When I was pregnant, I heard it all, as soon as my belly started to dominate me, everyone was desperate to tell me their parenting horror stories. From cracked nipples to 03:00 AM nappy explosions. However the most popular stories people liked to share on an apprehensive pregnant woman were always about sleep deprivation.
My baby, like many new-borns, we went through the colic stage of screaming from all hours with very little I could do to sooth her. This soon passed and my husband and I felt we were on a home run. Unfortunately the nights got bad again. Around the dreaded 4 month mark…..”Oh maybe she’s hungry’ said just about everyone and their Granny. As a new Mum I felt horrified that my child could be crying because she is hungry, so I fed and fed through the night, every time she woke.
We would get two or three hours of sleep in a row. But most the time my daughter would wake up every 40 minutes and scream like a burglar alarm until I picked her up and gave her my boob!
The following morning, I would always force myself into the shower just before my husband left for work in the hope that it would suddenly wake me up and give me a new sense of energy and clarity for the day ahead. But no, I still didn’t know what day it was and whether my memory was playing tricks on me. I’d constantly write reminder notes around the house and ask my husband “did that really happen yesterday?’. It started to feel dangerous. Doing things without remembering and not completely understanding if I was awake or not. Something had to change.
The effect of fragmented sleep goes beyond just a yawning, tired body. It affects how you think and cope. Lack of REM sleep can cause memory lapses and make tasks requiring cognitive functioning more difficult, leaving you feeling scattered and foggy. Not being able to get an adequate length of sleep can lead to fragile emotional and mental states.
20% - 30% of infants and children will have difficulty falling asleep and/or suffer with multiple night-waking’s. Without help, these issues may persist in 60% of those children. This can have a secondary effect on their mood, learning, attention, behaviour, and even weight.
“During my experience of chronic sleep deprivation, I didn’t feel like I was the best parent I could be.”
Then finally one of my mum friends hit me with some information that quiet literally saved me (and my family). She told me about her friend, the sleep consultant. “What was a sleep consultant?” I thought. I’d never heard of one of those and immediately thought it was something for the rich and famous. After doing my own research, I decided this was something I needed to try. I couldn’t keep going the way I was.
“Sleep deprivation really was the hardest thing I’ve had to endure. Getting a sleep consultant was the best decision I ever made.”
Within 2 nights my daughter was sleeping through the night! Yes, there was some crying through this process, but I felt supported and it was so short lived. To see my happy little girl waking at 07:00 in the morning after a 12-hour sleep was the best thing ever. I had a new lease of energy, coping, concentration, my memory was back and I felt present for the first time in ages!! I know what you are thinking there are a lot of I’s. It took me a while, but I soon realised that if I am not able to give my daughter 100% then she was likely to suffer because of it. The adventures of rested mum and baby were so much more fun now that we were both sleeping well.
The first thing you need to know is that sleep training doesn't necessarily mean abandoning your baby to cry alone in a dark room. It means teaching your baby how to fall asleep on their own and getting them used to routines and schedules to signal that it's bedtime. There are a variety of methods to do this.
The fact is, if your child is sleeping poorly, you owe it to yourself and your child to help them sleep better at night. There are many safe and well-studied ways for your to do so. Don’t feel bad about making changes that will benefit your whole family in the long term. Even if they are associated with a little bit of crying for a few days.