Posted by: Hannah | 06/06/2012

enter sandman

I wish I could go back to my 27 year old new-mommy self and explain to her the difference between the sounds of “baby completely awake and finished nap, ready to continue the day” and “baby coming out of REM sleep 45 minutes into a nap that will continue if you don’t touch or disturb him”.

There is a lot of information about parenting, and babies, and mom-stuff, on the internet. Too much. But that 45 minute sleep cycle? Is true and real, and if I never tell another new mom anything I will tell her about that.

I’m still so tense at the sound of a baby crying. Even if it’s just a minor fuss my first instinct is to run and soothe, pat, cuddle, nurse. I’ve had to make myself set an oven timer for five minutes when the baby cries either at bedtime or mid-nap, because no baby will be irreparably damaged by five minutes of non-hysterical crying. Turns out my personal internal timer sends out a happy adrenaline dump at around the two-minute mark – MAH BABY IS CRYING OH NOES!!! – and I wonder if Harry would have been a better sleeper during that first year if I could have left him to try and soothe himself, at least a little.

Nine times out of ten, by the end of that five minutes, Baby G is asleep. And he is my best sleeper, of all three. He goes to bed at about the same time every night. He still gets up to eat a couple of times a night, but he goes right back to sleep afterwards now. He wakes around 5AM and comes into bed with Michael and I, and I feed him First Breakfast in a half-doze while the sun comes in the window and the cat nuzzles the back of Baby’s head.

I’m still tired. I still long for the next night that I get eight solid hours of uninterrupted and worry-free sleep. But I’m not a danger to myself and others like I was when Harry was a baby. I’m kind of blue this week, and my temper is short, but I’m not depressed like I was that first year of motherhood, crying all the time and wondering why I seemed to be failing.

My 27 year old me. She needs a hug.



  1. Sleep deprivation is evil. Evil. And the 45-minute sleep blip is real. My kids were more stubborn than yours, I think: my timer was set for 15 minutes. 🙂

  2. I remember when Eve was a baby, she’d wake up and start crying, and I would intend to pick her up right away, but I would have to do something for Angus first and she’d go back to sleep, which would have me wondering how often I had jumped the gun with Angus. This is part of why the ‘crying does neurological damage’ brigade makes me so stabby.

  3. Being a first time mother is hard, hard work. The sleep deprivation is a very big part of it. I hope Baby G starts dropping night feeds and delaying his first one.

    Since February TG has been waking multiple times a night, and it is slowly killing me.

    Although it’s not anywhere near as intense as anything that first year parenting, I still feel like every new thing AJ does is a big learning experience for me, too. I have so many questions about things, and the other parents seem so much further ahead of the game than I ever feel I am. This being her first year in school there have been so many things to learn for all of us.

  4. It’s the French baby method! – they call it “the pause” and it’s described in Bringing Up Bebe as the reason French babies normally sleep through the night by three months of age. And no baby-care manual I’ve read (and, really, I read ALL of them) has ever said this – to just wait 5 minutes and see.

    • Alison: Yes, this, exactly. Jumping the gun. Making myself crazy. And people – myself most definitely included – not understanding the difference between ‘letting baby have a chance to put himself back to sleep’ and ‘letting baby howl unattended for hours’. Dr. Sears, I am looking in your direction. And frowning.

      Quadelle: Oh, I didn’t realize TG was still having troubles with the night wakings. That’s awful. Worse I’d say than with a baby, because with a baby you expect it and you know it will stop eventually, whereas with an older kid I’m sure it feels very hopeless and extra-frustrating. You have my complete sympathy.

      Bea: I’ve never read it anywhere, either! But it really is the best piece of advice I could give to any new parents.

  5. The 45 minute sleep cycle was the most useful thing I ever learned, and I don’t even have children. I know that if I’m going to lie down for a nap, I need about fifteen minutes to drop off so I should set my timer for an hour. I know that if I’ve got seven hours til I need to wake up, I’ll feel better if I get up in six, or seven and a half. I hope I can remember when faced with a crying infant.

  6. YES! I was explaining to someone one day how I realized that *I* was keeping my younger daughter up by running in everytime she started to fuss. And if I let her got for 3-5 minutes, she would go back to sleep. She was shocked I would let my poor baby “cry it out.” Umm, really?! Glad you are getting more sleep now!

  7. Yes, I remember The No Cry Sleep Solution emphasizing that one a LOT. There’s a difference between “cry it out” and “if the baby cries in his sleep, let him keep dreaming”. Owl has sleep cries regularly so we always give it a couple of minutes. We’ve gotten pretty good at identifying “awake” cries.

  8. […] are not great naps; she’s waking up after about 45 minutes like clockwork, and then she really is in dire straits for a while, needing cuddles and reassurance […]

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