Every tree limb overhead seems to sit and wait, while every step you take becomes a twist of fate.
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road...

If you are new to our adoption blog please take a moment to scroll down to the archives at the bottom of this page and start with July 2009 post "Watershed."



She slept well in Ethiopia. Two full naps each day, at least two hours each. We would do a bottle and holding then pop her in the Peapod once she was asleep and go about our business. At night she slept from 6:30pm-5:00am with two wake ups.

The serious sleep problems began on the flight home when she showed us that she could keep herself awake on adrenaline for 20 hours at a time.

Our first week home she was jet-lagged and that was a blessing because naptimes were easy and long and nighttime wake ups were easily forgivable. And we were more awake in the middle of the night anyway. We noticed she was waking up more often and staying awake and upset (even as we held her) much longer but we assumed it would improve.

Five days ago it began. The BIG SLEEP PROBLEM.

It began to take 40 minutes or more of walking, rocking and holding to get her into a deep sleep. Then after putting her in her crib she would wake up anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes later howling and screaming in anger. (Not crying - screaming.) Naps became non-existent and I would spend 2 hours trying for morning nap and 2 hours trying for afternoon nap only to be completely sweaty and exhausted myself with an overtired and angry baby on my hands at the end of it. Nightime devolved from 3 wakeups lasting 10-20 minutes to 10 or more wake ups with at least two lasting an hour or more.

The night before last she stayed awake screaming in our arms from 1am-3:30am. She fell asleep for an hour and woke up for good at 5:00am SCREAMING.

We have been confused, frustrated, desperate. We have googled. We have emailed friends for help. We have traded off nights. We have tried to bring her into our bed where no one gets sleep. We have held through kicking, hitting, and biting. We have tried total darkness. White noise. Calming music. Baby rescue remedy. Warm baths. We went to the doctor and got antibiotics for a very light ear infection. After reading someone else's sleep post on a blog I tried praying over her and for her. Desperate prayers for deep sleep.

Nothing made it better. It got worse and worse and worse with the grand finale the night before last. Yesterday neither of us was functional. We were falling to pieces and so was she.

Confession. Last night we tried the cry it out method. Not recommended for adopted babies. Controversial for some. Not in my parenting plan (which involved cozy story times, snuggling in the Ergo, and co-sleeping) whatsoever.

Last night she refused to go to bed after 40 minutes of rocking. She was so wound up from being sleepless for so many days that she kept herself awake in our arms until 9:00pm. Crying, laughing, hitting, bouncing and sticking her fingers up our noses. (Sooo much fun.) We tried bottles. We tried singing. We even let her get down and play for awhile which only increased her adrenaline surge.

Finally I had her in a deep sleep. Then I put her down. Three times she woke up immediately upon touching the crib mattress and went from deep sleep to full angry scream in .1 second. On round three I confess. I was ready to throw her out the nursery window. Or something like that. I could feel my hands tightening on her little raging body in a less than soothing way. No matter how much empathy I feel for her. No matter how desperately I want to ease this for her. I just can't be a good mother on so little sleep.

I had to put her in the crib, turn on the monitor, close the door and walk away. Her howling was pure torture and I thought it would kill me. I sat on the couch and listened to her. My biggest fear was that this would go on for two hours or even more. But after 20 minutes it was just periodic baby swearing in our direction. And after 30 minutes it was a very infrequent grunt of anger. And at 35 minutes she was fast asleep.

She woke once and we changed her diaper and soothed her right back to sleep.

AND OTHER THAN THAT SHE SLEPT ALL NIGHT. Until 6:20am. And she woke up happy and giggling and hugging us. Not a care in the world. And. no. screaming!

So I confess. We went against all advice and conventional wisdom to save ourselves. And it worked. And now she is 45 minutes into morning nap and still sleeping soundly.

This is such a long and boring post for anyone reading without a sleep issue baby.

But to me this is a big day. It is the first morning I feel functional and it is the first morning we are cheerful and have hope that we can actually make it another 17 years of parenting this child we love.


  1. Both our social worker and our pediatrician who specializes in adoptive medicine reminded us to keep this in our tool box as a parent. And both reminded us of the dangers of parenting under exhaustion, physical, mental and emotional coupled with sleep deprivation. I am so grateful for her and for you two to have slept last night. Everything is so much more manageable with rest. SO HAPPY.

  2. YIPPPEEE KI YAY!! This is such great news! Everything looks better in the daylight and with some sleep under your belt. I pray that it is just the start of many more restful nights to come!! MUCH LOVE!

  3. Oh, I am SOOOO glad that is working for you! I know what it is like to coming "this close" to doing something to your precious child that you know you would regret later, only because you are going on lack of sleep!

    Our first daughter was adopted from South Africa at 6 months old, and she didn't have trouble sleeping until a few days into being home, either. And I never thought I'd do the cry it out method, but I ended up doing it anyway! The first few days were torture for me, and I had to turn on my music in my headphones to absurd volumes to drown it out, but that is the method that worked just excellently for us! Of course every child is different, but that is what our daughter needed us to do, somehow. Now she is 2 and a half, and is the best sleeper I know. Willing to sleep anywhere and everywhere, sleeps through the night, wakes up happy, and is a generally joyful, people-person kind of girl.

    So yes, it's a hard and controversial method, but for some kids, it just works. That's the way I see it!

    -Katie (American in Sweden, married to a Swede, with daughter E from Joburg and daughter S from Zimbabwe, positively adopted)

  4. Been there, done EXACTLY the same thing. Which was, for us, exactly the right thing.

  5. I thought I was reading an entry in my own journal with this post Amanda. We have been through exactly the same thing with both our boys (minus the adoption of course). Glad to see everything is going better. We will continue to pray for you all!

  6. I KNOW it's going to sound patronizing -- but I am so proud of you for doing what you needed to do, and going against the grain. We used the same method for B and E. Best thing I ever did. They are both world champion sleepers. Did not use for S bc we assumed she'd be our last kiddo and I "didn't mind" rocking her to sleep -- we are now paying the price, BIG TIME. T has a very structured night time routine and down he goes. He's a big thumb sucker -- which definitely helps! So happy to hear good news ... was admittedly worried after seeing your fb update yesterday!

  7. Oh, Amanda! I SO understand. It was sooooo against what I thought I believed in, too. Until I had a baby who didn't sleep. And we rocked and sang and swaddled and were CRAZED people for THREE flippin' months. Then my dear sweet husband every-so gently (read: We're doing this or we're getting divorced) suggested we let her cry. We did. And she cried. For FIVE minutes. And then fell asleep. (sometimes 10, sometimes 15) But she would FALL ASLEEP. My theory? We were over-stimulating her with all our rocking and shushing and she really just needed to be alone.
    I'm just another mom out there saying, I'm SO glad this worked for you. I know that it is controversial. To that I simply say, you are a MUCH better mother when you and your child have rested. Cheers!

  8. I love that your a mom now!!! Puts a big smile on my face.

  9. soooo ben there w/ our Ethiopian -born daughter. I am unable to parent when exhausted so we decided that in our house night time is time to sleep and day time is time to love and bond, peroid. Good for you for getting what you need! And the first weeks and months are overwhelming, hang in there!

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  11. Good for you We had to do this with Kiya for naps. She refused to take them. I hated every second of the crying but it worked. One week later we had no more sleep issues. Kiya always slept well at night but oh those naps the first weeks home. I hope the sleep continues.

  12. Sometimes you can't move forward until you move back... perhaps that was her little step back. Rest- Get all the rest you can now- cause I promise you- all things - especially ESPECIALLY sleep related, continue to morph and change. Teg still gets overstimulated easily and he will stimulate himself (scratching eyes- poking fingers- the best is when he tries to get me upset/hurt cause that is EASY stimulation for hime). Sadly I gave in and took too long figuring it out early on. Good for you guys! Get some rest

  13. We suffered from sleep deprivation for more than two years (not sleeping more than 4 straight hours). You witnessed some of it with Pablo and Camilo. Crying out or the softest version of going to the baby's room every X amount of minutes was the thing that worked. The key is to be CONSISTENT and CALM.

    Sometimes you think that the best way for our kids to sleep is being held and cuddled (nursed in my case) by the mom or dad, but sometimes they just need to be left alone, to soothe themselves to sleep. Once they are able to do it, then sleeping becomes so much easier. Still teething, walking, sickness, etc might disrupt sleep and makes some nights hard, but they become exceptional or at least with a logical explanation.
    As said, in almost all my comments: welcome to motherhood.
    The boys are still waking up every day at 5 am (DC time), so if you need to talk at weird hours, please call.

  14. I am glad you recognized that it was time for the cry it out method. I have always sworn against it and still have hardly had to really do that. But when I feel myself losing control and getting angry, then I let M call our for me and cry until she falls asleep. It's a "tired" cry and not an "I need you" cry. I can hear the difference now that I have known her for 7 months. But, same thing, she would not be sleeping if I didn't do it. It lasts for about 5-10 minutes but used to last up to 20 minutes. Usually it's about 3 minutes now and she's out good and waking up very happy. Anyway, YAY for you both! Well rested and ready to love on each other. :)


  15. Our pediatrician told us that you must do what you did or you risk causing the child harm. Our second baby had extreme colic..oy...would mot wish it on my worst enemy..and I had to let him CIO many times!
    I think you did the exact right thing for you and your sweet baby girl. So glad she has decided to sleep for you.

  16. YAY! I'm so happy to hear that you are getting sleep! Every child is SO different and what works for some does not work at all for others! I'm glad you did what you needed to do for both her and you to be able to get some sleep. I agree, it is impossible to function as a Mom on little or no sleep!

  17. Ok. So I am totally aware that you don't know me. As far as I know you have never visited my blog. And you have never asked me for advice. But, I want you to know how happy I am for you that you are finally getting some peace over your little baby girl!! I am doubly glad that you--- and her-- are getting sleep!! Praise God!

    I wonder if the nannies just put her to bed and did the "cry it out" method in Et? The reason I wonder, is because that's what we did with our son and now, if someone babysits and wants to try and rock or snuggle him to sleep it goes much like you have described above. It is too stimulating for him and it usually drags on and on and on and on until he tires out the sitter and they just put him to bed. I wonder if she was having trouble going down because she was used to just being put to bed.

    I dunno...I'm just sitting here at work wondering about that, because it is a distraction. :)

    Anyway, congrats on the sleep. And don't feel badly about letting her "cry it out." I understand it's difficult-- controversial in conventional families and shunned in adoption circles-- but some babies just work better that way! You are taking your job as a mom seriously-- wading through all the advice and finding what's best for your child.

    Welcome to the eternal guilt and struggle of mommy-hood! :)

  18. I am so pleased you had a good sleep! Just a thought... diet could be a dramatic change for your little girl and diet can affect sleep for some. I have two children with sleep issues; one is 19 the other 8 now. Both improved dramatically with the total elimination of all colours, preservatives, and flavour enhancers, watch out for natural enhancers – here in Australia it usually means MSG. These can affect mood too A little bit of bicarbonate of soda in a bath can help "detox". And to be aware that it can last 3 days in the system. Of course habit when one genuinely cannot sleep does not make it easy to sleep when the body has no excuse :) Here is a web site where you can get further help, http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info/failsafe.htm contact me if you need to on these issues, it can be overwhelming when you are exhausted. Praying you get lots of good sleep. You are doing such a good job with this little darling- God bless you all! Joy

  19. Hi- Haven't read any of the comments so... but wanted to share this.

    Matthew was the same way, same patterns you're talking about, after the jet lag, the waking by screaming bloody murder stuff. It was awful. For him and for us. I know EXACTLY what you're talking about. EXACTLY.

    I always figured it was the very high levels of cortisol that a baby who's been through many changes would have. Which helped intellectually, but not when I was hitting a wall and could not even sit down without him screaming in my arms.

    Over two years later, we've got a sleep champ of a son. You'll get there.


About Me

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J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.