Are you a Bad Mother if you Can’t Make your Baby Sleep?

On sleep, and the measure of a mother…

Jack is nine months old now. And he still sleeps terribly. A good night is two or three wakes that last 10 to 15 minutes each and up about 6.15. A bad night is upwards of four wakes with hour-long wakeful stretches and pre-6am up-for-good starts to the day.

I’m back at work now – I’m freelance so some weeks are busier than others, but essentially I do *some* work every day – and at this stage I’m pretty exhausted.

Have I considered sleep training? Yes.

Have I tried sleep training? Yes.

Have I had any level of success? Not yet.

It seems to be the measure of a mother how well her baby sleeps.

It seems to be the measure of a *baby*, how well they are able to sleep.

‘Is he a good boy?’

‘Does he sleep well?’

Yes, he’s a good boy. (He’s a baby so really his concept of good and bad behaviour is pretty limited at this stage.) But no, he doesn’t sleep well. And actually, I don’t think this is a choice he’s consciously made, either.

And honestly, I do feel like I’m failing because my boy still doesn’t sleep from dusk until dawn without needing me. It’s the first question fellow mothers (and non-mothers) ask – and I always feel like the reply leads to judgement. And advice. Oh so much advice.

Have you tried controlled crying? Have you tried night weaning? How about switching to formula? Have you tried pick up put down?

Don’t get me wrong, I eat it up. I listen to every nugget of ‘Oh this will definitely work for you’ information, squirrel it away in the tiny sleep-deprived space in my overcrowded brain and then read around the subject on an endless trail of mumsnet, babycentre and blog pages in my wakeful, broken nights.

But I’m drowning in it. I no longer know why I can’t do controlled crying or which methods don’t work for separation anxiety. I don’t know whether I accidentally mixed up my pick up put down technique with another school of sleep training, wasted five days and nights of crying and confused my son out of a good night’s sleep.

Am I a bad mother because I can’t make my baby sleep? Or do I just feel like one? Or am I just really, really tired?

*First published 16 June 2016*

UPDATE: March 2017. About a month after writing this, I did the Dana Obleman Sleep Sense program that a friend recommended to me. Despite continuing to battle on with early mornings (right now we’re in a good phase) he’s slept through pretty much every single night ever since. If you’re in the thick of it, just know that it will come to an end. And although it’s hard, try and enjoy the middle-of-the-night feeds and cuddles. You might even miss them one day. 

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4 thoughts on “Are you a Bad Mother if you Can’t Make your Baby Sleep?

  1. I want you to stop telling yourself you’re failing. Instead I want you to replace it with I can do this. Failure is that evil word that runs through my self talk. I know that failure would be no longer trying, but I will never stop loving my kids and trying to raise them well.

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