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Thursday, 14 September 2000 19:00

My Daughter Won't Sleep

Written by  Ruth Lockshin
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Q Dear WholeFamily Counselor,

We used to be able to read to her and rock her to sleep to a lullaby tape, then lay her down in her bed. Or, we've tried staying in her room until she fell asleep and then we would sneak out.

Now that she is older we've tried reasoning with her, but nothing seems to work. The three of us get a good night sleep, because she sleeps through the night, but it's not so good for my husband and I who are trying to conceive another child, if you know what I mean.

Is this something she will eventually grow out of?

If you have any recommendations, please send them our way.


- Lisa & Tim

A Dear Lisa & Tim,

Your letter reminded me of our experiences with our first child (we now have four children, ages 9-19). I remember that feeling of dread I had around 7 at night, wondering, will we get her to bed? Will she stay asleep?

We did get past that stage, and even enjoyed bedtime with her and with the rest of the children. What we did was just what you and your husband have so lovingly done with your daughter - we gave in. And we learned to do so graciously.

The first thing that helped me was when someone at a La Leche League meeting mentioned that children under the age of three rarely sleep through the night consistently. Why then did it seem that some of our friends had children who did? It turned out that usually they were lying to us or kidding themselves. Sure, the baby would sleep one or two nights in a row and then when he'd wake up on the third night and the parents would say, "Well, he USUALLY sleeps through. . ." Or they might invent all kinds of reasons why it happened this "one" time - she has a cold coming on, she's not used to the bed at Grandma's, she's teething, etc.

OK, so once we were convinced that not sleeping through the night was normal behavior, we realized we then had to find ways to cope with the fact that no amount of wishing was going to change that. That baby was going to wake up. Fighting with her in the middle of the night was unrealistic. I had already learned to try to avoid confrontations with my two-year old at any time. She could always hold out longer than I could, and we would both be unhappy afterwards. Just like you, I was opposed to letting her "cry it out". It made my hair stand on end, for one thing, and besides, it didn't seem the right way to teach her to care for others when they are unhappy.

My choice was either for me to go to her or for her to come to me. The prospect of getting out of my nice warm bed at night for several more months or years was not attractive. Besides, my bed was bigger than hers. It was around this time, I think, that we spent a night at a hotel with two double beds and realized that we had our best night ever. We went home and bought another double bed. This way I could go back and forth between my warm baby and my warm husband. It proved even more handy when our second child came along. She naturally slept with me, and there was still room for our first with Dad if she felt the need.

My husband and I could use the second bed for intimacy while our daughter slept soundly in the first. More often, we would use the living room couch, floor, or even our child's bed in her bedroom. (With this system, baby often goes straight from Mom's bed into her own grown-up bed, without even needing a crib.) The different locations sometimes even added a romantic touch of the unexpected. As you can see, we did manage to have four children!

And speaking of our children, it's odd now to have those big beds in our room. We certainly don't need that much space anymore, since it's been many years since any of them would consider sleeping with us. They do grow out of it, and now I'm hoping we'll be able to use that extra space for grandchildren, one day!

For more on this topic, go to a La Leche League meeting, or read Dr. William Sears' book Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep.

Ruth Lockshin

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 11:41
Ruth Lockshin

Ruth Lockshin

Ruth Lockshin, freelance writer and editor, was born and raised in Chicago, has a BA in history from Brandeis University and currently lives in Toronto. She was a breast-feeding counselor for 15 years. She and her husband, Professor Marty Lockshin, have four children and a growing brood of grandchildren. She is also proud to be known as the daughter of the late Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, author of Confessions of a Medical Heretic and How to Raise A Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor.

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