How To Fail At Sleep-Training Your Baby

When he DOES finally sleep, I do things like give him a breast pad yarmulke, because I am an awesome parent.

My six week-old sleeps through the night.

Ha. Kidding! Drop that pitchfork. I meant to say he cries through the night. He sometimes sleeps during the day, but only on top of me, and especially when I have an urgent need to use the bathroom. They should package Pampers with Depends, I’d buy it. Then I wouldn’t have to frantically poop while singing loudly as my son screams outside in his bouncy seat. (Stress pooping never ends well–they don’t put it in the history books, but that’s what really happened at Waterloo.)


Getting the baby to sleep has become a comedy of errors in our household, because just when we think we’ve pinpointed his kryptonite, he becomes immune. For awhile, all it took to get him to pass out was some time bouncing on an exercise ball that had been collecting dust in my closet. It was all, bounce, bounce, bounce, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Now when we deign to bounce him, blithely turning on the TV and clutching our wine in one hand as if our sweet freedom is all but guaranteed, our son cocks an eyebrow and lets out an bone-rattling shriek that says, “I HATE YOU, I HATE THIS BALL, I HATE EVERYONE WITH EARS, AND I SHALL MAKE MY DISCONTENT KNOWN FOR THE DURATION OF AN ENTIRE EPISODE OF MAD MEN, FOR MY SUFFERING IS TRULY GREAT.”



Without fail, after a few minutes of screaming we are putty in his little hands. Diaper change? You got it. Softer blanket? Of course, sir, right away. Would the gentleman be interested in sampling some artisanal milk this evening? It’s a rare vintage. Yes, feel free to vomit it back onto the duvet. It’s no problem whatsoever. We live to serve you.

When and if he decides to sleep, we take great pains to ensure he stays that way, bending our bodies in unnatural ways and arranging swaddle blankets with the precision and intensity of a high-stakes Jenga player. He often rejects his bassinet, and so I take him into bed with me even though it means I have to sleep on an 8-inch sliver of mattress in a position that makes my pelvis cry.

Recently my husband and I tried to, ahem, revive the romance, but the baby would have none of it. “I AM THE WORLD’S GREATEST COCKBLOCK!” he announced as we tried to put him down. “I NEVER SLEEP WHEN THERE IS INTERCOURSE TO BE HAD! YOU WERE ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX ONLY TO CONCEIVE ME, BUT NOW THAT IS OVER AND IT IS TIME FOR MANY HOURS OF CHASTE NETFLIX VIEWING INSTEAD.”

At least we have twelve episodes of Mad Men left to watch. After that I’m pretty sure the magic will be officially gone.

Luckily, we’ll be too tired to notice.

About Una LaMarche

Una LaMarche blogs at The Sassy Curmudgeon, and writes for The New York Observer, The Huffington Post, and NickMom. She dominates at mini golf, especially after a few drinks, and it is a fact that Tim Gunn once complimented her on her sandals. You can find her hawking blog posts and fetishizing candy on Twitter, and if you really want to feed her ego (which took a major hit thanks to an adolescent unibrow and a penchant for Troll doll earrings), you can become her fan on Facebook.


  1. Diana says:

    My son had trouble sleeping without someone rocking him. Anytime you put him down for a minute he would cry and throw a fit. I finally bought this car seat like thing that would rock back and forth for hours. Once he started sleeping well for naps, then he was a better awake person and then slept better through the night.

    Good Luck with figuring it out, each kid is different.

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  2. Oh gawd, the Little Man was the Exact same way. For four months straight, he screamed every night starting at 7pm until whenever. And he would NOT sleep w/o me in the room. And if he was asleep, and we even thought about sex? UP. UP.UP.UP. And no, I’m not talking about the Big Man there….

    We sleep trained at 4 months. We may have to pay for years of therapy later to make up for it, but for now? We all sleep. Except when his little sister wakes up…

  3. Lulu Carmichael says:

    I know you’ve heard a lot of suggestions. Here’s mine and it worked like charm!

    I wore the same nightgown as often as I could for 1 week straight. It had my sweat, dried breast milk and basically smelled just like me. I put in the crib next to my son “Sparky” and he slept through the first night. I left the nightgown in the crib for a week while I got the next one smelly.

  4. TB says:

    Hahahahahaha! I love this post, Una! At least your misery is bringing joy to many. That’s some selflessness right there.

    Oh, and your baby–he talks REALLY well for his age.

  5. Deb says:

    Just wait till S. is old enough to read your posts! :-)

    I totally get the 8″ of mattress! We slept that way til DS was almost 9 months and there was no more room at the inn. I bet Jeff still gets his full half of the bed though!

    And for what it’s worth, my lad didn’t sleep through the night until he was 13 months and totally weaned from nursing. Once he was denied his ‘midnight vice’ he had no reason to get up in the middle of the night anymore!

    Enjoy mommyhood!

  6. MamaKaren says:

    I spent the first three months of Little Joe’s life sleeping slumped against the headboard with him on my chest. I would wake up just enough to nurse him, then doze back off. He would only sleep on me, not in the bassinet right next to my bed. Those first couple weeks back at work were rough, since he would deign to grant me a sleep schedule that allowed me to be a fully functioning human being.

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  7. Emily says:

    I learned to turn the bathroom fan on when I had to do my ‘business’ and my son wanted to be held. It droned out his wailing and, less stressed, I actually got out of there more quickly….

    Of course now he’s a toddler and while I took a 30-second bathroom break the other day he managed to topple a shelf onto himself (didn’t get hurt, luckily!).

    Good luck!

  8. Emily says:

    just hope that when he’s a little older that when you put him down, he doesn’t cry until he makes himself sick like I did with my parents. They still call me “Puke Baby” because of it, 24 years later…

  9. Becky says:

    My little Miss was colicky. The Graco baby swing saved our sanity. It was the only thing that worked, and still works at three months. get the one that plugs in or you will spend his college fund on D batteries.

    • claire says:

      ‘D’ Batteries, the sleep deprived parents equivelent to a druggies fix :)
      Our swing clunks and squeeks as it was a hand me down from our 1st son (totally got our moneys worth out of the best purchase we’ve ever made in our live, EVER )but Id rather sell my soul to him downstairs than get rid of this swinging saviour!!!

  10. Lisa McKay says:

    Typing this one handed while i feed my own son over here in laos. Thanks for the laugh. Also, there were a few tears. I think they were the surprised tears of those who suddenly feel understood.

  11. Caira says:

    first of all big fan of the blogs especially the baby ones! I have been a new momma for a year now. I did the same things and went through a lot of what you are. You think you are a bad ass and that crying would be nothing, but even if it doesn’t make you sad it takes your heart and gives you a mini heart attack followed immediately by elevated blood pressure and the possibility of a panic attack. I was living on the couch and my husband would find me in strange slumped over contorted positions. I would fall asleep while breast feeding. We did everything we could. Bought all the books tried gripe water tried formula (maybe breast milk wasn’t enough) he didn’t sleep alone for the first 3 months of his life and even when we got him into a bassinet what was the point he would only be awake again in an hour if we were lucky. I can’t remember when exactly I hit the baby wall. My situation may be different, my husband was not hands on at night and he woke early to go to work all day. So there was no “its your turn to get him” it was just me. Anyways I hit the baby wall and just couldn’t handle the lack of sleep and generally no time for us or me. Though it was a hard road we started to just let him cry. no longer than half an hour but we needed him to sleep on his own. The best thing is to pick a routine that works for you now and will work for a while. Even though he is tiny have a little routine and the same bed time every night even when he is awake again as soon as you put him down. My little man still has bad nights and wakes maybe once in the night. Most of the time he goes back to sleep by himself. Anyways, don’t give up on sleep, and it helps to sometimes give in to sleep deprived insanity. I would walk around and babble to myself and just cry like a crazy person. It helped to release some pent up energy. Good luck you will get it!!!

  12. nina says:

    dear una,
    my hubby and I are not sure we’ve read anything that so perfectly captures what our life has been like for the last 14 weeks, right down to sleeping on a sliver of bed while our darling girl sleeps, arms outstretched, beside me. The only thing missing from our version is the fit ball, we bounce up&down on our feet- hello calves of steel! Oh, and I’ve been watching The Sopranos again while breastfeeding (maybe she’ll grow up with a New Jersey accent??), Mad Men re-watch is next up.
    The only advice I have is to live in the moment and be persistent in anything new you try.
    One thing parenthood has given us is a new understanding of Stewie from The Family Guy…
    Good luck, can’t wait to read your next slice of life.

  13. Caira says:

    Don’t know if you have tried but white noise worked wonders for us. it is like being in the womb for them. You can usually get tracks of white noise off the internet somewhere. Hope that helps?

  14. Una,

    I am so right there with you (which is why I am soooo late to this awesome party). I am living for the 12-14 week mark, but not sure things will necessarily be any better by then. Is it bad that I count days?


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  15. Oh. My. Gosh.

    You make me remember those early days from hell. This is why I only had one child. I’m not kidding. Sleep deprivation is not a joke.

    Until they start sleeping through the night.

    Seriously, put down the baby. Let him scream. He’ll be fine (as long as you don’t leave any Cutco knives in his crib). Then go to the farthest corner of the house or even outside and call a friend for 10 minutes. When you arevdone, he’ll either be asleep or he’ll have vomited. But you’ll have had 10 minutes to chat and laugh and pee. Repeat everyday. Until he realizes you mean business. ;-)


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