A letter to the mum whose baby doesn’t sleep

Sleeping baby

Dear Mum,

It’s not your fault your baby doesn’t sleep. I know you sometimes think that it is, that you might be doing something wrong, but you’re really not. I’m going to bust a myth that still gets bandied around like true fact: some babies sleep and some babies don’t. Think of it like a baby sleep lottery – some parents get the winning ticket but millions of others don’t. It’s luck of the draw. The way the cookie crumbles. Life, etc etc.

I know that you spend lots of time hitting Google looking for reasons why your baby won’t sleep. And the answers are confusing: silent reflux, reflux, hungry, too hot, too cold, wrong crib, wrong sleepsuit, wrong blanket, too early bedtime, too late bedtime, not enough of a routine, the wrong routine, a wonder week, growth spurt… the list is endless. It’s exhausting, even if you had just had a full nights’ sleep, which you haven’t – not for a good few months anyway.

Please know that it’s not your fault your baby is awake at 3am. When you’re pacing the floor at 2am, wondering if there’s something wrong with the way you’re looking after your baby, the answer is no – you’re doing a great job. Just because your baby wakes and your friends’ babies don’t, doesn’t mean you’re any less of a brilliant mum. It’s just that baby sleep lottery thing again. 

I know you’ve tried everything to make your baby sleep. I know how irritating it is when you’re showered with advice from people whose babies did sleep. It makes you want to shout I’VE TRIED THAT ALREADY!

I know you’ve tried rocking, self-settling, a strict bedtime, a non-strict bedtime, a bottle before bed, breastfeeding to sleep, dummy, no dummy, propping the cot up at an angle, co-sleeping, white noise, lullabies, baby rice, a feeding schedule, feeding on demand, book after book after book… all to no avail. It’s not your fault that none of this is working. Not. Your. Fault.

At 3am, when you’re desperate for sleep and your baby has already woken countless times – sometimes only settling for a few minutes’ at a go – I know that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get some rest. I know that you’ve read all the safe sleep advice and all you want is for your baby to sleep on her back, in her cot, but that you need sleep and no amount of safe sleep leaflets are going to persuade your baby to sleep like that in her crib. So you bring your baby into your bed, or lie her on her side, or get your partner to rock her, or leave her to cry or do whatever it is that you feel you need to do at that time of the dark, dark night in order to get just half an hour of sleep. At that time of the night, when you’re feeling slightly crazed and emotional through lack of sleep, just remember – YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB.

I know that the health visitor’s “All babies are different!” mantra is no help right now. I know that you want hard, solid answers for exactly what is causing the lack of sleep, and how to fix it. I know that you might know exactly what is causing the waking but still not found the answer to how to solve it. Just because you don’t know the answer does not mean you’re failing. You’re doing a great job and you WILL get there in the end.

And, at 3am tonight, when it feels like you’re the only one in the world who is awake and you just want to cry through exhaustion, remember – you are not alone. There are millions of us around the world all doing the same thing, looking for that winning ticket to the baby sleep lottery.


Another Knackered Mum




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  1. Rachel says

    very well timed, this post. I’m approaching the end of my third week out of four with my husband working away and my 5.5 month old has been waking every 2 hours in the night until the last 2 days when he’s barely sleeping for a full hour. I don’t know which end of the day is which. And my nearly 4 year old tends to wake with a cold/lost teddy/nightmare during the rare stretches of sleep he does have. So reading this just now doesn’t fix my insane sleep situation but it does provide me with some comfort. Thank you xx

    • says

      Oh Rachel I know it’s no consolation but I know EXACTLY how you feel. My 5.5 month old woke at least ten times last night and my four year old is currently asleep in our bed after a bad dream. I dread going to bed as I know there’s no point – I won’t get any sleep tonight anyway! x

  2. says

    Excellently put Molly. I had/have a 2yr old who has only ever slept through the night about 10 times in her life up until her baby sister was born. Now I’m still getting little sleep! I live in hope that one day we’ll crack it and I’ve certainly given up searching mr google for answers to this.

  3. says

    So, weird thing. I’m usually pretty laid back about my baby’s sleep or lack of and try not to do that thing where I try to work out why, but I read this and suddenly had tears in my eyes. Agree with every word. Solidarity tired Mamas!

  4. Emily says

    We too are going through this at the moment. We make progress then we are back to square one. I know we will sleep one day until that day caffeine is the answer!! X

  5. vicky says

    I have a ten and a half month old who is not sleeping through I thought he would be like my daughter and start sleeping through at 4 weeks old boy was I wrong every baby is very different

  6. says

    Thank you for writing this post Molly! Boo slept through at 5 weeks but Bean is the opposite! She’s completely unpredictable and has never slept longer than 5hrs- and that has only happened a couple of times- I’m exhausted! It’s so much harder with the second as well- my tolerance is a lot lower because I know there’s no chance of a rest in the day! ???? hopefully one day we will all sleep again! Xxx

    • says

      Baby Girl is 6 months now and I can count on one hand the number of times she’s gone 5 hours in the cot on her own. We’ve given up now and she just comes into the bed with us. It’s the only way we get to sleep at night!

  7. Pia says

    Hang in there, all of you. They do sleep eventually. It may seem like it will never come but it really does, honest. One day, like me, your non sleeping babe will be 15 and you will yearn for the non sleeping days and the just-me-and-baby 3am snuggles. When I was going through the 24 hour screaming baby routine, I never imagined I would ever say that! My second slept like a dream….during the day…..when my then 2 year old would be awake. That was fun 🙂

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