When your baby doesn't sleep at night

Carlotta Cerri
Salva

We’re not sleeping much at night. Very little, actually. All these long sleepless nights, made me understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. It takes away all your energy, all your thinking functions, your liveliness. It puts you into a vegetative mode. It really sucks.

But there’s one thing that sucks even more when your baby doesn’t sleep at night. Not knowing why. Why, why, why isn’t my abby sleeping at night? He had a few good nights, proving that he IS capable of sleeping almost through the night. So why on earth is he not doing it every night?

Good thing that everybody seems to know the answer to that. Teething. It’s always teething. Or it can also be a few other things.

It might be gasses.

It might be because he ate too much.

It might be because he ate too little.

It might be because he slept too much during the day.

It might be because he slept too little during the day.

It might be that he’s cold.

It might be that he’s hot.

It might be separation anxiety (which might happen around one year old or before or after).

It might be sleep regression (which might happen between 8 and 10 months or before or after).

It might be a developmental phase (which might happen every time they learn some big stepping stone, so every day from  when they’re born to 3-4-5-6 years old?).

Although, it’s probably teething.

One thing I know for sure, though. You’ll go through all the possible solutions. Keep your baby up during the day. Let his sleep as much as possible during the day. Feed him more. Feed him less. Turn up the heat. Turn down the heat. Blinds up. Blinds down. Lights on. Lights off. Put him in a sack. Change the mattress, the duvet, the sheets. Give him—not me—drugs for teething pain. Put music on. Anything.

And most likely, nothing will work like magic. Because he’s a baby and the truth is babies usually don’t sleep through the night. And actually, babies who sleep through the night don’t exist. Some while ago I read an interesting (and funny) article “some babies sleep often and easily, establish predictable nap schedules, rarely fuss, and poop unicorns. Most babies are not so easy”.

There are babies, though, who will wake up after every sleep cycle (1/1.5 hours) and then soothe themselves back to sleep, so it’ll feel like they sleep through the night. Mothers who “My baby sleeps through the night” either don’t know this or they should just keep it to themselves.

This chart that I recently found here explains babies’ sleep cycle very well.

From around 6 months onwards, babies remember that when they go to sleep you’re there, and when they wake up you’re not (it’s called object permanence) and their sleep cycle will look more or less like this: the stars represent when they’re awake, the middle line when they’re in a light sleep, but they don’t wake up. Then some babies, the minority, will wake up to then soothe themselves back to sleep (these are the ones who also poop unicorns, by the way ;-).     Credits: Precious Little Sleep

The only thing I know is: it’s a phase. Wondering why doesn’t change anything. Looking for solutions neither, although this can make us feel less powerless—and, who knows, something might actually work. But truth is, it’s useless to fight it. Babies go through phases and when they’re ready to sleep through the night, they will.

The best thing that we as parents can do is to follow the child. Accept the situation and mentally prepare for what it can be a very, very long phase. Rest when you can, sleep when you can, go to bed earlier, and every evening go to sleep thinking “tonight we’ll all sleep well”. Some nights you might just as well be right. Good luck!

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