I think back to my early days as a mom with a baby. The first few weeks and months. And people asking me, “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” I like how they added the word “yet” to that question. As if sleeping through the night is a destination you will arrive at on some future day and you’ll get to stay there. In the magical land where kids sleep through the night.
It’s even crazier when I think about how many of the people who asked this were fellow moms. Moms are supposed to tell each other truth. And I’m here to tell you, there is no “yet” in sleeping through the night.
It’s not a destination, it’s a journey. A long journey. And one whose end I have yet to reach for more than a short-term stay. But I’m surviving. And you will too.
Check out these tips to find out how to survive when your child isn’t sleeping through the night.
*This post contains affiliate links or referral links which means, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission from purchases made through these links. For more information, please see my disclosure page.
How to Survive When Your Child Isn’t Sleeping Through the Night
1. Follow Your Gut for Helping Your Child Sleep
You need sleep and so does your child. Eventually, you will find out what helps you both to get it. I may joke about the number of books I’ve read about sleep training, but it’s because that number is at least in the double digits.
And most of them had some good advice. I’ve been able to pull out little gems from almost every book to help with getting my girls to sleep.
The problem is that nothing worked quickly or perfectly. And I’ve found myself frustrated and in a sleep-deprived rage at times when the book’s magic formula left me and my child both in exhausted tears.
I think reading books is great. Learn everything you can and take from it anything you can use. But don’t expect it to work exactly like it does for all the parents quoted on the book jacket.
Figure out what works for you and your little one. That may mean co-sleeping. Or using a pacifier through the toddler years. Or rocking them to sleep. Or a bottle in the middle of the night.
There are lots of parenting no-nos, that are actually parenting must-haves when you haven’t slept more than two hours in a row in two years. Follow your gut and what works for your kid. Throw out any books that tell you different.
2. Ignore Your Friend’s Baby Sleep Advice
You know your friend, the one whose baby has been sleeping through the night since she was six weeks old? And she has the perfect solution to all your child’s sleep problems? Yeah her. Ignore her.
Clearly, her child and yours are very different. Whatever combination of physical, emotional, and environmental factors may be at work when it comes to her child and your child’s ability to sleep, they are clearly world’s apart.
And for what it’s worth, I can practically guarantee she is just one baby with a bad cold, teething toddler, bad dream, or sleep regression away from being exactly where you are.
Her time will come. It’s parenting. No one gets out well rested.
3. Sleep Whenever You Can However You Can
Everyone tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps. Well, I recommend following this advice well into their toddler years.
I know it’s nearly impossible to squeeze a nap into the working adult day whether at home or at an office. But maybe try to catch a nap on the weekend. I used to nap in my car every day during my lunch breaks when I had an office job. True story.
If your child is an early riser like mine and you can only get them back to sleep if you hold them or bring them back to your bed, do it!
Congratulate yourself on finding something that works and zonk back out as quickly as you can. Need to give them a bottle? Go ahead! Whatever it takes. Be flexible about trying things to help your child get back to sleep or learn to sleep on their own.
4. Realize You’re Not the Only Parent Whose Baby Doesn’t Sleep
Parenting young children can feel very lonely. Especially when you’re sleep deprived and cranky.
I’ve found myself lonely, bored, and awake with a kid during late night and early morning hours where no other reasonable soul is up. So, yay for the internet!
There are plenty of mom groups and Facebook groups online where you can find support and advice for helping your child sleep. Now, take all advice for what it’s worth. But when it’s offered from another parent in the trenches, it’s nice to know you’re not alone and can commiserate together.
My absolute favorite book for sleep issues with young kids is Precious Little Sleep. It is hilarious and true-to-life. And there is lots of great advice for things to try (but no miracle cures. Sorry!).
It’s an awesome resource for information and entertainment when you’re a sleep-deprived parent. I encourage all parents to give it a read.
If you need more help with your child’s sleep, I also recommend exhausted parents try the 21 Days to Peace and Quiet baby sleep course from Baby Sleep Made Simple. You can read my complete review of the course here or check out the website here.
5. Give Yourself a Break When Parenting is Hard
Sleep deprivation is hard. Parenting is hard. Give yourself a break. Take that nap I suggested earlier. Get takeout or cook an easy dinner. Let some of the housework go for a while so you can sit and rest even if you can’t sleep.
If you’re cranky. Be cranky (within reason). It’s ok to be mad. It’s ok to be frustrated. It’s ok to wish they would just go the f**k to sleep! So you can too.
Go easy on yourself. Let your spouse, or your mom or your friends help you if they offer. Take breaks. And know this too shall pass.
3 Truths About Your Child Sleeping Through the Night
1. A Kid Sleeping Through the Night is a Fluke
There have been easily 20 times in the past six years of parenting that I’ve thought, “This is it. She sleeps through the night now! Woo-hoo!” Only to have her waking up at 2 am three nights later.
Some of those times happened when my oldest daughter was a baby. When I was still naive about kids sleeping through the night.
These days I know a night without a kid waking is a gift to be cherished but not one to expect to get on a nightly basis.
To be fair my oldest has had long periods of sleeping pretty much through the night. But she has had equally long periods of waking nightly with night terrors, runny noses, or an unquenchable thirst for one more drink of water.
Yes, water. Which she refuses to drink without bribes or prizes during the normal waking hours. But just can’t get enough of once bedtime rolls around.
2. Just Because They Sleep Doesn’t Mean You Will
When you first hear the phrase “sleeping through the night” you might think it means sleeping through one of your nights. Somewhere in the range of seven to eight hours. But when you’re talking about a baby, it doesn’t mean that.
Sleeping through the night for a baby usually means they sleep one good chunk of about five to six hours. With some waking to feed and falling back to sleep on one or both ends of that long-ish stretch.
This actually wouldn’t be too terrible if most of that five or six hours fell during a time when you, the parent were also asleep. Then you could get five or six hours in a row. But I’ve found that has rarely been the case.
With both of my girls, when they were older babies and younger toddlers, they would fall asleep at their bedtime around 7:30 pm and then sleep their five or six hours.
Unfortunately, when my girls slept for five or six hours starting at 7:30 pm, I, like many a sleep deprived, yet also adult or alone time deprived mom, would stay up to some party-animal like hour of 9 or 10 pm and then go to sleep.
Which means when my sweet baby woke up after “sleeping through the night” for six hours I had been asleep for about three hours. Nowhere near “sleeping through the night” for me.
Even now, with my youngest now a toddler, she wakes up for the day around 6am, usually earlier. So, if I stay up to enjoy an hour or two with my husband at night, I am still shortchanged on sleep. And I’ve got YEARS of sleep deprivation to make up for.
3. There is No Magic Formula for Getting a Baby to Sleep Well
Despite all the books, articles, and advice available there is no magic formula for helping your child sleep through the night.
I know. I’ve tried them all. Even when something works, and we go weeks, even months getting more or less a full night’s sleep, I’ve learned not to pop the celebratory champagne quite yet.
And to not go bragging to my sleep deprived friends about my no-fail sleep system. Inevitably something will come up to cause another few nights or lots of nights with frequent waking.
When you’ve found something that works, the right bedtime routine, maybe a song and dance plus eight books and a cup of milk solution to get your little one sleeping all night, savor it for as long as it lasts.
But hold off on telling yourself you’re in for a good night’s sleep from now until they reach college age.
Eventually Your Child Will Sleep Through the Night
Your child will eventually sleep through the night. Probably. At least most of the time. Which means you will too. In some distant future, well rested you will look back on these days fondly. Fondly, because you won’t remember most of it due to your state of complete exhaustion.
You’ve got this mamas! Now, excuse me, it’s time for my nap.
Check Out These Other Posts You May Like: