A friendly resource for women who want to lead better lives

Parenting the child who doesn’t sleep

My son, Oliver, is 13 months old. He is the most charming and handsome kid I’ve ever met, but some days I have to remind myself how much I love him.


You see, Oliver is not a sleeper. My husband and I are.

I need a full, uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep. My husband, Matt, works a lot of night shifts and is rarely home to help in the wee hours.

When Oliver was born, he slept well during the day but was very alert at night. Easy, I thought. We’ll keep him awake during the day so he has to sleep at night. And he did.

But, then, one milestone hit after another, along with an onslaught of travel, illnesses, dogs barking and growth spurts. Everything seemed to wake him up in the middle of the night.

I’ve rocked him back to sleep, I’ve fed him til he passed out, I have co-slept, I have Ferberized him. But, guaranteed, if he wakes up in the middle of the night, he will be awake for precisely two hours. And, then he’ll be ready to start the day at 6:30 in the morning.

Many well-meaning people have shared advice. But, when I talk to friends who have kids in the same stage, they tell me their kids also wake up in the middle of the night… Often. And, that’s the best advice I got, because it’s true.

I think people like to say their kid sleeps through the night as soon as they hit the point at which they CAN sleep through the night. That doesn’t mean they ALWAYS DO. But, it seems as if once out of the baby stage, people forget that their kid also woke up often. So, they have great wisdom and anecdotes, all of which make me feel like a worthless excuse for a parent.

The truth is that I am tired. Really, really tired. I have survived on less than six hours of interrupted sleep for the last year. It’s not natural or healthy to sleep like that. My mind is foggy, everything hurts, and the bags under my eyes are not even disguisable any more.

When my husband has a day/night off work, he often gets the night time duty. But, there is something about being woken in the middle of the night that makes people crazy. Inevitably, if he gets up with Oliver, we’ll have an argument over something stupid – like the order in which you should change a diaper and give a bottle. My sister warned me of this, and though I thought she was crazy, she was right.

The other day when I picked up Oliver from childcare, they were concerned because he had only napped for an hour and a half, where the other kids slept for 2-3 hours. I was like WTF?! That’s an hour longer than he naps at home!

Oliver is so happy. Like, ridiculously cheerful all the time. He is not lacking sleep. He just doesn’t need that much. And, I think that’s okay. I’m exhausted, but there is nothing I can do to change him. So, I’ve changed my attitude.

At night, I tell myself that he will, most likely, wake up for two hours in the middle of the night and then wake up at 6:30 in the morning. I might get lucky and he’ll sleep all night, but I’m not betting on it anymore. To get 8 hours of sleep, I need to go to bed at 8:30 pm. I can choose to do this, or I can choose to live without two hours of sleep and do something for myself during this time. Resetting my thinking has put the control back in my hands, and I can decide which will make me a better person.

And, guess what? Apparently, I’d rather live without the two hours of sleep. I love to experience life… why put that off so I can sleep a little more? I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

From one tired mom who is reframing her thoughts,

For more bleary-eyed reading, check out this hilarious post from a blog I follow. It popped up while I was writing and gave me a much needed chuckle.

10 Responses to “Parenting the child who doesn’t sleep”

  1. Keely

    Well now Im feeling guilty because I choose to go to bed at 830 a lot of the time, sleep is the best drug;)
    That is the cutest face ever you get to wake up to Mary! Thanks for sharing your heart and your realness, love your blog!

    • marylemonwater

      You are obviously smarter than me! I did go the 830 route last night and it was glorious. 🙂

  2. oliviascribe

    Great post! So far I have one of each. I say so far because the good sleeper is just one month old and I know things can change. My 21 month old never slept well, we blamed everything from our habits to sleeping arrangements to room temperature, but the only thing that has worked is time. He is finally sleeping longer naps (at least an hour but no more than 1 1/2) and sleeping through the night more often. Good luck and best wishes for a full night of sleep soon- And for the record, every time I see you, you look fresh and beautiful.

  3. Holly

    My son is three and very similar. Gave up naps at 1 year. Wakes up almost every night. We nicknamed him “the kid who never sleeps”. It is hard! You are not alone! On the other hand, those parents who tell you their kids do/did sleep well might be genuine because we also have a daughter who has slept through the night since she was 3 months old. Really. She can fall asleep anywhere anytime and she can sleep 10 hours straight. Kids, like adults, are different and I believe there is only so much a parent can do to influence sleep habits. They are who they are. We can look forward to the day when our boys will get up and keep themselves busy without waking mom or dad. That day will come!!

    • marylemonwater

      Amen! And until then, a weekend with grandparents might be in order. 🙂

  4. Lindsay

    Thank you for the link! And by the way…I don’t know why, but it does bring me great comfort to know I’m not the only exhausted mother out there with a terrible sleeper (who I love dearly).

    • marylemonwater

      I feel totally the same way! It’s always nice to know you’re not alone… Especially in a sea of people who seem to have everything figured out. 🙂

  5. momocular

    Oh goodness. You have my sympathy. My older son was a horrible sleeper, too, and it took such a toll. (I was in a permanent stupor, I think.) It does get better–but you know that, and meanwhile I know it’s hard! Hang in there.

    • marylemonwater

      Thank you! I am sorry you had to go through that, but am glad to know i am not alone!


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