The Baby Sleep Experiment

For the last 7.5 months I feel like I’ve been participating in a sleep experiment. The person on the other side of the glass monitoring how little sleep I can get away with without cracking (surprisingly little!). Continuously studying Simon, wondering when the next “wonder week” or “growth spurt” will creep in and ruin all of the hard work we’ve done to get him to be a good napper and nighttime sleeper. Slight laughter when they see me and J high five each other for getting Simon to be a confident sleeper, knowing there’s a change approaching around the bend.

Most days of late are rock solid. 11+ hours of night sleep and 3-4ish hours of naps. Not by the book exactly, but good. Really good.

But then we have days like today when, as I write this, Simon is in his crib, hasn’t napped in 4 hours and is screaming at the top of his lungs. Even though he was rubbing his eyes and fell asleep for the last 5 minutes on our way home from running errands, he does not want to sleep. At all.

Riiight. He’s not at all tired.


There are days that feel like we’re backtracking… we check the obvious things and all appears fine. No dirty diaper. No fever. No teeth about to pop (at least not that we can feel). We chalk it up to leaving the house for too long or Simon just being a whatever month old. Sometimes I get lucky and poor sleep aligns with the textbook stuff…lack of sleep due to a wonder week or growth spurt, but here we sit smack dab in the middle of week 33 and…nothing. No excuse, just a baby being a baby (or maybe some teeth coming through?…Ha.).

The great experiment continues.

Here’s what I know about the sleep experiment…

It’s hard.

It’s not textbook.

It takes work from all parties.

The variables change constantly.

We’ve made progress since this post. When I went to look for it I thought it had to have been written months and months ago, but really, not so long ago. Since then we’ve cut out all night feeds and I wake up less frequently in a panic. Change takes time but it isn’t forever, this proves it.

What I can tell those of you who are in the midst of sleep training or feeling exhausted and like it might never improve is that it will… it will improve. You’ll feel human again.

We are no where near perfect, but if I had to give a new mom some solicited or not so solicited advice on the subject, I’d have to say this:

– Don’t make decisions in the middle of the night, make a plan BEFORE bed and stick to it. Once Simon was old enough, J and I used to say “we’ll let Simon cry for X amount of time before we go in there” or “I won’t get up to feed Simon until at least X time”… when you try to make those decisions at 2AM you’re just not functioning on all cylinders.

– Books provide best case scenarios for sleep. Go with your gut. Do what feels right and makes sense for you, your baby, and your family.

– Create a bedtime routine and follow it every night.

– Stick to your guns about bedtime. The baby doesn’t know it’s the weekend, or that it’s a special occasion, or that you’re on vacation…

– Don’t compare your baby’s sleep needs or habits to any other baby.

– Sleep really does beget sleep. It’s weird, I know, but SO very true.

At some point in this whole experiment J and I had to put down the books (trust me, I was reaching for them multiple times a day for anything that made sense) and figure it out on our own. We asked our doctor a few clarifying questions and he was pro sleep training, so then we just did what felt right for our family. It takes time. It’s not going to be perfect overnight. There are bumps in the road. I know there will be more… but overall, we have a baby that sleeps and responds to sleep training and it’s not because we followed a by the book prescription. It’s because we did what felt right when it felt right…

I took a break and spent a couple of napless hours with Simon before I finished this post… we laid him in bed at 6:50PM and he didn’t make a peep… rolled over and was sleeping before we exited the room.

Those are exhausted eyes but they are eyes that I could stare at all day… even with the whining the accompanies them.

The variables change, the experiment continues…

Good luck. You’re doing awesome.

4 thoughts on “The Baby Sleep Experiment

  1. Oh, Mara. You are preaching my song! I think as parents we want a reason why there is a change in our baby’s behavior and I feel like the so much of the time there just isn’t. But, as you said and as I have learned, it always gets better and tomorrow is always a new day… Or next week is a new week

  2. I could not read this at a better moment. Isla is EXHAUSTED right now and will not nap. I have tried putting her in the crib numerous times and she just wails. She is completely snotty and cannot breathe through her nose, and when she cries like that… I cannot take it. Why are some naps SO easy? And others just awful? I totally wanted it to be textbook by now, where she never cried when I put her down. The nights are the same – probably 80% are great, then there are some nights she is just not ready. Ugh. But let’s be honest here – 3 to 4 hours of naps??? COME AND TRAIN MY CHILD. Hahah sounds amazing.

    • Hahahha. You’re doing awesome.
      We did CIO for naps too… that’s the only way it worked.
      Maybe when Isla isn’t snotty you can try.
      1 hour in the crib no matter whether you are sleeping or cooing… it’s painful, but it works.
      Simon now sleeps minimum of an hour almost every time and we’ve been creeping into the 2 hour nap a few times a week. Averaging about 1.15 or 1.30. You can do it!!!

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