Education & Family

Sleep Training a Baby aka The Undoing of Two Adults

How can a baby with so much energy get so little sleep?
Baby Sleep 1
Megan Isennock

“EDIE,” I hear my husband roar from our bedroom. “GO. TO. SLEEP. PLEASE.”

I jump up from my sofa nest, grab a clean bottle from the sink, and shovel in three scoops of formula. Sprinting up the stairs, I make a point to avoid the especially creaky spots so as not to disturb our son, and then realize that perhaps his sister’s wailing is a bit louder than my footsteps.

In our room, my husband is still in bed with pillows over his head, clearly honoring our pact to try “crying it out” for a few nights. I take that as a cue to hold off on adding water to the bottle and crawl in next to him. We lay, not speaking, for 10 minutes. Edie eventually starts sucking on her fingers and her shrieks turn to whimpers, which turn to hilarious baby snores. Newly aware that sheets make noise if a human moves on them, I quietly kick Rob to see if he’s awake and am not surprised to find that he was able to drift off. My wired, tired brain makes the decision to sneak back downstairs and I fall asleep two hours later while my 43rd viewing of Arrested Development blares from the TV.

This is sleep training a baby. Or perhaps, more accurately, this is the undoing of two adults.

We took pains early on to create a good sleep environment for Edie. Our son was colicky and the first two months were rough, but he evened out into a decent sleeper. Not taking into account that human beings are actually quite different from one another, we assumed Edie would be exactly the same. To prepare, we drained our savings and hired a night nanny who would help us survive colic and get us through early infancy. Edie, however, never had colic and slept beautifully during the nights that dear, wonderful Miranda was in charge. Congratulating our foresight and willingness to forgo decent food in the name of sleep, we sent our fairy godmother on her way to help other, more desperate families.

We have not slept a full night since.

Bob Sleep 2
Edie the Party Sunshine Girl. - Megan Isennock.

We call Edie the Party Sunshine Girl: I’d never seen a human smile with their whole body until she came along. She is happy and has tons of energy and always needs to be in the mix and it’s this formula that makes her situation a Möbius strip of wonder—she doesn’t sleep because she wants to hang out but how does she have energy to hang out if she doesn’t sleep? What dark baby magic fuels her?

I can tell you that her parents are low on fuel. We’ve read lots of books and scoured parent forums and asked friends, but nothing has really worked. On our best nights, she wakes up in the middle of the night to eat and then is up for the day at 5:30. On our harder nights, there is a lot of yell-whispering and passive aggressive sighing while Rob and I dissolve into the worst versions of ourselves. One night I slammed the door to our room, but it’s a pocket door so it bounced back open and woke everyone up. On the bad nights, we can’t even be awful very well.

Though I’m confident we’ll eventually find the right sleep advice (or that Edie will turn 18 and go terrorize her college roommate), right now we’re in the weeds. We have really fulfilling, happy moments as a family that are book-ended by one of us falling asleep on the sofa in the middle of making dinner, or having a fight because the other needs to catch up on work once the kids go to bed.

The hardest part about sleep deprivation is the relationship deprivation—right now our existences rely solely on someone we barely have time to connect with. But, we’ve been careful not to wish this time away. In the moments when the fog clears and we can speak with some clarity about our life right now, the good soars above the bad. Our kids are magic and being a parent is so much more incredible than I imagined.

But, oh, how we’d like to get some damn sleep, Edith.