How NOT to Punch People When Your Baby Does Not Sleep

punchWHY is it that when you have a baby who does not sleep everyone else you meet seems to have a baby who does sleep?

Don’t get me wrong. I think it is great. I am honestly happy for these people.

I don’t even mind when they tell me about it.

Which they do.

Every time I see them.

And that is fine.

Sometimes they are even kind enough to give me hints and tips on how to get my baby to sleep.

But as grateful as I am for their advice (usually delivered with a sympathetic head-tilt), it occasionally makes me want to punch them in their smug, fresh faces.

This is not good. I don’t want to be the kind of person who mentally assaults perfectly pleasant people.

So from now, when a lovely well-rested parent informs me that little Wilfy has been self-soothing his arse off since he was three weeks old or suggests a sleep-method I simply must try, I shall smile and share with them the joy of living with a ‘sleep-thief”.

Here are a few (tried and tested) examples:

(PROBABLY WELL-MEANING) SMUG PARENT: I have such a good baby – she goes to sleep as soon as I put her in the cot.

ME: My baby is good too! She likes to sleep on me so I get a lot of cuddles. There is just nothing nicer than feeling your baby’s heart beat in time with your own, don’t you think?

SMUG PARENT: We are so lucky with our baby boy! We can take him anywhere and he just sleeps in his pram the whole time.

ME: We are lucky too! We can take our baby anywhere and she will stay awake the whole time gaining valuable stimulation and interaction. She is so alert and entertaining!

SMUG PARENT: My baby is so clever. She sleeps though the night and she is only four months old!

ME:  Awesome! As she is so clever, she could write a book and call it “STUFF NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT’.

SMUG PARENT: My baby sleeps all night  and has hundreds of naps during the day! We are truly #blessed.

ME: My baby never sleeps so we get all that extra time with her. WE are #blessed.

SMUG PARENT: We can’t complain; our baby sleeps all the time! 

ME: Oh you poor thing, that must be so boring. My baby doesn’t sleep much but  I didn’t go through ten months of pregnancy and childbirth just to stare at a bundle in a Moses basket.

SMUG PARENT:  What’s wrong with her? Maybe she is teething or hungry?

ME: She is teething and hungry. In fact, that is the problem. She is so hungry she keeps eating her teeth. She is so clever.

SMUG PARENT: My baby is fantastic, when she wakes up at night she simply soothes herself to sleep.

ME: My baby is fantastic. She likes me to soothe her to sleep. Which is great because one of the reasons I had a baby was to have something cute to cuddle.

SMUG PARENT: My baby is so good! She goes to bed really early giving me plenty of time to go to the gym and burn of that baby weight.  

ME: My baby is so  good! She is helping me burn off the baby weight by letting me carry her around the house about 24 hours a day! In fact, I think I am fitter now than I was pre-pregnancy!

SMUG PARENT: Oh you let her sleep in your bed? You are making a rod for your own back. She’ll never sleep on her own.

ME: Never, really? NEVER? In that case I had better get a bigger bed. It is going to be a bit of a squeeze when she is 18.

SMUG PARENT: Have you tried putting her in her cot, turning out the light, shutting the door and leaving her to cry?

ME: Err…no, because I quite like my baby.

SMUG PARENT: You really need to start sleep training.

ME: Oh I am sleep training. My baby is training me NOT to sleep through the night.

SMUG PARENT: Maybe you need to wean her? 

ME: Maybe you need to wean this ↓

SMUG PARENT: Oh should you really be drinking coffee if you are breastfeeding? The caffeine might be keeping your baby awake.

ME: If don’t drink coffee I won’t be able to keep myself awake.

SMUG PARENT: You look so tired!  

ME: Thank you!  Eye bags are the new black. Well-rested is so last year..

SMUG PARENT: You should sleep when the baby sleeps.

ME: No, I should PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE when my baby sleeps.

PARENT: Do you put her down drowsy but awake?

ME: (I am afraid an actual punch to the face is the only response to this question).

Babies who do not sleep get a bad press. We tend to refer to infants who sleep a lot as ‘good babies’, while those of a more wakeful disposition we often label as ‘hard work’.

I say we change that.

No more counting the days until our little ones Sleep Through The Night. No more crying into our coffee because we have been up since…last week. Instead, let’s put on our best pyjamas and cherish every last tiring, wonderful, draining, glorious, frustrating, challenging, waking hour we spend with our exhausting, little angels.

Bad sleepers are the new ‘good’ babies. Spread the word.

Eye bags are the new black. Pyjamas are the new skinny jeans.

Sleep-deprived is the new stylish. Today, I start the revolution!

Actually, make that tomorrow. I am too knackered.

More hot tips like this in my book  Sleep is for the Weak: How to survive when your baby won’t go the fzZk to sleep.  Available from book shops or a delightful hardcover copy  is on Amazon  UK now for just £7 – if you are Christmas shopping! or Amazon US if you are in the United States!

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107 thoughts on “How NOT to Punch People When Your Baby Does Not Sleep

  1. Up while the baby is sleeping because my body is buzzing from being touched all day and night- googling “co-sleeping is killing me” and found your post. I’m crying from laughing so hard- I might just be hysterical from lack of sleep but this is a real belly laugh and it feels good !! this is soo funny, you are perfect and amazing thank you

  2. I have 2 non sleepers (thankfully the 3yo grew out of it! Still trudging along with my bed-sharing 1yo) and have always answered ‘yes’ to the good baby question. I didn’t realise bad babies existed?! Lol. Thanks for a refreshing take on it!

    • No they really don’t exist! My 3 yo has grown out of it too thank god. At least we know there is a light at the end of the tiring tunnel!! Thanks for reading!

  3. I’m joining you in your revolution! Sign me up! This is the best thing I have read since having my baby 4 months ago. So sick of every second person asking me if my baby is sleeping through the night yet, followed by is she sleeping during the day when I reply no, to which I also reply no. Not that its any of their business. Totally hate those people whose babies sleep through the night (and those that sleep during the day for that matter). I am definitely going to use your comebacks. Pure gold! As a new first time mum, I am so glad its not just me in this situation.

    Emily-Jane, you are my new hero! I stumbled across your blog while googling “why wont my baby sleep” and after reading some of your posts, I no longer feel alone and no longer feel like I am doing something wrong because my baby didnt start sleeping through the night at two weeks. I have now subscribed to your blog and look forward to future posts. Keep up the excellent work and thanks for making me feel less alone!

    • Thank you so much! The best thing about starting this blog is hearing from so many amazing parents in the same boat as us! I used to think my babies were not normal. Bring on the revolution!

  4. Thank you! That is so funny! My mum has said both of those things to me.. God I am always mentally punching my own face..I annoy myself on a daily basis thee days.

  5. HILARE! Especially the bit about filling your day with baby sensory & cooking AK! People are ‘so’ helpful arent they, with their useful tips & comments. My mum (love her) comes up with the most unhelpful tips for me & helping my baby sleep sometimes ‘oh em, her rooms too dark’ ‘she needs more toys in her cot’ … errr thanks mum. Mental punches to my own face often required. Brilliant post XX

  6. I love this post! Feels like my “good” baby is being nice to me tonight. First wake up at 4am! I feel so refreshed haha. She’s 10 months old and waking usually at least three times a night. I’ve gotten so sock of people’s advice. I DoD try letting her cry it out – with the help of a midwife. HAHAHA. Even professionals can’t get my strong willed baby girl to sleep. Lol And people who say “Now that she’s crawling she will sleep so so Minh more”. She sleeps less. I think she’s laughing at the advice givers.

  7. Love it! I try teally hard never to use the words good next to baby. Mine was a good baby he just hated sleep. Great comebacks.

  8. I just finally got my sleep hater off to sleep (on my tummy) and the laughter reading this article Apple her up again. When will I learn!

  9. A mental ‘high five’ to you! Yay for a hilarious article and for redefining ‘normal’. In any case who wants to be normal anyway, boring! Nice to know I’m not alone with a baby that wakes frequently during the night and loves to be held A LOT. They grow too fast and I’ll try to enjoy these moments & see the funny side along the way. Thank you! ☺️

  10. Oh the memories. I had a non-sleeper too and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, told me to sleep when the baby sleeps. The only way I could get her to sleep at all was to put her in the car and drive around — but then she’d wake up within 10 minutes after getting back home. She’s now 11 and does sleep in her own bed (and has for a long time now), is more mellow and occasionally even takes naps. Never thought I’d see the day. The baby that did sleep all the time (now 9) has more energy than the rest of us combined, all.the.time.

  11. Its completely random – first child did not sleep at all until she was about 7 as far as I remember second child came home from hospital 12 hours old went into a basket in our room and 9 hours later we woke up to the sound of – silence. “Sh** – he’s dead. You look at him” “No – you look” etc. There he was still sleeping – and it just continued every night – into bed straight to sleep, wakes up at 7.00 no problems. Imagine how absolutely awful it would be to have the other way around – smug parent of first born “oh little X goes straight to sleep” thinking it is all down to you, then the non-sleeping baby from hell arrives 2 years later…

  12. Omg. I. Hear. You!! Gone on 4 years of next to no sleep. I actually stopped talking about my two not sleeping through the night. My 19 month old has slept through the night a grand total of once. And my 4 yr old. Maybe 10 times. It’s getting harder to count now so might be improving (although the last time was last September) Ahhh. We have 4 in the bed most nights. Everyone sleeps better (well maybe not mummy, because somehow daddy sleeps through anything – a trait I oftentimes wish his children inherited!!!!). But I discovered an excellent trade off for non sleepers. When they are sick and wake up often, I don’t notice. Coz…..they don’t wake up more often lol. Ah. Thanks for your awesome blog

  13. I love this. My baby sleeps sometimes, other times she does not. When people ask me if she has a sleeping schedule I simply reply that my daughter is a baby, not a train. Just like her mummy, sometimes she has a good sleep, other nights can be rough. But when she is restless and keeps me awake, I absolutely LOVE our cuddles. She is a super energetic baby that hates being still so those sleepless nights are all I have in the way of cuddles. Again, love your blog.

  14. Oh dear. I wish you’d been around seven years ago when my daughter wouldn’t go the f*ck to sleep. She still hates sleep, BTW 😉 These are brilliant!!

  15. My middle child was like this. I couldn’t let him sleep in the afternoon, as it made it worse at night. The truth was he just didn’t need as much sleep as ‘normal ‘ babies. We gave in and he slept with us quite happily. But getting him in to his own bed was another story.. ..By the time he was 4, and fed up with waking up to find him in beside us, I decided to be firm and take a stand as school was fast approaching. So I would put him back to bed again, and again, and again… Eventually he realised that if he went to Dad’s side of the bed I wouldn’t know, so he just climbed in that side from then on ! We would awake to him being there with no memory of him disturbing us.
    Fortunately in the next 6 months he grew out of it.
    ‘They ‘ say it is a sign of intelligence, not needing much sleep, and certainly my son was very advanced for his age. He has done well in life, but there again so have my other 2 who had read the baby books and knew how to behave ! LoL
    Enjoy all that sweet smelling, snuffily, cosy cuddling ladies.

  16. Oh I needed to read this today! I’m currently holding my 10 month old little sleep thief so he’ll take an effing nap! He was a little tired & emotional after having sat up in his cot from 6:30 – 9:30pm last night, wide awake playing with his dummy then finally falling asleep (another hour & half later!) for a whole 6 hours when I dragged him into bed with me & he could jam his head under my chin & prevent me from moving all night! Got to love ’em!

  17. How comforting and empowering! Wish I could hand this out on fliers to all the people who have judged and gloated! As a first time mum you start to doubt and wonder is it your fault they don’t sleep, are you spoiling them with love – NEVER!!
    My 10 month old has never self soothed and will stay up 24 hours a day if you had the energy to keep up with him! He is the happiest and cheekiest little chatter box, talking to everything and everyone, especially himself! his big blue eyes and toothie smile are everything I yearn to wake up to each morning and it makes me teary to think one day he won’t want to snuggle with mummy any more!
    We need to not be ashamed of our sleep sharing and continue to promote it’s normality through society to try to remove the judgement tag that our babies are all little preprogrammed robots that should conform; we need to love, nurture and cherish them and value their individual needs.
    I love my adventure monkey to the moon and back and I know when he’s older hanging out with daddy I’m going to miss sitting in front of the tv, breastfeeding and snuggling and knowing that no one else can ever have this moment xx thankyou xx

  18. This just made my day! I have 15 month old twins and they haven’t slept through the night in about 6 months. I feel like this is the exact conversation I have with family and friends. This is my life and I love it! Thank you! 🙂

  19. I agree with it all! It’s perfectly brilliant. I had a sleep thief too and I would tell myself that she knows I need an extra cuddle at 4am and has woken up to give me one LOL It gets so much easier if you accept they won’t sleep and just go with it. Luckily I am a book worm so got to read lots of books through the night, each chapter was a cliff hanger so I was keen to get back into it when she woke up. During the day I ate cakes so I had the sugar to carry on 😉 She was my first so I only had to worry and her and me, my partner gave us both that space. I did have a ‘friend’ who’s baby slept through the night and had a four hour afternoon nap, she would often complain how tired she was. I averaged 4hrs broken sleep in the first 6 mths.

  20. Love this post!! Made me giggle but also glad I’m not the only one who has these thoughts. The amount of times someone has told me I’m making a rod for my own back by cosleeping or cuddles to sleep I’ve lost count. He’s only little for a short while then he won’t want my cuddles to go to sleep, or probably cuddles at all for that matter. Xx

  21. Great post!! It made me giggle but also so relieved I’m not the only one who has these thoughts. I’m definitely going to use some of these the next time someone uses one of these lines. I love cuddles with my son, the amount of times I’ve heard I’m making a rod for my own back it’s untrue, he’s only going to be little for a short while, then he won’t want cuddles to go to sleep, or probably cuddles at all for that matter. Xx

  22. Yes! Eye bags are DEFINITELY the new black in this house! There have been so many times in the last eight months that I’ve looked into the cot at some ungodly hour thinking ‘make the most of it, you won’t be needed to soothe him back to sleep forever’ as a way of making it bearable … Maybe I should be saying this out loud to the millions of people asking if he’s a good sleeper.
    Just what I needed to read x

  23. Thanks for great post. As a postpartum doula, we share the same philosophy!
    I provide overnight care for new parents so they can get a few nights of uninterrupted sleep. In the morning the parents are so grateful and thrilled to see their beautiful baby. I get to cuddle their newborn all night long. 🙂

    • Oh my that is a brilliant service! I had no idea there was such a thing. If only i had known about you with my first baby when i really struggled. These days i am a hardened sleep deprivee!

  24. love this!!
    My sleep hater is 15 months (tomorrow)! 15 months + No sleeping= horrible, horrible things. I’d come up with something more clever, but you see, I haven’t slept in 15 months & my brain barely functions anymore!

  25. It was a tough one to call but this has to be my absolute favourite of all your posts – it’s perfect.
    I tried to write something about smug sleeping show-off parents a while back but I sounded way too bitter!! Anyway, now I don’t need to – I am joining the revolution and firmly crowning my son with a ‘good’ hat.
    I have no idea why people feel the need to shout about their little Jack self-soothing his arse off, but next time they do I will be ready and armed with a number of replies!

    • Thank you so much! I really tried not to sound bitter or insult anyone..because people generally do not mean to offend us ‘victims’! So admittedly – there were a few comebacks that got deleted! I just felt it is unfair that our babies get deemed as bad. All babies are good babies. The revolution is ON!!

      • You didn’t sound bitter at all – well apart from the mental punching in the face 😉
        I think most don’t mean to offend, but I swear some do. Aren’t we meant to share the bad stuff and stand in solidarity? Not the good bits? Or have I got it the wrong way round?! again… Damn bitterness 😉

  26. Love, love, love, I am also joining the revolution! I have an exceptionally good baby, who has never slept through and has never been too keen on daytime naps either, certainly not in a cot. She is awesome 🙂 As I like to tell people, we as adults like company at night, so why should a small defensively baby not want to have company. seems perfectly natural to me!

    • That is a good point. It is deemed perfectly acceptable for us to co-sleep with our other halves- as grown adults! So totally understandable a tiny baby would need that extra security and comfort too.

  27. Great post… Realistic …. Well done you, and yes, it does pass way too fast… My kids are long grown, but my grandchildren are benefitting from co sleeping till it suits them, and slings, and being loved and respected soooo much. So proud… Hang in there!!

  28. I was that smug advice giving parent with my first, he was a fantastic sleeper! I put it down to my super parenting skills, no CIO in our house but happily went to sleep in his cot every night at 7 waking once for a feed and drifting back into peaceful slumber until 7am, I was such an amazing parent, I had all the answers! Cue baby number 2. The non sleeper oh my fricken god have I had to eat my words, I eventually gave up on the cot. We now “co sleep” but a more accurate term would be “co wrestle” bed time is a 3 hour wrestling match of forcing him to nurse, grabbing his foot and dragging him back onto the bed 50 times, try to stop him crawling over me 20 times until I wear him down and he falls asleep usually with boob in mouth. I then try to ninja roll away which usually takes a minimum of 4 goes. It then takes me about 2 hours to get through the dishes as he continues to wake and I continue to go back in and try to get him to sleep again whist yes vaguely staring at the wall telling my self that one day he won’t want cuddles.
    My comeback to all the “helpful advice” I get is to say “I appreciate your advice but what would be more helpful if you could come over and watch him whilst I have a nap” sends people running every time.

    • I am with you on the co-wrestle thing. Only now (at 23 months does she actually calm down and sleep within half an hour of being in with me) Ha ha I like that response to advice!!

  29. Oh how I loved every bit of this !! THIS… This is mothering. Meeting your child’s needs not when it suits you, but because it helps them. Because they need you. Looking for the good things in these hard moments makes mothering a fine art. Oh your so lovely to share this. Mothers need to know this. I have stood many times by a cot a rocked and swayed and cried because “other babies are sleeping in their cots all non demanding and stuff”. So THANK YOU thank you thank you. I have two “good babies” that wake thru the night and sleep f all thru the day! Xx

  30. Brilliant! Why oh why didn’t I find your blog when my three year was sleeping so little I thought I would never sleep again?! When I got my first six hour stretch when he was 20 months old, I immediately got pregnant with my 2nd son. Waaay too many nights were spent on his floor every hour. Nursing, cuddling, crying … Now when people tell me that my 8.5 month old shouldn’t be co – sleeping I just laugh … because I only have to wake up once every night! And I love the cuddles. The closeness. They grow up too damn fast as it is.

    • Sounds familiar! My eldest is three now and sleeps in her own bed happily these days so I rarely get night time cuddles with her any more! However, my little one always ends up in with I am just enjoying the closeness and extra sleep while I can – as I know it’ll pass oh too soon! Thank you.

  31. Can I be the bitch who tells you my boy went to bed last night at 21h00 … woke up at 05h15 and drank his bottle … went back to bed and woke up again (all smiles) at 07h15!!! The only reason I am brave enough to tell you is because I have not slept in 6 months!! Today I can conquer the world! (Hell, it might have been my last sleep for the next 6 months!). LOVE your blog!

    • Ha ha! Thanks! I am glad you told me! It sounds like you deserve a bloody good night’s sleep. And I love to hear there is light at the end of the tunnel – rather than about those little magical babies who slept from day one! I do genuinely hope he continues to sleep better!! x

      • The next night he slept from 21h00 till 07h30 … oh I am getting the hang of this parenting thing … obviously I jinxed myself cause ever since then he has been waking up every hour on the hour…

    • I remember being so surprised when my DD slept through for the first time that it was me that woke up in the middle of the night – I had to get up to check on her just to make sure she was OK (she was). She didn’t sleep though consistently until after her second year molars came in – but after 6 months her sleep did improve to waking up just twice a night – down from about 6. Goodness that was hard. Keep strong! Now she is 7 and I can’t get her out of bed in the morning…

      • I know what you mean – my little one had a rare night of sleeping until 4am last night but I was awake the whole time. I think my body clock must be a bit buggered!

  32. My 2.5 year old just loves her “quality time” with mummy all night long. I keep telling myself that every extra cuddly night might be the last so cherish it while you can as you never know its the last until its gone…….but all that really happens is I find myself staring blankly at a wall wondering which room I’m in, and why! Love your post xx

  33. I can’t tell you how happy this blog makes me. My sleep thief is only happy when he has a human mattress and we’ve tried everything to stop this from being the case. I’ve resigned myself to no sleep and lots of baby cuddles!

    • Oh, you better join my revolution then! My eldest grew out of it (on her own!!) by the time she was two. Now she is three, always on the go and I do miss the cuddles..
      Although, I now have baby two up all night every night to make up for it…

    • my children are now in their 30’s and between then i didn’t get much sleep for the first 8 years of becoming a parent. they weren’t sleeping with me at 18, are lovely responsible women and I have 3 grandchildren who aren’t partial to sleeping o their own either (karma). I love the positive spin put on this situation and still want to punch smug faced people who told me 9 tell me and look at me with false sympathy).
      they had goods sleepers and somehow my childrens dispositions was my faulty parenting

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