No one is under any illusion that having a baby won’t affect your sleep. I mean everyone knows that babies don’t sleep right? But you also know (and well you hope) that there’s so many wonderful things about bringing a baby into the world, that this overrides the tiny, minuscule, insignificant fact that they don’t sleep.
When you’re pregnant, people will like to tell you really helpful things, such as ‘oh make the most of sleeping whilst you can’ usually these are told to you by some random family member who no one actually knows how they’re related and why they’re always at family parties but they seem to be there to be the knobhead who likes to ask deeply personal questions like ‘so when are you having kids?’ ‘Have you found a boyfriend yet?’ And unhelpful parenting advice in this situation.
I mean that was one benefit of being pregnant during lockdown – a lack of occasions; meant a lack of stupidly unhelpful things that could be said to you. But it still was said to us during those short few weeks we were allowed to socialise, and I remember thinking ‘well you know what Susan- sleeping as a pregnant lady isn’t exactly a wonderful experience so I’m sure I’ll be okay.’
Because from my second trimester onwards, I realised that sleep was going to be a thing of the past; if it wasn’t the horrendous heartburn that would wake me up like molten lava coming up my throat (lovely) it was the needing to go for a wee approx 34 times during the night.
Or when you’re in the last few weeks of pregnancy and it would need a two man operated crane to position you in bed, quite often I’d thud into bed and be like ‘cool that’s me for the night then.’
I’ll never take rolling over in bed for granted ever again.
Then you give birth and it will still be the hot topic as all anyone can talk about is how your baby is sleeping.
Mum – you’re chopped liver now. No one’s really too bothered how you’re doing –
Because all you’ll be asked is ‘are they a good baby? Do they sleep?’
This question will be asked many times by family, friends, strangers in the street and you’ll think ‘so sleep means a good baby??’
I’d often feel like replying ‘well yes she is a good baby because she doesn’t do anything? As far as I’m aware she hasn’t robbed a granny, hasn’t committed arson and hasn’t told me she’s joining the EDL so she’s not a bad baby at all.’
But from day dot – the pressure is put on you as a new parent to have a baby who is ‘good’ and sleeps.
Now, you may be lucky – and we were lucky to start with.
Our little girl would sleep pretty well, minus the first few nights when my milk took what felt like 6 years to come in which resulted in a 4am dash to Tesco for my husband to get emergency formula. But once my milkshake brought the boys to the yard, we were very bloody lucky.
She was sleeping in three hour stints at first, I remember thinking ‘I’m sleeping better now than I did for the last few months’
Then it stretched to six hour stints which I couldn’t quite believe, and we were very, very smug.
Baby sleep? Cracked it mate.
We were refreshed, I felt a new woman, I would have 10 more babies (minus the forceps delivery of course) if this is what sleeping would be like.
We were happy to tell the random couple in the street that ‘yes she was a good baby’ and inside we felt like we cracked this parenting malarkey.
But then in true Sod’s law fashion, at approx 4 months and 17 days old- our baby girl’s sleep went on it’s head.
At first, we blamed the 4 months sleep regression, I don’t really like to get het up on regressions and leaps if I’m honest, but it did give me some comfort reading up seeing that this was quite normal- it’ll pass soon I reassured myself during a wake up in the early hours.
Then we blamed teething when we noticed a little tooth appearing and a mountain of dribble.
That’s got to be what’s causing this multiple wake ups a night right?
Another emergency dash for my husband to go to Boots and he came home with every teething remedy he could find whilst I Amazon primed every teething toy I could find.
With all the teething paraphernalia one could shake a stick at, we found some worked (the teething granules we’re just as Henry’s friend who’s a Dad described them as ‘baby crack’) and some didn’t.
But yet the sleep didn’t improve.
Okay it’s surely it’s this heatwave we’re experiencing right?
I’d open the curtains every day like Bette Milder in Hocus Pocus and proclaim ‘another Glorious morning – makes me sick’
But then in true British fashion, the warm weather ended but did our sleep worries? Nope.
Anyways, I drove myself mad trying to find a solution for the lack of sleep.
Was it reflux? Colic? An allergy? Did she need a bigger bed? Was it her pyjamas, the sleeping bag? Was it me? Should I put her on formula? Has she still got a tongue tie? Does she have tension? Yes I’ll definitely get her booked into see an osteopath. Maybe it’s the naps. Yes it’s definitely the naps. What’s her wake windows? Why won’t she sleep unless she’s in her pram? Should I have implanted a routine earlier? I’ve ruined my child. I shouldn’t be feeding her to sleep and god forbid imagine if anyone found out I keep bringing her into the bed with us cause it’s the only way we get any sleep.
I downloaded sleep plans, sleep books, I read many an article online, I studied forums and followed different instagram accounts specialising in sleep.
I became fluent in terms like wake windows, cortisol, white noise, pink noise, sleep crutches – and to be honest I drove myself insane.
I got so stressed trying to fix the problem. I would try different sleep routines, and yes some worked and made sense. She wasn’t getting enough daytime sleep, so I started to read her sleep cues (another ding ding on the sleep language bingo) and found putting her to bed earlier was helping.
But I would spend hours, getting stressed that she wouldn’t nap in her crib, why wouldn’t she have the magic 2 hour lunch nap that every other baby seems to have? I had a few times where I would cry at the side of her cot feeling frustrated that she wouldn’t settle. I cried whilst I rocked her to sleep at 3am. I cried when I was woken up just 5 minutes after going to sleep myself.
I constantly was looking for a solution whilst feeling more and more overwhelmed. I felt physically ill most of the time, I was so sleep deprived and not only exhausted from a lack of sleep ; but I’d exhausted myself mentally feeling like a terrible parent, a shit mum and trying to work out what was going on.
There had to be a solution I would proclaim – there had to be!
A few weeks ago, after a breaking point of feeling like I was trying everything and was just putting too much pressure on myself and my baby, I decided I needed to stop stressing.
It was a moment of ‘why am I doing this to myself?!’
I followed a couple of ladies on instagram who made me feel so much more reassured that what was happening was relatively normal – spoiler alert, contrary to popular belief – babies don’t sleep well.
Social media, had me thinking all babies should sleep 7-7 and have two/three perfect naps a day. And sure some babies do do that – and a lot of babies don’t.
And that’s okay.
I realised thanks to these accounts that I wasn’t a terrible mother, and she wasn’t a terrible baby (not that I ever thought that) because she wasn’t sleeping.
I’d not failed her, she’d not failed me, and in all honesty, parenting is bloody hard and sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get some sleep to feel sane.
I stopped fretting about the strict routines that I thought we needed to have.
I stopped worrying about the fact that some days she’ll only nap on me or in her pram. I’m team sleep where she’ll take it rather than no sleep.
I stopped beating myself up for bringing her into bed with us in the middle of the night cause I was exhausted doing the up and down dance of going into her room to settle her.
I stopped comparing my baby to a baby of someone I follow on instagram.
Basically- I tuned out the noise and guess what- I feel SO much better.
Some nights and naps have actually been really good and it’s made me realise maybe part of the problem was that I was so worked up and stressed.
Sure, do I have days where I wish she’d sleep through the night? Yes. Do I have days where I wish she’d have a magic two hour nap so I could get stuff done? Yes. Do I wish that I didn’t worry she’ll wake up even after putting her down so I could go out, or even have a bath without worrying? Yes.
But I also know that one day we will get there and one day she won’t need me like she needs me now and in all honesty- I know it’ll break my heart so I’m going to try and see the positives (some days it’s harder than others to see them) and remember time flies. And at some point, sleep will get easier and naps will become longer.
This post probably has no point, and applause for you if you’ve got to this point- but I wanted to write out my thoughts because things change so quickly when you have a baby and you forget things. I’ve already forgotten what it was like when she was teeny tiny- one day I’m sure I’ll forget the feeling of this time right now.
And this post is for anyone else, struggling on little sleep. Anyone else who’s child won’t nap, or sleep and you feel helpless and exhausted. You feel alone like it’s just you and my god what you’d do for just five minutes peace or a good stretch of sleep- but you don’t feel comfortable sleep training or whatever else. You’re in this weird limbo of not knowing what to do, whilst it seems like everyone else knows what to do.
Spoiler : Pretty sure we’re all just winging it.
It’s not just you and your baby I promise. We are also in the no sleep club ✌🏼 and yes it’s not just you who in the morning whilst cradling a coffee after another shite nights sleep will give the finger to anyone’s smug instagram story of ‘baby slept 7-7 last night’ 🖕🏻
I’m sure there’s someone who’ll read this post and not agree with any of the parenting choices I’ve made, but that’s the thing, we’re all different and we’re all just doing our best and what feels right- but what I do feel is, that sometimes the shit parts of parenting aren’t talked about. The highlights reel is there for all to see: the milestones, the cute outfits, the good days but the bad days aren’t. Or the days where you’re just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.
That was part of the problem for me, I felt alone. In the middle of the night on what seemed like the 6th wake up, I felt completely and utterly alone like I was the only person awake at 3:43 am – but I know that around the world there was a whole army of other parents out there feeling the same.
And I definitely recognise that I come from a place of privilege of being able to stop stressing about routines etc. I work from home which is a blessing some days, others it’s really bloody hard and I will honestly wish for nothing more than to escape for a day to be able to actually get shit done- but on the whole I know I’m lucky.
Some mum’s I know have had to return to work, or have needed to try and get a routine in place. Some may just want a bit of a routine and have turned to things like sleep training to get their sanity back, or they tried the sleep plans and it worked for them. You have to do what right for you.
We’re all in different boats, yet we’re all going in the same direction. But I do think that social media puts unnecessary pressure onto new mums and that they should have some rigid routine in place very early on.
For a while, I turned off my mum instincts, instead thinking someone on instagram who’s sleep plan I’d downloaded was right and knew what my baby needed. Or because the influencer i follow who has a baby who sleeps 12 hours at night that mine should be doing the same.
So from now on, I’m going to try and do what feels right for us, and unfollow/mute anyone who makes me feel like flipping the bird.
To any other sleep deprived mamas out there- we’ve got this ✌🏼 I’m sure we’ll sleep again one day- and I’ve barely given anyone the finger this week, so that my friend is progress.