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Until you’ve had a baby or child that won’t sleep, I don’t think you could understand the torture of sleep deprivation. (Unless of course you have had other things causing sleep deprivation) Right from day one, my son was a terrible sleeper.
Every couple of weeks he would have a different routine, every bit as bad as the last one. Just different. I don’t know why he wouldn’t sleep. He just didn’t. I remember being in tears every night as he cried almost all night, every night.
Those first nights home, I think I managed to get two hours sleep total each night for awhile – all broken. I think it’s pretty safe to say I was a zombie for most of my son’s babyhood. I don’t really remember a lot about him being a baby because I was so tired all the time and my memory is fuzzy.
Sometimes being held was the only way he wouldn’t cry. I felt so guilty a few times when I was lying in bed with him in the crook of my arm and I fell asleep. I don’t move much when I sleep so I was lucky, but it is still the worst feeling to wake up and for a minute wondering how you could have possibly let yourself drift off. And I hated myself for it.
I don’t know how I managed to survive on so little sleep when my son was a baby.
When he was eight months old, he started sleeping through the night, most nights and I was so happy to be past the sleep deprivation stage.
Or so I thought.
Back to No Sleep
When my son had his 18 month immunisations, he developed a fever which he had on and off for days. I did whatever I could to keep him cool. I never found out what his temperature got to because he wouldn’t let me leave it in his mouth long enough. It was close to 40 degrees and still climbing.
When his temperature was back to normal, his sleeping was not. He was back to waking during the night and I was back to being a zombie.
When he was 2 and a half he occasionally started sleeping through. Then we moved house, and it was back to being up every night. After a few months, he was back to sleeping again. Finally, I thought I would be able to sleep.
A few months after that I noticed he was always awake when I checked on him. He never said why. Eventually I found out he thought there were ghosts in his room. So it took months of being up most of the night, and it wasn’t easy as I was heavily pregnant.
He finally started sleeping again a couple of weeks after my daughter was born.
But then he started talking about ghosts in his room again, and I thought, ‘here we go again’. There was one night when he didn’t sleep well, but I think I managed to get his fears under control before he lapsed into his pattern of not sleeping again.
We’ve had a few more rough nights, but I’m happy to say it’s been a year since he’s woken up during the night.
My daughter, on the other hand must have decided it’s her turn to torture mummy.
Sleep was one of my biggest concerns about having another baby. My son still wasn’t sleeping well, and I don’t think I could have handled another child who didn’t sleep. Luckily, my daughter is a much better sleeper. Not great, but better.
There were nights in the beginning I didn’t get her to sleep until 2 am and for ages it was 12.30, but I usually averaged around 6 hours sleep with her getting up once or twice. I was so surprised when she slept through the night at two months. Not all the time, but it was good when she did. Became pretty consistent until teething started. Then all hell broke loose. I revisited zombie land for a few weeks. I had so much trouble during the day getting her to sleep and she wouldn’t let me leave the room. It was so hard to get anything done.
This past year, my daughter’s sleep patterns have been a roller coaster. Some nights she’ll sleep through, and some nights she can be up four or five times. Most of the time now, she’s up once a night. I can handle that.
I think it’s definitely one of the things most new parents worry about. How they will cope on very little sleep. Some parents are just lucky and have those babies that sleep through right from the start.
What drives me nuts is when you mention to someone the lack of sleep and they comment with, “they are only little once.” Yes they are, but don’t say that to someone who hasn’t slept in months.
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, and it is hard to get through it when you have a baby who won’t sleep and you constantly feel like you are going to drop them or unintentionally hurt them. I doubt anyone who says it has had a baby who never sleeps. I know it made me feel worse to hear.
It felt bad enough not being able to do much, but to be made to feel guilty because you aren’t necessarily enjoying every moment of this stage is really unfair.
I would have loved to have enjoyed it more, but lack of sleep unfortunately sucks out a lot of the joy.
Tips to try when your baby won’t sleep
- I know it can be hard, but try to keep calm. The baby can sense your frustration and can make it worse.
- If the crying is getting too much and you are becoming worked up, put the baby in it’s bed and leave the room to calm down. Breathe, then go back in and try again.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask friends or family if they can help you out every now and then, just so you can get a bit of sleep.
- If things aren’t getting any better, try contacting a sleep school or organisation in your area. In Australia, you can try Ngala www.ngala.com.au/. You can request a call from their parenting line.
Don’t just put up with it because “it’s what babies do”. That’s what I did. Ask for help.
To anyone out there who has a child or baby who won’t sleep, I am sending you wishes that hopefully a good nights sleep will be on it’s way to you soon.
One day it will get better. It might not be for awhile, but one day.
I’ve been told when my kids are grown, I will miss being woken up through the night.
I don’t think so.
I will enjoy my sleep.
But I will probably miss my little babies and wish they were that small again. To have those first little smiles and the snuggles and all the precious moments all over again.
But I won’t miss the lack of sleep. Or the mega tantrums.
But everything else I know I’m going to miss one day.
Do you have any tips for getting little ones to sleep?