Coming out of the woodwork: do sleep-deprived parents hide in shame? 

Anyone who has read more than a few of my blog posts will know that we’ve struggled with our baby’s sleep, and I felt alone in that for a long time, except for the company of some fellow sleep deprived bloggers who put their experiences in writing. It seemed that everyone we talked to in our real lives had babies who were either natural born sleepers and never needed a lick of support to fall/stay asleep at night, or they were sleep training success stories who cried themselves to sleep for 4-10 nights and forever more were genius sleepers.

But the more I was open about our sleep challenges and the more I engaged in conversation about baby sleep and really listened to people’s stories (especially over a few drinks), the more I realized that a lot of babies tend to suck at sleep, regardless of what bedtime routine or sleep training regimen is used. The problems are different – some sleep through the night but don’t nap, some are bedtime demons but nap all day long, some need to nurse to sleep and others need their parents on a floor mattress with them. Different, but the frustrations are shared among parents with sleep challenges. 

We recently had a sleepover at someone’s house with Avery and their 19 month old. This was the elusive, surely magical baby who would lay down and go to sleep in his crib from day one of life, and who would sleep for 12 hours straight. Or so we thought… These were parents who responded to our sleep woes with detached sympathy and advice that seemed to come from generations before. They really didn’t seem to understand where we were coming from at all. But, after some deep, late night conversation (after knowing them for almost 2 years as parents) we learned that this kid bed shares half the time, and they can only get him to sleep by watching tv until 9 or 10 at night. He passes out from exhaustion in their bed, wired and crazed. Sure, he has never woken up through the night (he never nursed through the night, either), but the fact that bedtime is such a shit show with this kid, this kid who we all thought was a genius sleeper, was SOOO reassuring.

Another friend sleep trained her baby when he was 4 months old. She talks a lot about how it was the best decision she ever made, and it made her baby so easy to care for (if you sleep trained, I’m not saying this wasn’t the case for you). But then I talked to her partner over beers and it turned out their baby still screams in protest at every bedtime and there’s a good 15 minutes of crying EVERY SINGLE NIGHT when they close the bedroom door for the night. They have never given a straight answer as to whether he sleeps through the night or not. 

Another friend revealed to me last week that they have a twin mattress on the floor of the nursery and the breastfeeding mom ends up sleeping there with the baby for the second half of the night most nights.

A person my wife works with revealed, after hearing that we, too, struggle with sleep, that he sleeps with his son in the toddler bed every night. Their son is 2.

These stories all came from friends and acquaintances whom we thought had sleeping angels for kids, either because that’s the story they told, or because we didn’t ask and they didn’t correct us. This leaves me wondering, do sleep deprived parents hide in shame? We never did, but only because I can’t stand feeling alone and my misery wants desperately to find company.

If you have an elusive, surely magical sleeper for a baby, it’s not that I don’t believe you. I just seriously doubt anyone who says their baby is “perfect” at anything  😉 If you have a challenging sleeper, this post is for you. We’re in this together. Your baby is normal. You’re not alone. 

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13 thoughts on “Coming out of the woodwork: do sleep-deprived parents hide in shame? 

  1. We finally have sleep down, for the most part. The first few months were definitely horrible, and I think she was maybe 5-6 months when she started sleeping through the night, but getting her down was hard for the longest time. And naps were a nightmare, unless she fell asleep on me until MAYBE a month ago. She still once in a while fights naps. I try not to talk too much about her sleeping fairly great, because I don’t want to upset people who struggle with it. But I will say, when I was going to the weekly mom group meeting, everyone always said that their baby didn’t sleep, and they thought something was wrong because their friends’ babies sleep great 12+ hours a night. I always told them those people were lying lol. I thinks a lot more people struggle, than have it easy. So hang in there, you’re not alone, and you’re doing great!

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    • I’m honestly really happy for you that sleep is something you’ve tackled and won (honestly, no jealousy 😉). It’s great that you knew to not rub your baby’s good sleep in the other mothers’ faces. But you also deserve to be proud of your kiddo for doing something that so many others struggle with! Way to go!

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      • Thanks! It’s definitely been a work in progress. We’re finally starting to get to the point where I can put her in her crib for a nap awake but drowsy, and she’ll either go right to sleep or roll around for a bit and go to sleep. A couple months ago she would scream bloody murder if I tried something like that!! It’s such a process, for everyone!!

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  2. i feel there is shame and thats because we are become McJudy the minute we hear others kid sleeping woes. Its almost a competition, whose kids sleeps fast and most.
    Ive never been ashamed that my kids co-sleep, that is the only way we all could get sleep. I sleep with my elder son and my husband sleeps with the younger one. Is it ideal? It is for us. All 4 of us are well rested, we dont get snappy at each other often…
    where I am gettig at is its easy to compre your kids pattern with others and feel like you are failing to
    provide/ do something, but its not. you are doing the best you can for your family and thats what matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I love this. “Is it ideal? It is for us!” Exactly. We do what works best for our family, and that’s all that matters. And if we do all we can do and we still don’t get a good night’s sleep, that’s kids for ya 😉

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  3. My daughter will be 5 in February and she still doesn’t sleep through the night. Sad, but true. I’ve stopped telling people because they just think it’s my fault or I’m doing something wrong. I’ve tried EVERYTHING except cry it out, which I am not willing to do, esp not now when she is nearly 5 and would cry for hours if I let her (stubborn!).

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    • Thanks for sharing!! I’ve been wondering how you guys are doing 😊 sorry to hear that nights are still hard, but it’s so good to normalize it for those parents who have tried everything they’re willing to try and feel like they’ve failed. It’s not a failure. Some kids just don’t sleep well!

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    • One of my close friends is a SMBC and her experience is so similar to yours, Lindsay – daughter is now three and a half, they stopped nursing at 3rd birthday, and they still co-sleep a lot of the time, with nighttime wake-ups. I just look at the smart, happy, healthy kid that she is parenting and think, “whatever you’re doing, it’s working!!”

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  4. You know I’m right there with you, with my aching back from the twin bed on the nursery floor. What I’m really wondering at this point is, did I create the problem, or am I navigating normal/natural growth and development in the best way I know how? Like, am I perpetuating the issue by sleeping with her and letting her nurse all these months, or would this “problem” have gone away months ago if I’d been more firm about not nursing to sleep? I don’t know…I continually tell myself that this is all very temporary and that our daughter seems fine, happy (usually?), healthy, attached, and that’s good enough for now. What I do know is that I’m not willing to listen to her cry for 15 minutes or deny her nursing yet. Caffeinated tea for the win….

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    • My belief is that you can’t cause any lasting problems for your kids by being close to them, night or day. In other, more family-centric, parts of the world with slower paced lifestyles, bed sharing is the norm. Baby wearing is the norm. Prolonged breastfeeding is the norm. Those countries don’t spend thousands of dollars on sleep coaches and gadgets and furniture designed to help babies sleep independently. I believe that our cultural expectations and fast paced lifestyle are the problem, not the babies. But I have also worried about the same things you worry about, and I blame that fact that kid sleep issues are often not talked about because everyone wants to have a “good” baby who is a “good” sleeper.

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  5. I really appreciate this post and have always loved your honesty surrounding Avery’s sleep. Silas is not a great independent sleeper but will sleep well when we bedshare and when he’s held for naps. I feel like that is so natural and am luckily coming around and realizing that we need to ignore “everyone else” and just go with what he’s letting us know he needs. He’s only a baby for so long and like you, don’t think that closeness is a bad habit, but somethings that they thrive with having and it helps build security. I feel like sleep becomes an obsession to people and it drives me crazy when the first words out of people’s mouths are “hows he sleeping for you?” as if that’s the most important thing about having a new baby. I’m more overcome with immense joy and fulfillment about being his mother than about counting the hours of sleep I get at night, but they never ask about that. He’ll sleep on his own eventually and luckily my wife is on board with bed sharing for now especially with me nursing. I tell her if she wants him in his own space than she’s signing up to rock him and put him back down after I feed him…. she has yet to take up the offer 😉 I work with so many families who’s babies seem to be so good as sleeping (at night, with noise, lights, in a stroller, car seat, etc…) that it’s easy to get down on myself, but in my heart I know that by following his lead, we are doing what’s best for him. People like to make babies and young toddlers out to be manipulative little humans when it comes to sleep but their brains aren’t quite that advanced. Thank you for posting this and sorry this comment is a novel!

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  6. We sleep trained my son at 5 months old and he was one of those unicorn babies who figured it out quite quickly. In saying that though, he still woke up 1-2 times a night for a bottle and then would be up at 5 a.m most mornings. Eventually he naturally dropped the night feeds and started sleeping a full 12 hours every night. Heaven! However, his napping, to this day has always been AWFUL!!! He’s 2 now and I’m lucky if I get a half hour nap out of him. It’s been that way for a long time. I hear about all of these babies napping for 2-3 hours and the moms getting so much housework and relaxation done while baby naps. For me though? In that half hour I have mastered sprinting around the house throwing laundry on, doing dishes, folding and putting away laundry, cleaning the house all before he wakes up ready to go after half an hour of snoozing. No nap time break for me. I always thought I was totally alone in this napping nightmare, but the more I opened up about it, the more I found out that he’s not the only terrible napper in the group of people I know with kids. Everyone else just creates a facade…pretending that their kid is amazing in all their sleeping ways!

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