Sleeping Routines

One of the most common questions Ross and I consistently get asked is “Is he sleeping through the night yet?”

I hate this question.  I feel like I am supposed to answer it with a specific and expected reply and it bugs me that there is even an expectation that Kale should be. Like, somehow we are failing because the answer is no, he is not. That said, it’s an answer I am totally okay with. I honestly don’t expect Kale to sleep through the night for many months to come and I don’t really care. We didn’t sign up for a baby because we wanted to sleep 12 hours a day.

But then you hear about these babies (who I secretly don’t think exist) who suddenly start sleeping through the night at 4 months or something, and their parents proudly proclaim it like their child is a genius and you and your family might as well be idiots since OBVIOUSLY you haven’t figured out the magic secret yet. 

The answer to the sleep question, in my world, should realistically be “of course not” rather than a simple “no”. 

Kale is 5 months old and breastfed. He’s starting spacing out his daytime feedings to about 3 hours consistently and he has usually two naps a day – one at about 11:00AM and one at about 4:00PM. I’ve been trying harder to get those naps down to a more specific time so that he learns a consistent routine, with varying success. Some days his naps are 30 minutes, some days they are 2 hours, and if he wakes in a screeching sort of way, I can usually tell if he needs to sleep more or if he’s done. He’s truly done a nap when he wakes cutely and I can hear him talking to himself – “guyguyguy” – while he waits for me to come and pick him up and play. 

He gets a bath every two nights (he has my dry skin so a bath nightly won’t work for us) and he usually goes to bed for the night at about 7:00 – 7:30PM and will generally sleep till about 11:00PM before wanting a feeding and then another big sleep until about 4:00AM. He’s usually up at about 6:00AM or so when Ross gets up to work and another feeding and then he joins me in bed. We doze and sleep and cuddle and play and sometime around 9:00AM or so, we get up. I get dressed and cleaned up for the day while he plays and chews on his feet or watches, and then its his turn to get dressed and cleaned up. 

If we have errands to run during the day, I plan them for in between the two naps, and if Ross and I have plans to go out for dinner or visiting, Kale still goes to bed at his normal time even if we aren’t at home, usually in a nest of his same blankets and other familiar things. 

I am trying really hard to find a routine, tweak it, and stick to it and to be patient while we all make that routine a habit that we don’t even need to think about. But this past few weeks has been R-O-U-G-H on both Ross and I – sleeping has not been coming easy to Kale and it is a valiant struggle each and every time. We can tell he’s tired and yet he will cry and moan and screech and struggle to stay awake, his little toaster eyes flying open – PING! – like two pieces of toast popping up to tell us that they are done. 

I’m getting tired of it, to be honest. I’m tired of listening to him and feeling so horrid while he cries and I pat trying to soothe him. I’ve tried doing all the normal things that have previously worked – the patting, the shhh-ing, the rubbing. I’ve also tried simply being quiet and laying my hands on him, I’ve tried putting him down and smiling and cheerfully saying “goodnight baby!” and walking away. I’ve tried singing. I sing a lot of lullabies I didn’t even know I knew. 

Some days nothing works, and some days anything would work. We are all over the map. 

Kale’s been working on some big, BIG milestones lately – he’s now actively rolling about and flipping from front to back with no difficulty and this past week he realized how to get his feet under him when he’s on his belly and push his bum up. I know its only a matter of a few short weeks before he figures that out and starts working on crawling. He’s also still teething – or at least, I think he is. Still no teeth. He clutches at his ears now and then and chews chews chews on stuff when its presented to him and his gums are white. But no teeth have popped through. 

When we were home in the very early days, our midwife, Linda, would say to us when things got really hairy here and there as we tried to learn what Kale was telling us:  “Remember guys, this is Normal Newborn Behaviour“. I keep trying to feel the same way now. This is NORMAL. And I should NOT PANIC. 

I’m resisting googling “sleeping problems” because I am trying really hard to maintain to myself that Kale doesn’t have a sleeping problem. He’s a friggin’ busy 5 month old in the throes of major development. I don’t want to read all sorts of methods for “sleep training” because while I do heartily believe that sleep is a learned skill (just like breastfeeding is), I do NOT believe that you can “train” a baby to magically fall asleep like some pavlovian experiment. I’m resisting asking on any of the online forums I participate in because no one knows Kale the way we do, no one will have the same hunches and instincts about him that I do, and reading suggestion after suggestion after suggestion will only confuse what I already know. 

We have to work through this together, as a family, and we will. I have every confidence that we will. But right now? Ugh, seriously, its HARD to be confident sometimes. Every time someone asks “so is he sleeping through the night yet?” I feel this horrible niggling in the back of my mind that somehow I am missing the boat to dreamland and I really start questioning myself. Parenting has challenged so many things I previously believed about myself. I’m thankful for that, even if I have to remind myself that I am.

13 years ago


  1. This too shall pass! It is indeed ‘normal’ (whatever that means). Don’t google for sleep advice. It will frustrate and depress you. If you need support, go read to hear dozens of moms with the same (or worse) issues and what has worked (or hasn’t) for them. Moxie kept me sane during Wesley’s first (non-sleeping) year.

    For us, naps were easy but bedtime was always hard until Wesley was over a year old. It was when we cut his second nap out, and after he had transitioned into daycare, that his night sleep improved. Now he still wakes in the night, but usually goes back to sleep quickly. Now he even ASKS to go to bed when he’s tired. I wouldn’t have believed that was possible six months ago.

    Good luck!

  2. Georgia started sleeping through at 12 weeks; she stopped sleeping through at 7 months. I get up more times in the night now than I did in the first 3 months of her life! Most of the time all she wants is for me to put her dummy back in so it’s quick and easy but until she can do this herself or she grows out of it I will probably continue to get more and more tired from broken sleep 🙂

  3. Wow! Only two naps a day? Oh man! I wonder if he’s too tired to sleep at night… if that makes sense. Sometimes if Ash is awake for too much during the day, bedtime is an absolute horror and he can’t sleep. He slept every 1.5 hours from 2-7 months, and then we got it down to two or three naps, and then a solid two naps for several months and just now we’re going one one nap a day, and sometimes even that can change depending on what time he wakes up. Ash still needs a good nap (1.5 hours or so) for every three (sometimes four) hours of being awake.

    That question, just like your pregnancy questions (boy/girl, how far along are you etc) doesn’t stop. Baby’s sleep schedules is a huge interest point for other mamas for some reason- I myself am facinated by it. I am still asked, and still ask the question. Ash has never slept through the night, even with a full belly of real food and milk.

    But I hear ya- at the end of the night, you just want that long-deserved break and DAMN if it doesn’t happen when you want it, it can be really, really hard on you.

  4. I have no advice except to say that all the advice I read pretty much had no bearing on Moira and I just trusted my instincts and followed her cues. She doesn’t sleep through the night either and I don’t expect her to but some nights are better than others and now, at 8 months, we have gotten into a bit of a routine at night where she will go down without a fight and then wake up within the next hour screaming, I go in and comfort her and then she sleeps until somewhere between 2 and 4 and then back to sleep after nursing until somewhere between 7 and 8.

    As you know, most of my problems with Moira were in regards to her lack of napping. That is where most of the advice was given – a lot of it was people telling me to let her scream in her crib but I know my girl and I can tell when she is crying because she is overtired and falling asleep or crying and working herself up into a frenzy and is getting further away from sleep. So, I never let her scream in her crib during the day – I just lay down and nursed her and prayed that she would snooze for a bit. Sometimes she did and sometimes she didn’t but still seemed recharged afterwards (seriously – this girl is the Energizer bunny). And only in the last couple of weeks has she started napping and I don’t really think it is because of anything I have done – I think it is just because she is growing out of whatever stage she was in and into a new one. I think being way more active (see soon to be posted photos for evidence) is making her more receptive to having a nap because now when I put her in her crib in the morning for a nap she just rolls over and falls asleep. (For 30 whole minutes! The luxury! Sometimes I get this two or three times a day now!)

    Okay, that totally turned into a novel. I guess what I wanted to say was that I hate that question too but I totally talk about sleep all the time with other new Mums because I’m a little obsessed since Moira didn’t nap for months and everyone promised me babies napped dammit!

  5. The funny (weird?) thing is that nighttime is easier than daytime. It’s like he doesn’t want to nap during the day – there is too much exciting stuff, and despite sticking to the same routine of how I put him down for his naps, the success rate is ALL over the map. I’m LUCKY if I can get him down for two naps during the day, but that said, today was a three napper, all of them short power naps. It’s during the day that things go south. At night, other than that initial fight when its bedtime (and even then its more a show than anything), going back to sleep after a feeding is a dream. Kale also doesn’t seem to want to stay on the breast for comfort at all anymore, and if he’s needing comfort he prefers to suck his thumb or his sucky or my finger than the breast. My breast is more food than comfort for him it seems. Slogan for this month – this too shall pass.

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