Sign in

Newborn Sleep is More Frustrating and Chaotic Than You Think

“Sleep my child. Please, I beg you, go to sleep!” (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Take everything I say with a grain of salt because I don’t know shit about shit.

From my very limited experience raising exactly one infant, my battered and bewildered intellect can muster only a single piece of advice that resembles some kind of bedrock principle: Every baby is different.

When it comes to a newborn baby’s ability to sleep, I believe that each little monster comes with their own unique habits baked in (call it an innate ability or a predisposition)… and here’s the thing: it’s a lottery. You get lucky and you get a kid that sleeps well right out of the box — or you don’t. You figure out what kind of baby you got as you go.

I say “every baby is different” not because I’m real big on celebrating the wonderful uniqueness of each and every tiny human… but rather to suggest that if you find yourself stuck in the thick, tar-like morass of baby sleep difficulties, you’ll have to find solutions that work for your baby, your family, your life circumstances, and, crucially, for you.

There is no “right” way to do any of this, there is no authoritative guide, and of course there is no easy way out.

When you start to run into issues with baby sleep, you’ll inevitably find yourself navigating a vast wasteland of mommy blogs, baby websites, and sleep books with terrible cover designs — each feigning an air of authority on all things baby related. You’ll be offered sleep “solutions” that prove to be anything but, and you’ll drink from a fount of unhelpful, unscientific, and often contradictory information.

Take, for example, this article from What to Expect. I ran into this one the other day as I was looking for information on why my baby, Kristoff (not his real name), might be waking up too early in the morning. Under the heading “What causes a baby to wake up early?” you’ll find the typical baby sleep one-two punch: the first sentence instructs us that the issue could be due to either undersleeping or oversleeping (a classic contradiction — super helpful — thank you) and the second sentence drives home how crucially important baby sleep is for a child’s development (oh boy, I better not fuck this up — another serving of guilt, please!)

Baby sleep advice can be frustratingly unhelpful, and the idea that there’s a right way or a wrong way to manage your kiddo’s sleep (especially in the first few months) is just absurd. You have to do whatever helps you get by and double down on the things that you find promote the happiness and sanity of everyone in your household.

There simply isn’t excess emotional bandwidth to worry about whether you’re using the right method, or keeping to a particular regimen, or hitting some platonic sleep target. Parenting is hard enough: you don’t need an additional layer of guilt because some blogger pushing Tide Pods said “It’s so easy! Trust me, this is how you should be doing it.”

I know, I sound bitter. There was no way this wasn’t going to start with a rant.

I don’t mean to suggest that taking the path of least resistance is always the way to go, and I also don’t want to disparage every sleep-related resource out there, but my advice is to take it all (including my own words here!) with a grain of salt. Trust your intuition, and don’t feel bad about doing things that work for your family.

Going into this, I didn’t have a very good picture of what the first few months of parenting would look like. So if you’ve got your first kid on the way and you’re as clueless as I was, I hope that what follows might offer some insight into how vexing and stressful baby sleep can be. My goal here is to set your expectations low… like, really low. Yes, there are parts of raising an infant that are joyful, but there are also parts that are really, truly difficult. In my experience, nobody really talks candidly about the latter parts… but they should.

And so with all my prefacing and caveats out of the way, what I offer below is little more than a recounting of my (and my partner’s) experience dealing with a newborn’s erratic sleep habits. Perhaps in our successes (to the extent that we actually had those) and failures you’ll find some kernel of useful information. As the old people say: your mileage may vary.

Month One: Off to a Rocky Start

In retrospect, the first few weeks of newborn baby sleep were amazing. Of course we didn’t realize it at the time, but that initial period when we had just come home from the hospital and we were still processing the fact that, yes, this was indeed our new life — that time was almost mercifully chill.

Sure, it felt crazy because we were reorienting our entire lives around a baby’s 24-hour schedule. Daytime and nighttime became almost meaningless distinctions as we adapted to a pretty regular rhythm of feeding Kristoff and putting him down to sleep every three hours. That was certainly a huge change from the previous state of affairs and no doubt a full time job, but in our experience the first two weeks were relatively painless and straightforward. Baby went to sleep fairly easily and slept for decently long stretches. Heck, while he was sleeping, we could actually get some sleep ourselves… or get other life-sustaining things done. Wonderful.

But the honeymoon ended all too quickly for us as week three arrived. That’s when the little guy started to get a bit more wakeful… and by week five it was like he forgot how to sleep entirely. Nap times became very difficult, and the length of each sleep session started to shorten. Putting him to sleep and getting him to stay asleep usually took more than a half hour, and putting him in the crib frequently devolved into a desperate effort to bring a screaming baby back from the brink of self immolation.

During this time it felt as though all we were doing day in and day out was feeding the baby and putting him to bed. Play time and time for rejuvenation seemed to inhabit the tiny, tiny slivers in between. This was an especially difficult phase because the baby would actively fight naps despite sleep being the thing he needed the most. The constant battle around sleep quickly took a physical and emotional toll on the whole family.

And here’s the thing: it’s not just the fact that the baby is getting in the way of his own sleep. During the first few months it feels as though virtually everything is conspiring against the kiddo getting a decent chunk of rest: back sleeping probably isn’t all that comfortable for a baby (I sure as shit don’t sleep on my back) but is necessary to reduce the risk of SIDS; sleeping in a crib on a rock hard mattress is obviously not preferred to sleeping next to (or on top of!) a warm human being; baby’s “moro reflex” is constantly (constantly!) ruining what would have otherwise been a flawless put down; and baby hasn’t yet learned to burp, so sleep following a feeding is often sabotaged by grunting and back arching despite everyone’s best efforts to get the damn burps out beforehand.

Getting a baby to sleep is full of trade offs. You can’t follow all the “rules” and also maximize hours slept. It’s one or the other, and you have to find a balance. For example, baby might want to be held or bounced or put in the carrier to get to sleep. You know that according to the terrible, awful book of baby rules that this is a no-no — you don’t want baby to come to rely on these things, heaven forbid! — but at the same time you need to make sure the kid is actually getting sleep… or you risk a meltdown.

And speaking of meltdowns, if our kiddo didn’t get enough sleep (for whatever reason), we’d sometimes find ourselves in an ever-worsening spiral of irritability. Less sleep means less eating, less eating means less sleep, and so on. This sometimes culminated in a terrible day of screaming at the breast and unwillingness to go down (or stay down) for naps.

To get out of this spiral, we couldn’t force him to eat any more than he wanted to eat, so we had to get him to sleep more than he would otherwise do on his own. This meant compromising on some of our principles and best practices, but it felt like our only option.

So, when Kristoff would wake early from a nap, we would bounce him back to sleep and sometimes even let him sleep in our arms or on our chests. It wasn’t exactly uncomfortable for us to play the role of human mattress for hours at a time, and it wasn’t exactly advancing our goal of getting our newborn to be an independent sleeper, but it was a temporary measure that would get us back on track.

Point is: you can alternate between some of the “bad” sleep techniques while also throwing in methods that the baby finds challenging but that encourage them to soothe on their own. You’ve got to find your own balance. Zero need to feel guilty about it.

Month Two: The Futility of a Sleep Schedule

Getting baby on a sleep schedule was not really something we planned on doing. We initially felt like a schedule was unnecessary, a futile attempt at imposing order on total chaos. However, when we started to hit some serious sleep issues around weeks five and six, we turned in desperation to a nap and feeding schedule.

The idea was born out of a book we were reading called Cherish the First Six Weeks (not recommended) which advocates for getting your baby on a schedule from day one. Obviously by week five that ship had sailed long ago, but we decided to see if we could catch up. After all, what’s five weeks in the grand scheme of things?… Right?… Right?

As we implemented a schedule, we did start seeing some improvements in baby’s willingness to nap and in the total number of hours slept each day. It was by no means a panacea, but it felt like a step in the right direction. So we stuck to our guns. Sure, we still had some meltdown days, and sure, the schedule was always a little shaky, but it was working for us… Right?… Right?

The schedule alleviated some of our issues, but it also created new ones. Getting a hungry baby to wait for his next scheduled feeding was — understatement coming — not fun, and it often felt counterproductive to cut a nap short for the sake of the almighty schedule (according to Cherish, the timing of feedings takes precedence over the timing of naps).

We felt like we could maintain the overall idea and intent of the schedule (certain number of feedings, naps of a certain duration, etc) but perhaps improve things by being a bit more flexible with the timing, so we made adjustments where it made sense for us. Of course, as we continued to loosen and adapt the schedule a little bit each week, it eventually faded away entirely.

So much for that idea.

In retrospect, the schedule was probably less helpful than we thought it was. Perhaps it was giving us the illusion of control that we didn’t actually have. I wanted so badly for it to work, for it to solve all of our problems. But it was just one more thing to “fail” at. Before we were just “failing” at getting our baby to sleep. Now we were “failing” at the schedule and “failing” at getting our baby to sleep.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I’d ditch the schedule entirely and just attempt to be a bit more mindful of how long baby was awake for. Another book that we read, The Happy Sleeper (recommended), talks about a “90 minute awake period” in between naps and we found that concept to have way more applicability for us as we moved away from a rigid schedule.

So, in the end we didn’t utilize a schedule for all that long (maybe four weeks tops) and even then we were bending the rules as we went. I personally would not recommend it unless you are the kind of person who is unflinching in their conviction that a schedule is the way to go, and you’re prepared to start on day one. Perhaps then you’d have some luck. My partner and I were not such people, and during the first ten weeks I felt like I was constantly waffling on the idea of a schedule, second guessing myself, doubting myself, and there was a lot of stress that came with that uncertainty.

If the schedule was such a failure, why talk about it at length here? Well, to me the sleep schedule epitomizes the “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality that you can have as you’re trying to navigate the rocky terrain of newborn sleep. As an inexperienced first-time parent (and someone who had previously inhabited a world of rationality where any problem could be tackled with the right tools and enough gumption) I felt like everyone else’s babies were sleeping well, and mine would too if I only did X, Y and Z. I was constantly in search of a solution.

Here’s the thing though: something as chaotic and logic-defying as newborn sleep doesn’t submit to the rules of the rational world. There are no clear answers, no right or wrong methods. Baby has to figure things out on their own, and there’s only so much you can do to help.

So, if I have advice here, it’s to stay flexible, not be too hard on yourself if nothing is working, and know that your newborn’s sleep will eventually get better, seemingly on its own.

Cherish set us up with wayyy too high of expectations, especially for nighttime sleep. We rarely saw nighttime stretches in excess of two hours long until we hit twelve weeks, and it wasn’t until around five and a half months that we started to see stretches of sleep lasting more than five hours. According to Cherish, with the right sleep schedule your baby will be sleeping through the night (a seven hour stretch) by week six. Yeah… right.

High expectations for baby’s sleep (and, by extension, for your own sleep) can add to a sense of defeat when they don’t pan out. And my hope is that, if nothing else, my accounting here of our trials and tribulations dispels any such wishful thinking.

Among the six families in our parenting group, only one had an infant that was sleeping through the night ten weeks in… and, again, it seemed like the little guy was predisposed to do it, a real life wunderkind. It wasn’t like his mom was doing anything fundamentally different than the rest of us.

In fairness to Cherish we didn’t actually implement a schedule until week five, and even then we didn’t follow it with the requisite military rigor. Would things have turned out differently if we did the schedule starting on day one? Honestly, I’m pretty doubtful.

Month Three: Bring on the Catnaps

Sleep hit rock bottom at 10 weeks. That was the final nail in the coffin of our half-hearted attempt at a schedule, and that’s partly because 10 weeks is when baby’s daytime naps had completed their transformation from run-of-the-mill baby naps into mere “catnaps”… which is a cute euphemism for when a baby will nap for no more than 20–30 minutes. Adorable!

When the catnapping first started, we put a lot of effort into trying to get baby to go back down for another stretch of sleep, even if that follow-up stint would be comically short as well. This was time consuming, and often resulted in us forgoing a “proper” put down in the crib for a nap in our arms. Definitely not ideal, but the alternative was an intolerably cranky baby.

At some point, he (and we) just adapted to the catnapping, and 30 minutes became our regular nap length. From what I’ve read among all of my highly respected and very much trusted sources of baby sleep information, catnapping isn’t typical, but it’s also not uncommon. Helpful?

Catnapping created its own unique challenges because it compressed the time that we would have otherwise had to get things done… things like eating, sleeping, cleaning, and just generally spending some time away from the baby. Catnapping also took an emotional toll, at least early on, as we often found ourselves spending longer calming baby down and putting him to bed than he actually spent sleeping. Meet us halfway, man!

Thankfully, while daytime naps started to get shorter, nighttime sleep did finally start to get more robust for us. By 3 months, we were seeing an initial 5-hour stretch of sleep (from 7:00pm to about midnight) followed by a series of 1- to 3-hour stretches of sleep until we started the day at around 7:00am. This of course would vary wildly from one night to the next, but we were pleasantly surprised by the progress we were making. It felt like the holy grail — a full night of sleep — was potentially within our grasp!

Month Four: The Dreaded Sleep Regression

We heard about the 4-month sleep regression. They warned us about the 4-month sleep regression. We knew the 4-month sleep regression was going to be bad… but…

Fuck.

It was fucking terrible.

A little after three months or so, the much-maligned 4-month sleep regression hit us like a fucking landslide. It washed away all of our progress and dragged us into a deep, dark valley of new sleep-related lows we previously never even dared imagine.

The regression lasted about a month, and the worst of the worst days totally broke us. As nighttime sleep shattered into small 30- to 60-minute fragments, the process of putting the kiddo to bed became ridiculously difficult and impossibly drawn out. We kissed our own sleep (and our sanity) goodbye.

Prior to the sleep regression, we had gotten to a place where Kristoff was consistently sleeping in the crib at night and during his naps, but once we were in the thick of things, it was virtually impossible to get him to sleep in the crib. Every transfer from our arms to the crib resulted in a wake up. After a half dozen attempts and an hour swaying with a baby in a dark room, we’d finally be able get him down — only to have him wake up his preordained 30 minutes later. Damn catnaps!

They say that sleep regressions are associated with developmental changes — that baby’s brain is active and growing, and that’s why they can’t sleep. For us, the sleep regression sync’d up with when baby first started reaching out to grab objects around him and with when he started to roll over. Because we spotted him rolling (and found him flipped over in the crib a few times as well) we decided it was time to stop swaddling his arms.

Some parents opt for baby sleep suits when it comes time to unswaddle a baby’s arms. We felt like a sleep suit was tantamount to exchanging one crutch for another. (Not that I’m judging anyone who decides to do the sleep suit — always do what works for you!) We knew we would eventually have to ween him off the sleep suit, so why bother with it at all? It was also the middle of summer, and the extra layers weren’t exactly desired. So we just went for it; we ripped off the band-aid. No more arm swaddling. At that point sleep was already in the gutter, so the added difficulty felt like a drop in the bucket.

So, during the 4-month sleep regression, our painfully difficult nap time preamble now also featured floppy baby arms undermining a surreptitious and tactful transfer from arms to crib, and of course the damn baby startle reflex would find the most inopportune times to rear its ugly head. Kristoff also formed a new habit of flailing his arms at the slightest discomfort, thereby amplifying his own discontent in the process.

All this is to say: the four month sleep regression was truly, mind-numbingly terrible. If you’re embarking on your own voyage through the choppy seas of infant sleep (wait, is infant sleep a rocky terrain or a choppy sea?), I’d recommend finding some time to rest up in the weeks before the 4-month sleep regression… because THERE IS A STORM COMING LIKE NOTHING YOU HAVE EVER SEEN.

Month Five: Beyond the Sleep Regression

They say that you can’t really sleep train your kid before the 4-month sleep regression because all your work will be obliterated (hmmm, yup), but you can start to establish some sleep patterns once you’re on the other side. That made good enough sense to us, and since we already found ourselves down at the bottom of the pit of despair… we figured might as well lay some foundations.

As we worked our way out of the 4-month regression, we started trying to get baby to fall asleep in the crib rather than in our arms. In the past we generally laid him in the crib after he had fallen asleep, but now we felt it was time to try soothing him to sleep while he lay in the crib. This meant rocking him a little bit beforehand to calm him down and then doing most of our nap time routine in the crib, resisting the urge to pick him up. Obviously he hatedddd this idea… but we stuck to it.

During this time, we basically used the “sleep ladder” technique that’s detailed in The Happy Sleeper. This was something we didn’t have a whole lot of success with prior to the 4-month sleep regression, but it actually started to click with us as we began soothing him in the crib. So, after laying baby down, we’d start with some minimal soothing, like resting our hands on his back or his butt. As he began to fuss (and ultimately began crying) we would ramp up the soothing: we’d sing to him, give him some pats on the butt, shoosh him, etc, etc. You know, all the stuff crying babies love.

At first, the maximal amount of soothing that we could offer him in the crib wasn’t enough — he’d still work himself into a crying frenzy. If we took a quick break from soothing then started afresh it would sometimes help, but at this stage there were times when we caved and picked him up out of the crib despite our desire not to reinforce the idea that crying = escape from crib. Doing so was based more on the severity rather than the duration of the crying, and sometimes the crying could go on quite a while. Were we basically doing some home brewed version of “cry it out”? I mean, yeah… There was a lot of crying.

I think what made it easier for us than traditional cry-it-out (or the “sleep wave”, which is The Happy Sleeper’s version of it) is that we didn’t have to abandon the kiddo in a room by himself (a bitter pill my partner was not eager to swallow). In our case, we were actively attempting to soothe him (albeit inadequately) during his crying fits.

Not all of our put downs devolved into a crying tantrum. Occasionally, the little guy would give self-soothing the old college try, and he’d find some success with it. Progress! And in cases where the highest rung of our “soothing ladder” wasn’t outstripped, we actually found it useful to work our way back down the ladder as well. As he began to settle, we’d slowly remove some of our soothing techniques so as not to “over soothe”.

Maybe this is bullshit, but it felt like the “soothing ladder” worked best when baby was right at the edge of his comfort zone. He would cry for 10 seconds, settle for 30 seconds, and repeat a few times before falling asleep. That felt like the sweet spot where we were soothing just enough but not too much — giving him space to work through things and be a bit uncomfortable… without him totally losing his shit. And after a few weeks of using this technique, we found that when we started at the bottom of our “soothing ladder” we rarely got to the top. Our stepping up and down the rungs was happening quicker as well.

It also seemed like consistency was a big part of the progress we were making. My partner and I talked through the details of our routines to make sure that we were sync’d up as much as possible. From how we fed Kristoff his bottle — to the songs that we sang him before we put him in the crib — to the order of the soothing techniques we employed — our goal was to establish a recognizable pattern and avoid any frustration (on baby’s end) that might come with inconsistency.

And eventually Kristoff accepted the crib as the place where soothing happens. He even started to get a little bit better at soothing himself. Putting him to bed got A LOT easier (especially for daytime naps) and nighttime sleep started to improve again. During the thick of the sleep regression our naptime routine could take as long as 45 minutes and a catnap might only last 20 minutes, but as things started to improve the naps started to lengthen (to somewhere between 35 to 45 minutes) and the lead-up started to shorten (to 10 to 15 minutes).

As these improvements took hold, we finally managed to get back to pre-regression sleep levels (at around 4.5 months, more than a month after the sleep regression first started). We would put Kristoff down for bed at around 7:00pm. He’d wake around midnight and again around 3:00am, then every hour or so until 7:00am.

Month Six: The Holy Grail, A Full Night’s Sleep

Over the next weeks, Kristoff’s nighttime sleep began improving rapidly. He’d wake only once during the night (between 2:00am and 4:00am) for a feeding. At this point, baby wouldn’t breastfeed anymore (that’s a story for another time folks) and so my partner and I would alternate who would go in and give him a bottle (of milk, not formula — my partner was pumping basically around the clock) and put him back to bed.

We wondered how we would be able to ween him off of the nighttime feedings, but in the end he pretty much did it on his own. Around five months of age, Kristoff slept through the night — a miracle! We honestly couldn’t believe it, and we didn’t get all that much sleep as we couldn’t help but periodically check on him to make sure he was still alive.

After the first full night of sleep, the trend held and Kristoff’s nighttime sleep continued to get longer, to the point where he would sleep for 10 to 12 hours. It felt like our first big success with baby sleep.

I should, however, mention that this was not at all typical of our cohort. At this point, many of the parents in our parenting group were still seeing five hours of sleep maximum, and some were still struggling with short one- to two-hour fits of sleep. We felt like our newfound sleep success was repayment from the gods (the old gods and the new) for the hell we endured during the months prior. We tried to hide our glee when discussing Kristoff’s sleep with the other parents.

As I’ve said before, I’m of the mind that baby’s sleep habits are more or less baked in at birth, so I’m hesitant to ascribe our good fortune with nighttime sleep to anything that we actually had control over. But in the off chance that something we did actually lead to better outcomes, below is a list of some of the practices we employed. Please please please take it all with a grain of salt.

  1. The “soothing ladder” technique (moving both up and down the ladder) was perhaps the most consequential for us. We read about the technique in The Happy Sleeper, and it seemed to help baby slowly get more comfortable with the idea of falling asleep on his own. Full disclosure: there is nothing to disclose here because of course I’m not getting money from the authors of a book on baby sleep.
  2. We always tried to put baby in the crib. Early on we put him in the crib after he fell asleep; later on we put him in the crib before he fell asleep. Did this help him with falling asleep and staying asleep in the crib? I don’t know, but I doubt it hurt. We were living in a one-bedroom apartment, so honestly we really didn’t have another option.
  3. We put baby to bed in his own room (well, actually, it was our bedroom, but it sort of de facto became his bedroom). He’d sleep on his own for the first stretch of sleep (starting around 7:00pm) and either my partner or I would come in around 10:00pm to sleep in the bed just a few feet away. At five months we stopped sleeping in the same bedroom as him as his nighttime sleep stretched out longer.
    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends sleeping in the same room as baby for the first six months and preferably up to a year, but based on our reading we decided we were okay with him sleeping on his own earlier for two reasons: 1) the risk of SIDS is dramatically reduced after four months of age; and 2) studies have shown that babies who sleep in their own room earlier go on to become better sleepers. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this, and I dare not recommend that you ignore expert medical guidelines. It’s up to you and your family to decide where or whether you are okay parting with the official, science-based recommendations.
  4. Unswaddling baby’s arms was challenging initially, but it ultimately seemed like it gave him more flexibility to change positions and get comfortable. It also gave him the ability to flip over and sleep on his stomach, which appeared to be a way more comfortable sleeping position for him. After month five we started putting him to bed on his stomach. We found that he wound up on his stomach anyway, and starting him off in that position generally made our bedtime put-downs easier.
    Here again the AAP frowns upon our approach and instead recommends putting a baby to sleep on their back until one year of age. So, once more: I’m not an expert and my sample size of one hardly holds a candle to the research (likely involving thousands of babies) that the AAP bases their recommendations on. As with all things baby related, you have to read the literature and come to your own decisions.

Month Seven and Beyond

The extended eight- to ten-hour stretches of sleep that became the norm during month six continued into month seven and beyond. In the back of our minds was always the fear that another sleep regression might destroy all of our hard work and blast us back into the baby sleep stone age… or at least set us back significantly (like, iron age or something), but thankfully we didn’t encounter any such setback. We tried not to take it all for granite.

While baby had weened himself off of nighttime feedings pretty quickly, they did sometimes make reappearances. Usually they took the form of an 11:00pm wake-up accompanied by an itch that only a giant bottle of milk could scratch. All things considered, this wake-up didn’t represent too large an inconvenience for us, and it gave us an opportunity to do a diaper change (to the lovely soundtrack of unhappy baby screaming) in order to avoid an overnight diaper blowout (always preferred).

While Kristoff’s nighttime sleep had become quite robust, his daytime sleep was still fairly anemic on account of the ongoing catnapping. Catnapping was just something we became accustomed to and learned to manage over the months. We developed a George RR Martin attitude about the whole thing: we became content with our dawdling output, stopped giving a shit about society’s expectations of us, and started wearing old-timey driving caps.

Around month six catnaps did start to lengthen from ~30 minutes to ~45 minutes, but that still didn’t compare to the 2-hour plus naps that some of our friends’ babies were getting. It probably wasn’t until month seven that Kristoff’s daytime sleep patterns finally started to change. His awake periods started lasting longer (this became clear when we’d try to put him down for a nap and he would just start playing and giggling in the crib), and his naps started getting longer shortly thereafter.

It wasn’t an overnight transformation. First it started with one nap a day stretching out into 90-minute territory, and then other naps randomly started to follow. Similar to when Kristoff first started sleeping through the night, my partner and I couldn’t believe what was happening and found ourselves tiptoeing into baby’s bedroom to make sure he was still breathing.

And so here we are, seven or so months in, with a “normal” baby on a “normal” sleep schedule. What started out as total madness, seemed ten times worse than anything our friends were dealing with, and had us desperately searching for answers… over time evolved into something ordinary, manageable, and, dare I say, pleasant.

Your experience with newborn sleep may be calm where ours was turbulent (or vice versa) I can’t say it enough: every baby is different. We all end up charting our own courses, and I suspect it’s fairly common for parents to feel as though their experience runs far afield from the baby sleep orthodoxy.

Well… fuck the orthodoxy.

If you’re reading this because you have a baby that’s a less than perfect sleeper (or you’re preparing yourself for that possibility) you’ve got to do what you can. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan. Know that your baby isn’t the only baby that took a match and a bottle of lighter fluid to the textbook. Know that if things get difficult for you, you’re not the only one who’s going through it.

Early on we stressed about hitting the “ideal daily sleep” targets. We fretted about whether the lack of sleep would be detrimental to baby’s health and brain development. The worrying only made our job harder. Who knows? It’s possible that in 30 years we will find out that we raised a mastermind serial killer with a proclivity for food-wine pairings of human flesh and fine Italian Chianti… but as far as we can tell our kiddo seems like a happy, bubbly, healthy baby.

I’m sure yours will be too.

Just a father writing candidly about what it’s like to be a father.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store