The Saga of Sleep from One Tired Mama

If you follow me on Instagram you've already seen my sleep chronicles documented daily by a picture and a few choice words on the matter. But I have a lot more to say/spew at you about sleep in this household--more than IG can handle. Because what a saga it's been. As always.

In my last monthly post I mentioned that Cecelia was still waking up 2-5 times each night. And co-sleeping had gone from something that worked really well for our family to something that wasn't helping the sleep situation at all. She used to sleep next to me, grunt a bit when she was ready for the boob, and I'd wake up for 0.2 seconds to latch her on then we'd both drift off without even registering a disturbance in sleep. It was awesome. Well, it made waking up 5 times a night tolerable at least, because I didn't even feel that tired. And then she went and changed it all on me. Typical baby stuff, I suppose.

Cecelia decided that nursing in sidelying just wasn't cutting it anymore, and she demanded that I sit up with her in bed and nearly paralyze myself with the extreme positioning of my neck. I started to wonder  if something needed to change. And when she started getting fussy at each of the numerous wake ups, unable to settle back down into a nice comfy co-sleeping bundle of goodness, I knew it was time. I was tired, at my breaking point, feeling resentful towards my sweet baby for not sleeping and my husband for not being able to help at night. But as any sleep-deprived mama knows, it's difficult to find the energy and the focus to do something different at 3 am when all you want to do is get back to sleep as fast as possible.

My favorite, no-fail tool for going back to bed used to be nursing. And in my gut I knew I had sort of created a monster with a wicked suck-to-sleep association. Granted, Cecelia is just inherently cuddly and craves to be touched and held and carried. She is a total mommy's girl by nature and I realize that nursing her back to sleep only played into her tendencies to be 'needy', keeping her from putting herself back to bed without me. But I will say it here: I do not regret one single time that I spent cuddling my babe to sleep. I love the fact that she is such a hug-able, happy kid. I don't think she needs to be independent and sleeping like a grown up just yet, since she is only 6 months old---but I do think she needs to sleep more, for longer stretches, for the better of our entire family.

And the other thing I kept coming back to, when deliberating over what to do: Cecelia has always slept really well for Lori when I'm not there. So she doesn't NEED to nurse to sleep. She does know how to self-soothe a bit. In fact, she was taking most of her naps at home for me without nursing down, so I knew it was even possible for her to sleep at home without nursing. But at night she was only lasting about 2.5-3 hours for her longest stretch and then it was total chaos after that.

So what, then, was the freaking problem? Did she just want to be with mama? Was she cold or wet? Did she really not know how to sleep at night without me? I wasn't sure she was actually hungry when she woke up but it was a possibility. After all, we solved Truman's sleep issues and finally got him to STTN at 9 months when we started giving him a big fat 6 oz bottle at night and then did 'daddy only' bootcamp until morning for a few nights. Only bottles, no nursing, tanking him up before bed instead of letting him nurse and fall asleep right away. It worked like a charm for my number one, so why not number two? But I was hesitant because, well--Cecelia has never let Nate soothe her at night. Nor give her a bottle without losing her freaking mind. Not to mention that sleep wars with a second child means potentially waking up your first child in the next room, which could spell total disaster for the entire family. Definitely a little bit tricky this second time around.

I picked up the book 'The No Cry Sleep Solution' by Pantley and started reading it one afternoon. I had read this book with Truman but I didn't really remember any of the details (probably because I was in a sleep-deprived haze back then, too). As soon as I read the introduction about how the author wanted to find a happy medium between the 'CIO camp' and the 'just deal with it camp' I felt a sense of relief. Like, maybe there IS a way to get her to sleep better without enduring hours of screaming from my strong-willed babe.

I never even got to the heart of the book when she talks about what to do to change things. But on Thursday night I told Nate that I wanted to try a bottle for the first wake up and include him in soothing her down after that. He was game, obviously, as he stared into my bloodshot eyes and feared that his level-headed, well-rested wife would never return otherwise. My other goal was to keep CC in her room all night long and not cave into the lure of co-sleeping. So I pumped before bed, which I hate to do, and crossed my fingers.

She was up at 10:30 and Nate gave her a 5 oz bottle. WHICH SHE TOOK WILLINGLY. This is freaking huge, people. After squawking for 30 minutes she fell back to sleep at 11. Then just 2.5 hours later she was up again and we took turns giving her the pacifier, I changed her diaper, I rocked her and then finally she got pretty ticked off so I nursed her in the rocking chair. She was awake for an hour that time, but did finally fall back to sleep. And then 3.5 hours later, at 5:45am she was up for the day despite my trying to convince her otherwise.

Which means the first night of 'Operation Try Something Different' yielded just two wake ups, although one lasted for an hour and she was up before 6 am for the day. And she stayed in her room the entire night, letting her daddy do some of the soothing. Big time success.

The next few nights were more of the same thing---our plan of attack only included a bottle by daddy at the first wake up, then playing it by ear after that. On Friday night she was up 4 times which felt extra awful when nursing her in the rocking chair AWAKE instead of being half-asleep in my own bed while nursing. Even worse are those pesky 1.5+hour wake ups at night. That is when the devil really speaks to me, just so you know. ;)

Then on Saturday night she went back to just two wake ups. And Sunday night? Freaking ONE wake up and not a single nursing session all.night.long. She technically woke up once at 12:30 but fell back to sleep as Nate was heating her bottle. Then at 2:30 she was up, took the 6 oz bottle from Nate, and passed out. She slept until 6:15 and my boobs almost exploded but it was SO worth it!

One thing I've learned is that I might go 'rescue' Cecelia from her squawks way too soon. Now that Nate can play at this nighttime game he noted that if we just let her talk a bit, she almost always falls back to sleep pretty quickly. I usually go to her after a few minutes, afraid she will wake up Truman with her yells---but she isn't angry or crying or upset, so I guess we need to let her figure it out on her own. If she IS really hungry or mad she will let us know---pretty obvious the difference between, 'Hey guys, is it time to cuddle yet?' and 'GIVE ME MILK, NOW!'. I'm really thankful that Nate is helping me decide when to go to her and when to wait it out.

Now I'm no dummy and I'm way too pessimistic to actually believe she will continue waking up just 1-2 times (or NO times! Can you imagine?). I know that there will certainly be regressions and teething and random horrible nights in our future. But I'm basically just writing this blog post today as a small celebration saying, 'We are making progress! And it is HARD to make change, but it's possible. Follow your gut and try something new.' Yes, that is my PSA for the day.

We are planning to keep up with the bottle at first wake up, some daddy help, and then playing it by ear after that. I don't want to totally cut out nighttime nursing just yet---a little worried about what that would do to my supply and our breast feeding relationship during the day. And also, on the days I work out at 5am I'm hoping she DOES nurse during the night or else I might have to pump before the gym to avoid a majorly painful workout. Not cool. But I guess we'll just take it a day at a time for now. Progress is still awesome and sleep is the best. The best, I tell you!

Because you just read a really long, rambling post about sleep I shall reward you with adorable children pictures. You are welcome.

Yes. That is a baby in a sweater dress and leggings. I know---it's too much.



Loving my girl in blue---this is the day of her 6 month shots. Handled it pretty well, huh?

Miss Grabby is always picking on her brother. He doesn't seem to mind. Yet.



Try not to die over this next series of Christmas jammies. Truman's fake smile and CC's ruffled velour are really too much for my heart:




I am literally OBSESSED with Christmas pajamas, you guys. It's a sickness.

Also, my 6.5 month old still doesn't want to roll. Apparently the Pediatrician isn't concerned because she *has* rolled before but literally only twice. So tonight as she was really getting into it, and I was about to wet myself from excitement, this happened. Poor girl. Complete freaking chaos in this house when Truman and Henry dog chase each other. Piercing screams are totally unnecessary in my book, right?

So that's that. We are sleeping a bit better over here, working on finding our own sleep solution for miss CC. So far so good. Praying she keeps it up, obvi.


  1. I totally appreciate the sleep struggle!! Good job so far - you have made some serious progress!

    One tip that our sleep consultant gave re: night feedings was that it sometimes is best to drop the first feed of the night because if you feed at the first waking, the baby can expect food at subsequent wakings.

    You might not be at that point yet but I thought the tip was pretty helpful in our journey!

  2. Ha, she was so close to a roll!!! Love all the pics, these kids of yours are just too cute, and I share your obsession with Christmas jammies :)

    Oh sleep. Ben has already told me that when the time comes to remove the boobs from the equation altogether that Annie and I will just have to go sleep at my parents house for a weekend. Both of us do have our moments of giving in too early - Luke also WILL. NOT. let Ben soothe him at night (well, probably would with a bottle, but not if no milk is involved!!) so basically if I'm not willing to nurse him we just have to let him go. So glad both of my kids are pretty heavy sleepers apparently and can sleep through the others antics - I do think the only reason for that is because we have white noise cranked in both of their rooms and their doors completely shut! I can definitely tolerate listening to Luke cry far more knowing that Annie doesn't wake up to it, and vice versa when Annie wakes up.

    Good luck - I hope she continues to get better!

  3. Yay for progress!! I'm only 2.5 months into the whole sleep thing this time around and will probably have more of a struggle once the 4 month wakeful hits, but I definitely ditto your thoughts on letting her squawk a bit. I never let Isaac do that - I'd jump in almost immediately. But with Miriam, I give her time to figure it out. I finally understand that there is a HUGE difference between letting your baby CIO and letting them fuss a bit to get comfy and as a result, Miriam is way more adept at putting herself to sleep than Isaac was. It also helps that she has an older brother who could sleep next to heavy artillery and not flinch, haha!

    I hope your progress continues and you get some sleep!

    And a sweater dress with a little belt?? Dying!

  4. Sleep is one of the hardest things to figure out with kids! Glad CC is figuring it out for you! BTW- my daughter had a lot if the same clothes as CC- good taste!

  5. Awesome about the sleep improvements! And don't worry about the rolling A was the exact same! Only rolling from back to belly one direction at 6 m. She had do e others but barely ever. Then about a month ago she finally clicked w the belly to back a d literally does not stop, now she's rolling around all over the crib and trying to sleep on her belly too. I'm actually glad she held out this long bc now I don't worry about the belly sleeping so much

  6. Yay for progress! I'm DREADING the no sleep thing again. But I just keep telling myself that they won't be getting up overnight forever! I think your plan is awesome.

    Also, Evelyn didn't roll over until she was almost 8 months old. Seriously. She started pulling up a week later. CC is so cute and so photogenic!

  7. Glad to hear it is getting better! One thing that worked wonders with my daughter was doing a dream feed before we went to bed. So between 10 and 11pm, we would go into her room and pick her up while she was still sleeping, lights still off, and gently put the bottle into her mouth and she would begin drinking from the bottle. We would then just sit and rock her and she would finish the entire bottle and then put her back in her crib when she was done. This allowed her to 'tank up' for the night and allowed her to keep sleeping so she didn't get all worked up if she woke up crying because she was hungry. My mother-in-law thought we were crazy but this method totally worked for us and our little one was sleeping from 8pm - 8am with a dream feed at 10pm by 3 months. It is definitely not for everyone, but might be worth a try!

  8. Hi Julia, I've been reading your blog since you were in the last few weeks of your pregnancy with CC as I was just a few (6 weeks?) weeks behind you with my first who turned out to be a girl (Sarah).

    I wanted to delurk at the upgrade post but didn't get around to it. I love your blog and it amazes me how much you get done with two kids and here I am, with household help and all still struggling, but yes, it's majorly because of sleep issues.

    Sarah will turn 5 months in a couple of days and is still waking up 3-5+ times every night. She goes back to sleep when I nurse her but I think I"m not feeding her enough so maybe that's why she has multiple wake-ups. I've never pumped, don't own a pump either and we just dumped the pacifier because of nipple confusion, so I guess we can't try the bottle. Sigh.

    Anyway, I'm glad you found a solution. I'm also going to see if not going to her immediately will help. I don't know how to hold myself back yet, though.

    Enough of rambling! Please keep up the blogging, I always keep my eyes peeled on my google reader for new posts from you :)

    Your fan from India

  9. Please tell me where you got that adorable sweater dress for Miss CC! My baby girl needs one if they come small enough.

    Your children are so photogenic. My 2 year old doesn't choose to smile or even look at the camera 99% of the time. Christmas pictures were a joke. I keep telling myself, it's just the phase he's in. Some day this will pass.

    BTW, unsolicited advice- we put rice cereal in the night bottle with baby #1 and he slept through the night from 5 weeks on. #2, although more dramatic about it (female, of course dramatic), also has slept through the night since 5 weeks. Maybe something you could try IF you want to.

    Merry Christmas!!

  10. Got the dress from a consignment store so I'm not sure where it's from--I can check the tag next time she wears it and let you know, though!

  11. Love that little video - total chaos! So close, C!

    I'm guilty of going in to Ben way too quickly, too, but I just always think ugh, I'd rather just nurse him and have him fall back to sleep instead of lie awake and listen to his fuss.

    re: Erin's comment - I SO wish my kids slept through each other's cries but they do not.

    Glad things are getting a little better in your house!

  12. I have no tips and no advice as my little girl is just 4 months old but I feel like I am walking in the exact same shoes as you with your adventures in sleep with Miss CC. I have done so much research and doubted myself so many times in the last month and reading your posts has really been a comfort to me and helped to realize that this isn't weird and this too shall pass. Hope that you continue your forward progress!

  13. I have no tips and no advice as my little girl just 4 months old but I feel like I have walked in your same shoes this past month. I wanted you to know what a comfort your posts have been for me. I have done so much research and stressed and worried that I'm not doing something "right" which has caused us to have this sleep situation and reading what you have gone through with Miss CC has really been such a help to make me realize that this happens, it isn't odd or abnormal and this too shall pass. I hope you continue to move forward with your sleep success!

  14. Oh Julia! It really is amazing how much different it is the second time around eh? I worry constantly that Ben's night time crazies will wake Lily. It is so hard to know what to do, especially at 3am. I made the decision to bring Ben into bed with us a few nights ago (just to try ANYTHING that would get him back to sleep) and it was pretty much the worst night ever. Sigh. I love that even though things are far from ideal you still try and emphasize the positive. Progress is progress no matter how small. I am also glad that Nate is able to help out during the night. I don't know what I would do if Ben would never go to Matt...I actually can't even think about it without tearing up. I said it before and I'll say it again, sleep deprivation is no freaking joke.

    Hang in there mama, they will eventually sleep and all of this will be a (bleary) distant memory.

    Also, LOVE the jammies! I may or may not have taken 300 pictures of the kids already this month, all of them in the 10 minutes before bed!

  15. I'm in love with her sweater dress, her headband and your video at the end. Your commentary is hilarious!

    And your sleep struggles... I'm sorry, but I hope they continue to improve. I like seeing that it's getting better for you!

  16. Oh, I can totally relate. Thank you for writing this!

    We have a red-headed little girl who is 8 months old and she has two older brothers (4 and 2 1/2). Ever since she was four months old and started teething she has been an awful sleeper. The quickest thing that will calm her down is to feed her lying down in bed so we can all go back to sleep as quickly as possible. Some nights are better than others but usually she sleeps for a few hours after we put her in her crib and then starts waking up screaming on and off for the rest of the night. We do orajel, etc.

    We're hopefully slowly making progress. She has two teeth in and hopefully we'll see more soon. Last night she slept through the night in her crib. Amazing! I was on the edge of a breakdown last night so thank goodness for a good night of sleep.

    Of our three kids, the teething was awful for all, but this has been the worst sleep for the longest amount of time.

    I'm glad to hear you are getting more rest!

  17. For what it's worth, your kids are super adorable. Hope your sleep "success" continues. Natasha at almost 7 months old still wakes up once to eat and multiple times because she can't find her pacifier. She also won't sleep in her crib for more than about 3 hours, tops. Good times!

    On top of that she's got food allergies we're trying to work through and is a terrible napper. I'm trying so hard to make sense of it all and figure out how to teach her to sleep better, but I'm lost. Shelby wasn't this hard (and she was no cake walk).

    This, too, shall pass. Right?

  18. Aghhh, sleep. Or lack there of... it's going to be the end of me!

    I pray your progress continues to get better and better!! LOVE her cute outfits!!

  19. Glad that things are looking up for you! We've been dealing with sleep issues with our 1 year old. She got sick about a month ago and we were 100% co-sleeping during all of it. After that she could not fall asleep at all. Even while being nursed, rocked, in our bed, etc.. I finally caved and let her cry for a bit and after that she's been sleeping (almost) through the night. We'll see what tomorrow night looks like but I feel slightly less guilty for letting her cry now that I know she's getting the sleep she needs. I'm always jealous of people who said that their kiddos never had sleep issues and just started sleeping through the night on their own. Definitely not the case in our house!

  20. YAY CC!! I'm so glad to hear that things are getting better in this department. Isn't it terrible that we tend to let it get just miserable before we make any changes? And then when we get a little glimpse of what "could" be, it's like choirs of angels singing! One wake-up is HUGE!! Congrats mommy!

  21. Oh this is all so wonderful to hear. Sounds like you're making so much progress, and honestly it gives me hope. I'm still in that stage where I'm exhausted and annoyed by the situation, but too tired to strategize and change anything. I keep hoping it will just fix itself, which I realize is probably STUPID.

    It sounds like your first step, in getting Nate involved, was the biggest factor, and the catalyst for the most change, and I 100% think that is a fantastic place to start. I know my husband would be game to help out, it's all a matter of me relinquishing some control.

    And THAT is what I struggle with the most with my babies. ;)

    So happy that you're getting some sleep, and holy crap your kids are so dang cute.

  22. I understand the bloodshot eyes, and I have to tell you I am completely jealous. My son is now 14 months old and we are at the same point you are. I have always let him nurse back to sleep (my parents always said you have to let him CIO) but I could never let me babe do that, never!

    Our T is finally starting to go to sleep on his own in his crib as long as someone is in the room. At night he is still waking up 3-4 times and he has started a new "trick" of getting up between 1-3am and wanting to be up for an hour and play *sigh*.

    I appreciate you letting us hear your struggles and your success, because some of them work for us too!

  23. I didn't have to deal with sleep problems till number three, and he shared a room with number two and I was TERRIFIED that three would wake up two. Obviously, I don't know how light or deep of a sleeper Truman is, but one night, I forgot to turn the monitor back up, so by the time I realized the baby was crying, who really knows how long he'd been working himself up. But number two? He barely rolled over. He never woke up, and he really never seemed very bothered by the whole ordeal.

    Anyway. I know it's a risk, ruining a night for Truman, but you might want to give it a shot, just to see if he's a deep sleeper. It might put your mind at ease about letting Cece fuss for a little bit.

  24. How is CC doing with the sleep now? My son is 6.5 months old and I am having a heck of a time getting him to sleep :/ Everyone keeps telling me to let him CIO. I feel like its so harsh ; ( Im one tired mama too! Im glad its getting better for you!

    1. Was great for 2 weeks an the past 2 nights have been horrible. Sorta tried to let her cry for real last night and it only made things escalate and get worse. Hope it's a tooth


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