Your Baby Won’t Sleep and It’s Your Fault!

Tired-Mom-RESIZED A common theme when I read the first e-mail in a one-on-one consultation or when I first talk on the phone with a new client is that the parent feels somehow responsible for the fact their baby won’t sleep and the sleep trouble they’re in. Either they were first time parents and didn’t know what they were or weren’t “supposed” to do or they knew they weren’t supposed to do it, but didn’t know what else to do. The bottom line is their baby won’t sleep and they feel it’s their fault.

This is also a common theme in many of the sleep books out there, too. Many of them make you feel guilty for nursing your baby all the way to sleep or using a pacifier or co-sleeping or not co-sleeping. If you don’t do it their way, you are not a good parent or you have failed your baby.

I’m here to say that it IS your fault your baby won’t sleep. Here’s why:

When your baby was 3 days old, your baby wouldn’t sleep in any way but breastfeeding or with the bottle. You fed him to sleep every nap and night after that until you thought he’d outgrow it.

When your baby was a few weeks old, you decided to try a pacifier and that worked quite well, too, only now your baby won’t sleep without it and you might be running in every two hours to replace it. You started to wonder whether you should be feeding your baby on a schedule or feeding her on demand.

When your baby was a couple of months old, sleep was fine, so you felt like super mom (or dad). Or, sleep wasn’t great, but you made do. Some of your friends might have started claiming their babies were sleeping through the night and you wondered when yours would too. You wonder why your baby won’t sleep through the night, too.

When your baby turned 4 months old, for many, sleep started to go downhill and you didn’t have the foggiest reason why. If you were lucky, you were starting to wonder what it would be like to sleep for more than 6 or 8 hours in a row again. If you were unlucky, 3 hours straight sounded pretty good. If your baby won’t sleep longer than one or two hours, you might have trouble functioning in the daytime.

When your baby was 6 months old, you might have started dreaming about what it would be like to be able to plan activities in the day. You might have dreamed about a baby’s schedule that was almost the same every day or you enjoyed going with the flow, throwing a strict schedule to the wind. You might have started to wonder if your baby’s naps would start to lengthen like other babies you heard about. Some days it feels like your baby won’t nap and won’t sleep through the night.

When your baby was 9 months old, you wondered if your baby still needed night feedings or not because your baby won’t sleep all night like your friends’ babies or other babies you read about on the Internet.

If your baby is now a toddler and hasn’t outgrown the sleep challenges you thought she would, you start to wonder if it is your fault. You realize you’ve helped some habits to remain habits, but haven’t been able to break them, no matter how many things you’ve tried and now that it’s been so long, is it really fair to just let her cry it out?

You see, all of these things are your fault. You became a loving mom who decided to breastfeed to sleep when your baby wouldn’t sleep any other way. You were a loving dad when you rocked your baby to sleep every night when she cried bloody murder any time you stopped. You replaced that pacifier ten times per night, so your baby could get the 12 hours of sleep you heard he needed every night. You sacrificed your sleep to help your baby get hers. That doesn’t make you a bad parent, that makes you a loving parent!

My advice today is to embrace the fact that it IS your fault! You are a loving parent. You did what you had to do to transition to parenthood or to tend to your older children when your baby wouldn’t sleep no matter what you did. This is NOT a bad thing. We all do what it takes when we can barely see straight, trying to figure out how to even be a new mom or dad. We don’t want our babies to cry (or scream as some of us would have it) and we do what we can to make sure we have babies who will become well-adjusted young adults one day. We are afraid we will make a million mistakes (and we will), but there is no way to predict whether you will have a baby who will miraculously sleep all night at 8 weeks or will be rocked to sleep for 5 minutes every single night and sleep 12 hours straight. Did I know I’d end up rocking my son for 2-3 hours every night at bedtime and repeat it every 2 hours later (or nurse him to sleep)? Nope. I did what I felt was right and I don’t regret it for a second.

Nothing is a problem until it is a problem and only THEN do you need to decide to make a change. Only YOU know when that time is and when you have a problem. No one else in your life knows what you are going through every day, but you and your baby. You will know when it’s time.

So, from now on, instead of saying something like you’ve failed as a mom or that you made a lot of mistakes, say something like this:

“Damn right I rocked and held my baby to sleep every night and I enjoyed the cuddle time! But, now it’s time to make a change.”

Ready To Make A Change In Your Baby’s Sleep?

Believe me, I know – I know what it’s like to feel guilty that your baby won’t sleep, and to feel like it’s your fault. I spent countless, bleary-eyed hours trying (and failing!) to get my oldest son to sleep, and wondering what on earth I was doing wrong. But I also know what it’s like to make a change, to do the hard work of helping baby learn to fall asleep, and then to enjoy the “fruits” of that work – peaceful nights filled with sleep!

That’s my story. And it’s why I’m here. It’s why I created The Baby Sleep Site®, and it’s why I have continued, year after year, to devote myself to helping exhausted parents around the world. It’s why I want to help YOU.

When I created The Baby Sleep Site®, I didn’t want to offer one-size-fits all help. I knew I wanted to create customized, personalized plans for families, that would take into account each family’s unique situations and individualized parenting styles. That’s why I created my personalized consultation packages – I wanted parents to be able to connect one-on-one with a trained consultant, who would answer their questions and create a customized sleep solution. These personalized consultations are perfect for families who are tired of trying to go it alone, and who are ready to get a personalized sleep solution that will work.
Click here to see all the personalized consultation packages.
If you do decide to purchase a consultation package, you will be able to get started right away. After purchasing, you will receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. Using that, you will be able to log in to the Helpdesk, fill out your sleep history form, connect with a consultant, and get started on the journey to better sleep!

Lots of people have questions about how the consultation process works, and that’s understandable – the services we offer are truly one-of-a-kind! The resources below should help you better understand how our personalized consultations happen:

I want to end with a reminder. Know this – you are not doing anything “wrong”. You have not “failed”. By deciding to get help for your baby’s sleep, you are not admitting fault. In fact, just the opposite is true – by seeking help, you are demonstrating that you are a loving and concerned parent who is willing to do whatever it takes to help your baby get the rest she needs. And, in my book, that makes you one fantastic parent indeed!

How is it your fault your baby won’t sleep (or wouldn’t sleep)?

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44 thoughts on “Your Baby Won’t Sleep and It’s Your Fault!”

  1. i have to agree with that it is my fault why my 20 month can’t sleep without me being there. from day one our son never slept through the night up until 4 months. then things got better up until 9 months. with both my me & husband working full-time jobs and feeling exhausted from lack of sleep we resorted to what was easiest to calm him down, which was to have our son co-sleep in our bed. the question i always ask myself is was having his crib in our bedroom a mistake? we live in a 1 bdroom apartment so we didn’t have a choice. i couldn’t resort to COI. i find it awful. i couldn’t escape the crying noise with no where to go. but here i am feeling exhausted and frustrated because i spared my son the agony of COI. we’re moving into a house in a few weeks and you can bet i’m going to try to put an end to this!!

    • Hi Rach,
      Thank you for your comment! I’m sorry to hear that you’re having so much trouble with your little one’s sleep. It can be really hard when your space is limited, especially if you and your partner are both working. Many families are able to have the baby in a crib in the same room, but it depends on your baby’s temperament too. My daughter did not sleep well in the room with us, but did a lot better sharing a room with her brother, for example – it really varies! You sound like you’ve given this a lot of thought and I’m absolutely sure you’ve done the best you could for your family. I hope you have great success with sleep work after you move, but if you do need any further help, please do write us! We’d be happy to offer resources for you. Good luck!

  2. Thank you, thank you for this!! This is exactly what I needed to hear right now! Brought tears of relief to my eyes. My little boy is 10 weeks old and we co-sleep out of necessity (like you I swore I wouldn’t do it before he was born) and now I actually enjoy it….to a point. So I started reading some books on helping your baby sleep and so far the only thing they have done is made me feel guilty that I did everything wrong. I’ve spent the last few days wondering how I could have failed so badly at being a mom, which lead me to more internet searches for ways to help him sleep. Not exactly sure how we’re going to do that yet, except one day at a time. So thank you for saying that I have been a loving mom for nursing my little boy to sleep, rocking & singing him to sleep and bringing him to bed with me so I could be a sane mommy! I look forward to checking out more of your site!

  3. I need help. I can only hope some day that I have a clear mind again. My 5 month old is not on a schedule. His dad and I work opposite shifts and I have the baby all night. I haven’t slept more than 5 or 6 hours a night since early in pregnancy! Those 5 or 6 are never straight always broken up through the night. I wake up to any noise he makes whether he is wanting the bottle, laughing in his sleep or having a nightmare or whatever makes him cry for 5 seconds then fall asleep. Some nights he sleeps 7 hours others he is up 3 times in 7 hours! Even if he started to sleep all night every night I would be trying to clean or do laundry while he is asleep! Pushing myself way beyond my limits. The house is a wreck and I have no social life. That smile keeps me going–my angel loves me even though I look like death lol!! Is it even possible to ever catch up on sleep or housework??? Darn I wish I didn’t have to work!!

    • @ Donna – Great! I hope you’ve had continued good nights!

      @ Laura – So sorry that you feel run so ragged! I can relate, as I too wondered if I would ever feel normal again! I would recommend using earplugs, or even better, some white noise for yourself if you are waking at every sound. It really helped for me to get past the same challenges as well as drowns out my husband’s snoring (sometimes). But it is never loud enough so I can not hear by son in the next room. Here is a link to free white noise download:
      While I can’t help with the housework or employment, you should at least sleep better while your baby is sleeping!
      Good luck!

  4. I really needed to read this today. My 10 1/2 month-old is a terrible napper and sleeper and I am utterly exhausted. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    • @ Vivienne-Hopefully you are continuing to follow those great Mom instincts, and sleep is improving!

      @ Donna- I hope things have smoothed out a bit for you, and you are DEFINITELY not alone!

      Good luck!

  5. I am crying right now reading this. I have become so frustrated and I was totally blaming myself. My little guy is a dream and he WAS sleeping great and he hit 4 months to the day and sleep became a nightmare. I’ve read every book and nothing felt right I felt like I was failing him. I’m hoping as I keep going through this website I get insight into why this is happening, ideas on what to do and the confidence to take care of my baby using my instincts which I’ve been trying to remind myself are there for a reason. Thank you!

  6. Wow, a nice way to subtly yank my throat for doing all that I and my wife do! Thanks for the great read! But like most of our respondents said, each child n each parenting is different and unique, what works for one isn’t necessarily workable for others. However, the sleep-thing is a little disturbing for me too. Since birth, my now-seven-month-old has always gone to bed sipping her milk bottle sideways, she sleeps when sleep comes and we take off the bottle (with constant supervision). Now, she sleeps and wakes up about once-twice in the night and has to be mother-fed and drizzles off to sleep. Now, I’m wondering if we’re doing the right thing or not. We tried various methods to putting her to sleep before, but none worked, not consistently, except this style. Now, my main problem is – will my baby outgrow this style??? If not, how do we slowly take her off her preferred style???

  7. Some of the responses here make me gag at how lucky the parents are, others make ME feel lucky. My son is 11 months and I still rock and sing him to sleep at naptime, at bedtime, and soothe him back to sleep throughout the night. He wakes something like 6-10 times a night. He wakes most frequently in the early evening and the early morning.
    I miss my brain. I miss my get-up-and-go, it got up and went.
    He slept in bed with us mostly, until recently, now he sleeps on a twin mattress on the floor and I join him there a couple hours after I go to bed, when I get tired of jumping out of bed to put him back to sleep. My husband works long days and the baby likes to kick him at night.
    The baby has always been a terrible sleeper, also had a lot of reflux problems until about 8 months old. We were taking him to the doctor’s, the pedi’s, and sometimes the ER because I just felt there was something really, really bothering him. Nothing came of it except the reflux diagnosis, which even with meds just helped some. Didn’t fix his sleeping.
    I of course coslept with him because who in their right mind would jump out of bed 10 times a night when you could just roll over and nurse the baby instead?
    I have no idea what to do with him. We tried crying it out several months ago and just ended up listening to him scream for 2 hours, and still going strong when I caved and got him. He’s a real darling, spunky and loving and happy, but nighttime and naptimes (nighttime predominantly) is really looking bleak. I kept hoping, maybe at 6 months. Maybe 9. Maybe at a year…but that doesn’t seem to be happening. I know they say “If you want something different than what you got you gotta do something different than what you did” but I don’t know what else to try. Thanks for reading.

    • Joy,

      My son is 10 months and I’m stuck in the same bind minus the reflux issues. My son started Co sleeping around 4 months after having his first cold. I work full time..ppl said do what works and the only way we all sleep is by Co sleeping. Even then, he wakes 2-4 times per night to nurse.

      My son has always liked motion or to be nursed to sleep. He loves the car, stroller or bouncer but will not go down in a crib. He isn’t sleeping at daycare and my provider seems angry and is committed to trying to get him to sleep in a crib even if it means letting him cry.

      I love my son more than anything. I also love our daycare…I don’t know what to do….I don’t know the answer, but wanted you to know you’re not alone.

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