Q&A Monday Vol. XXI: To Sleep Train or to Go Crazy, That Is the Question
Hi Lynn, My baby doesn’t sleep. She’s eight months old, and everyone is constantly asking if she sleeps through the night yet, and then telling me to either ride it out, or that I’m doing it all wrong, or to sleep train. I remember you saying something about your second daughter not sleeping, so I thought maybe you would have some insight. Please help! I’m ready to fall down from exhaustion.
Oh, dear. Sleep deprivation is the absolute worst. You are right about Evelyn–she was a terrible, awful, no good, very bad sleeper. My first was so good, and that made the second even more of a shock. I had no idea what I was doing. The bad news is that even now that I’ve been through a terrible sleeper, I still have no idea what I’m doing.
I did everything right with my first. I put her to sleep at the same time every night, following the same routine (bath, nurse, songs–meaning I wasn’t nursing her to sleep), and I put her down drowsy but awake. After the first six months, she generally slept most of the night, waking one time at around 3 am, at which point I would just let her finish the night in bed with us. It worked, and we all got plenty of sleep.
I did the same thing with Evelyn, but it didn’t work at all. When it became bad enough that I was scared to drive (driving that tired is just as bad as driving drunk), I tried sleep training. Did not work. Cry it out did not work. It slowly got better, meaning she went from waking up every hour to waking up every two hours, and then only three times a night. She is now 20 months old and only wakes up once. It’s heaven.
You don’t say how often your baby is waking. If it is just once or twice, I say ask your husband to help a little more. If you are nursing or bottle feeding at night, I suggest slowly night weaning. Evelyn only stopped waking up five times a night after I night weaned. I would probably wake up too if someone promised to get me a snack every time.
If you have night weaned, and your baby is still waking up five times a night, TRY EVERYTHING. We aren’t talking about a newborn here. I seriously doubt that a few nights of CIO or sleep training is any worse for a baby’s psyche than an exhausted mother, and anyone who says differently hasn’t been truly exhausted. Exhaustion is dangerous. It means mixing up medications and dropping things (like babies). It means being much, much closer to shaking the baby. It also means your baby isn’t getting the sleep she needs.
I wish I had better advice, but the truth is first I got lucky and then I got unlucky. Hopefully you will get lucky. Amalah wrote a few good, helpful columns on sleep training at the Advice Smackdown.
And remember: Babies change constantly. This might be over in another month. Fingers crossed for you.