How we (mostly) conquered sleeplessness…


Sleep… it’s right up there with water as being essential for survival. Sleep deprivation is the absolute pits and I’ve (I’d say we, but let’s face it, that’s just not true) been suffering from it for, oh, nine and a half months. Bo has never been a great sleeper. But you guys know that already, because I’ve gone on and on and on about it. Here, here and here, and probably here too  – just to name a few.

So, after my last post on Bo’s shocking sleep regression that has lasted about 10 weeks I got some awesome feedback from you guys. I got so many beautiful comments and even more private emails from mamas who get it. You get it. So, thank you. I also got lots of emails from mamas and friends and families and readers who told me that really, I just needed to let her cry it out. That at some point every mama has to do it and as much as it sucks, it’s just the way of life. I truly do appreciate the advice. Even if I don’t agree with it. I know it comes out of love and concern.

But we do not cry it out. That’s my choice as Bo’s parent. That’s not how I want to do this and yes perhaps that would be the miracle *cure* to her sleep problems. But it’s not the fix I’m looking for.

But, thanks all the same.

So after I got this huge influx of love and advice and love and lovely love-love I got to thinking. What is it that I’m in need of? What is it that Bo needs? Obviously something isn’t right so how am I going to fix it? Sleep. We both needed more sleep. Not sleep at particular times. Not set hours. Not in particular cots or rooms or sleep after tears (hers and/or mine)… just sleep. That’s really all we needed. So I threw away all of the books that had been recommended to me (figuratively of course because I never bought them anyway) and I sat down with Bo and we *talked it out* – she slapped and giggled and tried to tear my eyes from my sockets and I basically thought out loud.

And then I took action. I decided on a few things that I have always known but that I have always fought with due to cultural, familial, whatever expectations.

1. I don’t need Bo to be in her own room. She doesn’t need to be in her own room. She will move to her own room when she is good and ready and when we as a family have a home that can facilitate that.

2.I don’t need Bo to sleep in her cot. I’m very happy for her to be in our bed. It’s always been that way and extended co-sleeping is not only a valid choice but it is one that I have come to after extensive research and real life experience. Extended co-sleeping is NOT an excuse nor is it an “easy way out” (have you ever had a nine month old sleeping on your head?)

3. The word routine sounds regimented and strict whereas the word pattern makes more sense. Use that instead.

4. Our lifestyle is one that is flexible. We don’t have our own house we are often camping out in someone elses living room/spare room and it is important TO me and important FOR Bo that she is comfortable to sleep anywhere and everywhere that she feels safe.

Once I’d decided these things I took action. I removed the bed base from our room and put the mattress on the floor. The cot is still in the room so that we can try to transition her into there eventually (or not) when it feels right. I threw out everything that had been haunting me about sleep times and routines and how many hours a baby should sleep for and sleep cycles and cry it out and patting and shhhhh’ing and OMG every tip and trick and argggghhhhh that I have heard over the past ten months. I scrunched them up into little balls and threw them in the bin. Then I felt much better.

I decided to get rid of the bedtime routine that we have been using since she was born as it was pretty hit and miss anyway obviously. And go with a patter, a pattern that is flexible and can be done no matter where we are, no matter who/what is around us and no matter the time of day. It’s one particular book that is also a song. Then a cuddle and a breastfeed. Sometimes she needs to be fed to sleep. Sometimes shes happy to roll over and fall asleep next to me without it. Sometimes she rolls over and a rub her back gently until she falls asleep. But one way or another. She does sleep. Either way, this is progress.

That’s it. That’s the magic solution to a problem that wasn’t Bo’s but mine. A problem that came from me doubting myself and trying to wrestle with what my gut was telling me and what so many other people were telling me. When I let go… truly let go… we found *solutions* (and a lot less stress).

In the past two weeks Bo has had at least two naps every day of varying lengths. She has had at least eight hours, sometimes up to twelve hours of broken sleep a night. She’s had successful naps and sleeps on one sisters lounge room floor, in our bedroom and in my other sisters spare room. And I’m getting more sleep (and even a few solo showers!) too. Progress is good!

She is sleeping like a baby. She still wakes, not because she’s being manipulative or needy or pushing the boundaries. She wakes because she needs something. Her wants are her needs right now and I’m A-OK with that. Sometimes her nap times are a bit all over the shop and it means a later bed time. I don’t keep her awake if she’s visibly tired for fear she wont be in bed and a sleep at 7pm on the dot. I don’t restrict when she can or cannot feed. Sometimes she needs more to help calm her, other times she needs little to no help at all. But she’s sleeping. She’s happy. I’m happy.

You don’t have to cry it out. You don’t have to teach a baby this young to put themselves to sleep. You can if you want to. But it’s not the only way. There are options. If something doesn’t feel right to you, the parent, don’t do it. You have choices even if your parents or friends don’t know what they are. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain if that’s what your instinct tells you to do. We are all just stumbling around in the dark… and each and every one of us are grateful for the little wins.

Because in this world of babies and sleeping and love and exhaustion and confusion and figuring-it-out-as-we-go it’s the little wins that feel HUGE.

Thank you all for your support.




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  • November 24, 2012 - 10:26 am

    laluuu - It was so strange to read this Sash. Mainly because you described exactly how we treat sleep with Anouk. She has never slept away from me at night and most nights she starts in her cot (next to the bed) and then comes into our bed mid-way through the night. Some nights she awakens hourly, others, we get a few hours between wake ups. We never have issues getting her to sleep, she just wakes often.

    Until about two weeks ago, she slept on my lap, in a carrier or on the couch next to me during the day. I stopped this as it was starting to get too hot in the sitting room and she was sweating like a maniac! She now goes into her cot and I snuggle her or pat her to sleep.

    Some days she doesn’t nap and somedays she has two or three. We have never had a bedtime or any sort of routine (I prefer to use rhythm). And that’s, that.

    Some people are horrified that she still sleeps with us, in our bed and still wakes up wanting a feed. I’m not sure why anyone is horrified, she’s been on Earth for not even 11 months.

    Anyway, I am glad you are at peace with your situation. I have often said that any literature regarding sleeping is damaging and more often than not shames rather than offers help.

    Good luck! Luna 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 24, 2012 - 1:11 pm

    Joelle - Have I told you lately how great you are? What a fabulous mama you are being? xxxReplyCancel

  • November 24, 2012 - 6:04 pm

    Brandee - My son is 17 months and also sleeps with me at night. He’s with me all day, why not at night. He often wakes up, reaches out for me, finds me, falls right back to sleep. I never had the heart to let him ‘cry it out’. He eventually found his own rhythm. Sometimes we have to trust our little ones and follow their lead. ;-).ReplyCancel

    • November 25, 2012 - 7:54 am

      olga - So glad to hear you are sleeping again. Co-sleeping is totally the way to go, I would die if we didn’t do it. And I would rather die than let my baby cry-it-out. Good for you for finding another way.
      And “pattern” is totally awesome. I am calling it that from now on!ReplyCancel

  • November 25, 2012 - 9:08 am

    laluuu - I’m commenting again to say it’s really nice to see a group of like minded ladies posting their thoughts. I am adamantly opposed to CIO and people (including parents and our doctor) can’t understand it. They accept it, but think we’re crazy folk. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 26, 2012 - 12:13 am

    Sindhuja Manohar - This is an excellent entry on urging parents to do what feels right for them. There are a ton of different ways to do this – and of these, some are popularly touted as being the “right” ways – but at the end of the day, you know your baby best. I’m glad to hear you had success with what you wanted to do. 🙂

    Nice blog, by the way. I spent a considerable chunk of my growing up years in Indonesia. It is a beautiful country, and its people are just as lovely.ReplyCancel

  • November 26, 2012 - 5:25 am

    Heather - I thought I’d already posted O.o. Anyway, I’m so glad to hear this!! Keep up the good work, Mama!ReplyCancel

  • November 26, 2012 - 1:35 pm

    sabrina - My baby is 14 months and still sleeps with us, still wakes in the middle of the night, still needs his night time feeds with me. but you know what? this isn’t a forever arrangement. one day, these babies will grow up and want to sleep in their own bed, and have their own space. and we mommies will miss having them next to us at night. i cant imagine sleeping without my baby next to me and yes, at times it hard (at 14 months, Bo will still find a way to sleep on top of your head! because my baby does this!), but since its all temporary, and since time flies by so fast watching these babies grow up, i believe its all ok in the end. good on you and bo for finding your pattern 🙂ReplyCancel

  • November 26, 2012 - 1:47 pm

    Christien - My little girl is 4.5 years. She sleep in her own room with me accompanying her till she goes to sleep. all I have to do is sit in the room. Didn’t matter to her if she cant see me. Between 1 am – 3 am, she comes into my room and sleep next to me till morning..
    I dont mind. I like knowing that she is next to me and she is safe. and my gut feeling says that in time she will sleep in her own room without waking up and moving to my room. The more I try to force her to go back to her own room, the more exhausted and cranky I am the next day.. And she gets cranky because she didnt have a good sleep and having to fight me to go back to sleep in her own room.

    I still hope that my husband will understand this.. That we can encourage her sleeping in her own room but we cannot force her to be ready for things that she is not.

    I hope many parents read your post. Many will agree and many will disagree. Most important is to go with your gut feeling.
    A mother have a bond with their children that only mothers knows how deep that bond is.ReplyCancel

  • November 28, 2012 - 6:47 pm

    MissM - I can relate so much. Thanks for this post. Your blog is beautiful.ReplyCancel

    • November 28, 2012 - 8:44 pm

      Sash - Thank you so much MissM! xReplyCancel

  • November 29, 2012 - 8:02 am

    Jana - I have had much the same experience with my girl, who is 5 months. She was barely napping, and fought going to sleep at night like crazy! So many people said so many different things, a lot said to try the CIO method but in the end, our story went much the same way…trust my heart…
    i could never let my baby cry it out! they don’t (eventually) stop crying because they’ve “learned” or whatever, they stop because they give up! and that to me sounds horrible! I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving a baby/child the security and love that they need… I am savouring the moments with her! Co-sleeping makes so much sense to me.
    And I definitely am having success with keeping more of a pattern, a rhythm.
    Way to go mama! Happy sleeping…ReplyCancel

  • December 8, 2012 - 11:06 am

    Sarah - AMEN to this! Before having a baby I never even thought about cosleeping, but now I can’t imagine it any other way. I know one day she will grow out of it and want to sleep in her big girl bed, so I’m savoring every cuddly moment I get now. I’m definitely not a fan of CIO and have decided to follow my daughter’s cues…as you said, she will know when she’s ready. Thanks for this beautifully written post!ReplyCancel

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