Baby sleep

New mom: My baby won't sleep!

What's a sleep-deprived mom to do when her newborn won't close her eyes for more than three hours a night?

I can't take it anymore! I'm freaking exhausted. My baby's bedtime routine is killing me—all three hours of it. Every. Single. Night.

My husband travels for work, so I'm usually solo parenting during the week. This has been going on for a while now, and I've more or less got the hang of it, so I can't really complain. Plus, I get to spend most of my waking hours physically attached to my baby girl, which is wonderful because she’s the best cuddler ever.

Except for bedtime. Bedtime is a whole other mind-numbingly painful ballgame.

Bedtime for us starts around 5:45 p.m., just as it's "supposed to," according on every parenting book, article and sleep trainer manual I've read. Per these super useful articles, a baby should be asleep by 6:30 at the latest, to allow them to all the rest they need. While they were informing other babies about this particular rule, my kid was off picking her nose or something.

Our routine goes like this: I give her a nice massage which she really enjoys, sing her songs, give her a warm bath and get her ready for her dinnertime feed with a couple of readings of Goodnight Moon in between. That's when things start to go south.


Now this kid is a good little eater, so if she had her way, she would guzzle back eight to 10 ounces of milk as fast as humanly possible. The problem lies in what happens afterward. She is completely unable to sleep until every single, tiny burp bubble has made its way out of her system. Which takes a really long time.

Naturally, because of this winding issue, we don't feed her everything all at once. I literally sit with a stopwatch on my phone, letting her feed for two minutes, and sit up/ burp for between three and five minutes. Then feed her again for two minutes, burp for five, and so on. Then, halfway through, I walk her for anywhere between 10-15 minutes, sit her up in my lap again, hoping for as much of the feed to settle as possible before continuing.

Once we finish the feed, I walk her for half an hour, which is agony on the back and arms, but whatever. By this point it has been almost two hours, a hundred tiny burps have escaped and she's asleep in my arms. The eternal optimist in me always thinks, "Maybe tonight will be that magical night that she will stay asleep! And I'll eat dinner before 10 p.m. and I'll be able to get the house tidied up and be in bed at a reasonable time! And all will be right with the world!"

It's easy to be delusional when you're dizzy from back spasms.


I put her down and tiptoe out of the room and head downstairs. Inevitably, less than five minutes later she's up and fussing in her crib. I head back up, hoping she will quiet herself back down, but soon enough it's an all-out wail. So up she comes again, more burps, more hiccups and various amounts of spit up ensue. Some days, just to mix it up, I'm treated to a spot of projectile vomiting. Always fun.

By this point, all my intentions of being stern and putting her back in her crib drowsy but awake—like the sleep trainers say—have gone out the window. I just want it to be over. She fusses, wriggles and squirms in my arms and I'm mostly holding on while trying not to trip over the cat in the dark. She burps some more, and falls asleep again. I put her down.

She's back up in five minutes or less.

I pick her up again, she fusses, she squirms, I hold on. Wash, rinse, repeat. I try not to cry from frustration while bouncing her to shake whatever last vestiges of gas remain loose. She burps some more. Falls asleep. I put her down. She wakes up again. And so it goes on. By this time it's usually well past 9 p.m.

Finally somewhere between 9 and 9:30 p.m., she falls asleep for the final time. Then I get to do "me time"—namely eat some food, clean the kitchen, express milk, do laundry… you know, the really fun stuff.


Now I know this isn't normal. It might be reflux. It might not (the doctor isn't sure, so we were given a medicine after a perfunctory checkup that lasted less than five minutes. The medicine made her vomit out her nose, so that was helpful). It might just be that this kid hates going to bed, despite being exhausted by 7 p.m. Maybe I need to hire a sleep trainer, or a night nanny or a damn hypnotist. I don't know. I'm too tired to think.

And I get to do all this again at 3 a.m.

Roma Kojima is a first time mom of a tiny, wriggly girl. Aside from muddling her way through new parenthood, she loves to cook, travel, and obsess about leather purses she can’t afford. Follow along as she shares her journey.

This article was originally published on Oct 20, 2014

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