and chickens) says

    My husband has a theory that good sleepers only come from bad sleepers. The parents go out of their minds with sleep-deprivation and then set some sort of plan in motion, but all those “good from the start” babies seem to slowly, ever so slowly, add some bad habits until they’re 18 and still co-sleeping with you with a pacifier and a lovely.

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  5. 8

    Wende says

    People can say what they want. Teaching your child the ability to sleep alone and self-comfort is one of the most important things you will EVER teach your child. However you do it – make SURE you do it, make sure you start with it young, and make sure that you STICK. WITH. IT. My heart sincerely goes out to you for the struggles you’re having.

    My son slept in a playpen beside our bed when he was tiny. When he got older, I moved him into his own room in his crib. He hated it. He would cry and scream every night when I put him down. For three months, I would sleep beside his crib on the floor, holding his hand. I did not take him out of the crib. I would comfort him, let him know I was there – but make sure he understood he WAS going to be sleeping in that crib, as that was his new bed. Within those three months, he figured out I was close by and not leaving him there forever and ever, and eventually started lying down on his own and going to sleep. Then I stopped lying down beside him, and simply told him I’d be back in 5 minutes to check on him. He would wait to make sure I did, and I did it faithfully. Then 10 minutes. Then 15 minutes. This was at about age 10 months, and he never looked back. He has slept consistently through the night since then without a single problem.

    My daughter simply just didn’t want to be by herself, so she would cry. I checked on her every 15 minutes in her crib, told her that it was night-night time, time to go to sleep, and that I was not going to take her out of the crib. She wasn’t distraught or visible wailing – this was more “hey, I can’t see what everybody’s doing!”. After about 6 weeks, she figured it out, and started laying down on her own and going to sleep. This was at about age 1. She has consistently slept through the night since then without a single problem.

    Different things for different kids. You have to be willing to figure out what works and stick with it consistently. It’s WORK. And it’s hard work, especially when you’re already tired. But aren’t you willing to teach your children other things to help them through life, like how to tie their shoes, write an essay or how to wash their hands? How is this any different?

    I can tell you this – every morning, everyone in my house is rested and ready to face the day. It was worth the trade off of a few months of hard work to make it happen.

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    • 9

      Jillian says

      I TOTALLY agree with you. My son was a pretty good sleeper except for waking up a couple times a night until he was one. We didn’t hit snags ville with bedtime until he turned 4 and we had to sleep on bunk beds in the same room. He fought and fought and fought and fought me for months. Most of the time he wouldn’t fall asleep until mdinight leaving a very cranky kid going to school. I kept at it though, and when we moved into our new home, it was no longer an issue. We also established a bedtime routine that starts two hours before bedtime because he needs that much time to completely unwind. The routine is what helped the most, and it’s not a hard one. We watch a movie, or do an arts and crafts project during dinner (he takes forever to eat if I don’t and that is one battle I’m not picking today) then it’s bathtime, then we cuddle up on the couch for 15 minutes and he gets to tell me everything about his day. Then it’s bathtime, and it’s book time. Then it’s lights out. Two days out of the week this schedule is interupted because I have night classes so he is at the sitters, but because of our routine the rest of the week he doesn’t give the sitter any trouble about bed time. His bedtime has also always been 8. I personally think allowing a toddler to stay up until 10 or 11 on purpose is crazy, because once they start school you will NOT want them up that late, and you will have a very difficult time switching them to an earlier sleeping time.

      Of course I also have a child who stopped taking naps at 3 1/2 because he woke up from the nap in a much worse mood then he went to sleep in. It’s a pain for his school, but after this year I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

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  6. 11

    Julie R says

    I, too, am a terrible sleep trainer parent type person. My first two kids had zero problems sleeping and it was never an issue. The only problem I had with them sleeping was that I thought they slept TOO MUCH so I woke them up sometimes just so I could pick them up and cuddle them, etc. They are still excellent sleepers, but I had nothing to do with it. My 3rd kid came along and HELLOOOO sleepless nights. I was unprepared and stupid about the whole thing and now I have a 2 year old who has never, not once slept through the night. Not even accidentally. She is up every couple of hours demanding that either me or her dad (thank god it’s usually him that she calls) come and rub her feet or her back or get some water or watch videos on the iPad. YES. We are not the ideal parents when it comes to sleep. We haven’t slept in 2 years. I’m glad to hear that we aren’t alone. Thank you. Us.

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  7. 13

    imperfectmomma says

    Oh I am the worst too. I let my kids sleep with me too. Monkey was 5 months before he slept on his own…and I had to let him cry it out.

    You’d think I would learn. Apparently, I am just a sucker cause; I screwed up w Diva too. Now, she wont sleep unless I’m holding her too. I’m gonna hafta let her cry it out.

    But I am a big wuss with crying too. That and the fact that this girl is freaking stubborn.

    Sigh. Why cant this parenting thing be easier? Why cant kids be born awesome sleepers?

    Why am I venting on your blog? Ok…this is me…stopping typing….if I can

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    • 14

      Scary Mommy says

      You’d think I would have learned with Lily, too, and I did. For a while Ben was a great sleeper, but then we had to have another baby and it all shot to hell.

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  8. 15

    Nicole says

    Holy Crap. I did pretty much every one of these things. My 2 year old finally falls asleep on her own, but she still ends up in our bed every night. :-/ She’s a late-to-bed, late-to-rise girl, too, which is great now. It won’t be so great when school rolls around. Sigh.

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  9. 17

    Jen says

    Like you, I made all those mistakes with my oldest son and thankfully I saw the error of my ways.

    But honestly, I probably would have done those same things again if I had not had triplets. Triplets forces you to plan and set a sleep schedule or you will never sleep.

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  10. 19

    Kara Nutt says

    I know that I am lucky in that my son slept 6 hours at 6 weeks and only got better from there.
    However, I think some of it was from the realization that if he’s in the other room, he can’t smell me and will sleep better.
    I figured this out the second night in the hospital. I had an emergency C-section due to my acrobatic son having tangled the cord around himself about 3 times.
    The first night, both my husband and my brand new baby stayed in the room with me. Of the three of us, only DH got any sleep. He even slept through getting up and getting me some wet towels (you can’t use wet wipes in the hospital) for a midnight nasty diaper change.
    The next night, I sent the super sleep walker home. At about 2 am, out of shear exhaustion, I took a walk with the little bassinet down to the nursery. He had wanted to nurse every 20 minutes until that point and they won’t let you just fall asleep in bed with baby in the hospital so I’d had NO sleep since the major surgery just 36 hours previously.
    The lovely nurses in the nursery were happy to allow me to get a few hours sleep and as I was trying to exclusively breastfeed, they were happy to bring him to me should he wake up. Four hours of blissful sleep later, a lovely nurse brought me my son who nursed and went back to sleep.
    There was one night at the hospital that I got 4.5 hours of blissful sleep and I woke up worried, I went down to the nursery and there was my son just starting to stir and get hungry.
    When we got home, if he was in the bassinet in my room, woke every 30 minutes. If he was in his crib, everyone got to sleep a solid 4 hours. Happy baby, happy mommy, happy daddy.
    The next one will probably be totally different, however, I plan on starting out with them in the next room with a monitor. Everyone functions better with a good night sleep, baby included.
    Kara

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    • 20

      Headacheslayer says

      *nodding head* I hear you Kara. That was EXACTLY my son. We had to follow his cues, and by 12 mos he was READY to be in his own room. Took us a few sleepless nights to figure it out that him waking up every 30 mins was his way of saying “I need to get a room!” lol

      I should have mentioned in my original comment that he did have health issues–severe eczema–that kept him pretty miserable for 4 yrs.

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      • 21

        Ruby @ Focus, Woman says

        Oh yes!! The sleep-deprivation accumulated over the first 10 months made it impossible for me to realize: she WANTS het own bed. Duuuuh. Brain-fail. So glad we got some help then, after 3 nights our awful sleeper suddenly slept & napped and was CHEERFUL.

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  11. 22

    Callie says

    My 19mo was sleeping through the night for the last half of the summer. He started doing it on his own after a few months of waking up once in the middle of the night (at which we would give him a water bottle). Then at the beginning of September those blissful nights filled with slumber came to a screeching halt. We can’t figure out what’s causing it. Nothing in his routine or our routine changed, nothing in his diet to cause it…so we sum it up to a phase and hope that he’s out grown it by March when the baby is due. (Please, please, please go back to sleeping though the night by then!)

    But I’m already ahead of you on the co sleeping…our little guy has been sleeping in his crib since day. One husband and one Basset Hound is enough in bed, I don’t need another couple little bodies. I’ll cuddle them during them during the day when they’re awake. :-)

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  12. 24

    Jennifer says

    We did this same thing with our first. Almost word for word. It sucked then and it sucks now. Finally after going to the doctor and finding out that I’m severely sleep deprived and learning that it is affecting my mental and physical health I had to pull the plug. It has been so, so hard. My natural urge is not to be that hard ass kind of mother, but I’ve had to do it. I hate it.

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      • 26

        Jennifer says

        Yes, but I won’t lie, it was hard. Some nights it is still hard, but it is SOOOO much better. I can actually get six hours of unbroken sleep some nights.

        After we got her to sleep in her room she would still come into our room two to three times a night and I would have to get up and take her back to bed, which wasn’t making it easier on me. Finally a counselor she was seeing suggested that I “reward” (pay) her to stay in her room. Every night she stayed in her room without coming to get me at all I paid her $2. If she came into my room it cost her $1. It took about two weeks for her to stop coming in. Oh, and the other thing, when she would come into my room I would have to tell her, “Go back to bed!” He said I could not get up and take her and I could not let her sleep with me at all. I had to make her do it on her own. So like I said before, it was really, really hard because that is not my natural inclination at all, but it has totally been paying off.

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  13. 28

    SaucyB says

    I have to say, because I always knew I would be going back to work after my maternity leave I kind of made it a personal mission to make sure my kid was a good sleeper. Having a routine, making sure he took naps and not letting him fall asleep on me all helped toward having him sleep through the night by the time he was 4 months old.

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  14. 29

    Arnebya says

    The girls slept well. And by well I mean sleeping through the night by the time they were one. Ha. This boy, however? The 2 yr old boy still wakes at least twice a night. Granted he only wants water or for someone to cover him back up (he sleeps on his stomach and has yet to figure out that yes, he CAN put the damn cover back on). The girls are now 10 and 8 and I secretly wish one of them would want to come to bed with us. Anti-cuddling heifers.

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  15. 32

    Rachael says

    Also, don’t stick to your guns. With my older son (now 5), we sleep trained him four times. Why? Because we didn’t stick to making him stay in his bed, and he started coming in ours again. It sucked every time. We learned our lesson, and our 17 month old stays in his bed.

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  16. 34

    Alison says

    Yup, this sounds like my kids. Sleeping whenever they feel like it? Check. Bedtime is any time between 11pm and 3am. Thank goodness I stay at home because I do not get up before 9am and it’s a struggle to get everyone ready to leave the house for my oldest son’s preschool drop off by 12:30. Co-sleeping? Check. The baby is a year old and has slept in my bed since he was born. My oldest (3 1/2) has been sleeping in my bed recently too. Oh, and my daughter won’t sleep unless her dad is laying down with her, so he sleeps on a couch in the kids’ room. I think it’s been close to 2 years since we slept in the same bed for even part of the night. Oh, and I never have a plan for anything either. But so far, it’s been working out okay for the most part. I figure I have until my oldest is in 1st grade to get everything sorted out. Until then, I guess we’ll stay up all night and sleep until late morning.

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  17. 35

    WebSavvyMom says

    –>I’m the sleep nazi in my house and my child is on a rather strict schedule for naps, bedtime and the OMG it’s early wake-up times.
    However, I have made many mistakes over dinner rituals that has created among other things, the SLOWEST EATER ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

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