“How To” Get Your Baby Sleeping Through the Night

The following is a cumulative review of all of the (unsolicited) advice I’ve received and tried.  Enjoy:

Sleep is an essential element to human existence, and when babies don’t sleep, neither do their parents. Sleep at this point, is merely a construct to me. Something that I used to do, like closing out the bar in college, or jumping in the lake during summer vacations as a child. I remember it fondly, though distantly, and it’s not something I see myself ever doing again in the classic ‘8 hours a night’ capacity.

I would trade limbs, brain cells, and years of my life for a solid stretch of sleep right now. You see, I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding since July 2013. Which means I haven’t slept through the night in 1,663 nights — not that I’m keeping track or anything. My brain functions at half capacity, and that’s when I have caffeine in my system. I can’t remember what having energy is like, although I sure see it pulsating out of my boys. The nights are hard, long, and lonely, and I often feel as though I’m living inside a nighttime version of the movie Groundhog Day. Sometimes I wish there was a fast forward button I could press to get the night, or month, or year over with faster. And then I hate myself for wishing this time away and not feeling more gratitude. After all, they’re only this small once. 

If there is a product out there designed to help babies sleep and ease fussiness, I’ve tried it. Here in this post, my friends, I’ve gathered for you the scientific results of the trials and tribulations I’ve undergone with three boys who have spent the better part of their first years in a permanent state of sleep regression:

The elimination diet:

Is it something you’re/they’re eating? Try cutting dairy from your diet. And soy. Now gluten, caffeine, chocolate, leafy greens, citrus. Better yet, cut everything except boiled chicken from your diet. You will become hungrier and crankier, so will your baby, and they still won’t sleep.

Digestive aids:

These include things like Simethicone gas drops, Colief Infant Digestive Aid, probiotics, Colic Calm, and gripe water. Just like with the passing of time, your baby will eventually pass gas or pass out, regardless of the gas drops. No evidence supports the efficacy of these products, including my own experimentation with these magic elixirs.   

Sleep environments:

Rock N’ Play, Dock-A-Tot, Pack and Play, Co-sleeping. Still. Not. Sleeping. 

Lavender essential oils:

Otherwise known as witch craft. They smell really good, but produced no increase in sleep. 

Prescription reflux medications or Maalox:

You should consult your pediatrician on these. Maybe my babies just didn’t have reflux, since they stayed just as fussy and fought sleep just the same.

The 5 S’s:

I think they teach these strategies in baby classes to give soon to be parents the illusion of control. I remember feeling so confident in my ability to soothe a crying infant before I had one of my own. Instinctively, I have a mom Sway when I walk, and I Shush when I hold my baby on his Side in one of his 10,000 Swaddles while Sucking on his pacifier. So please don’t ask me if I’ve tried swaddling, with the added caveat of how your baby sleeps for 6 hours straight when she wears one.

Bouncing on an exercise ball:

As long as you keep bouncing all night long, this might actually be the most effective strategy we’ve used. 

Prayers:

Please, God, let this baby sleep. Yeah, no difference there. 

Wearing your hair in a braid:

Magical thinking? Maybe, but you guys, sometimes this buys us an extra 30 minutes, I swear.

Only using Elmo faced diapers:

This strategy has been effective in increasing the total amount of time sleeping on a handful of occasions. Why risk having a cranky baby all night with an Oscar the Grouch diaper?

That was by no means an exhaustive list. As for the one sure thing that has led to a happier baby and improved our sleep? Time. And maybe sleep training after they reach a certain weight and digestive maturity. Any amount of control we think we have is futile when it comes to babies. Newborns are their own cute, wrinkly individuals with unique temperaments, uninfluenced by parental behavior. What works for one baby with an easy temperament may not work for the next. Believe me, I’ve read all the books and tried all the tips. In order to get through this time of sleeplessness, you need to accept it. You cannot go to bed each night with the hope of a good night’s rest. You must learn to accept that sleepless nights are okay, and normal, and temporary. Sometimes, I forget how brief this stage really is. So new and so magical, and so so hard!

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