Baby Girl turned 18 months old earlier this month. I’d planned to do some sort of milestone post but then life got in the way. It has a habit of doing that at the moment. But I couldn’t let the 18 month mark pass without some sort of mention of life lately. And so I want to write about sleep, or lack of it, and share with you how I survived (and continue to survive) constant sleep deprivation.
1. Accepting that sleep deprivation is really rubbish
People joke about sleep deprivation, but the reality is far from funny. It can be a very lonely experience, especially when you’re pacing the floor in the middle of the night trying to stop a crying baby from waking the rest of the house. It’s OK not to love this bit of motherhood, it doesn’t make you a bad mum. Sleep deprivation is no fun.
It can put a very real strain on your health, relationships, state of mind. At times, sleep deprivation has turned me from the mum I always wanted to be into a shouting, ragey monster who has zero patience and isn’t particularly nice. That’s the worst bit about sleep deprivation – it can have a profound effect on your personality. The nicest, most patient, loving people can turn into angry mush after a bout of no sleep. It’s used as a form of torture in some countries for good reason.
2. Talking about it
There’s also a sense of isolation when you get past the newborn days and your bub still doesn’t sleep – especially when everyone else’s does. “Is she a good baby?” people will ask, when what they really mean is “Does she sleep?”. People tell you to “cherish every moment” and you can feel like the world’s worst human if you admit you’d rather be asleep than gazing into your baby’s face at ten minute intervals throughout the night. And so we don’t always admit to how we’re feeling. We bottle it up and put a brave face on, pretending that we’re totally fine with only sleeping half an hour in 3 days, and isn’t it all just par for the course of being a parent? HAR HAR HAR.
Well you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favours when you do that. It perpetuates the myth that all babies sleep and it puts a barrier up between you and anyone who may be able to give you a hand. Some days I was lucky enough to have my mum round for the day. Instead of talking to her I just handed her the baby and went to bed, because I knew that little top-up of sleep would make me a better mum and all round decent human being.
3. Giving myself a break
Once we got to around four months, there was talk of “getting back into shape”, or going out for nights out, or doing stuff that generally involved more effort than sitting on the sofa in my pyjamas. Some days I fancied it, some days I didn’t. I tried to give myself a break as much as possible and avoid any pressure to jump back into the world when I wasn’t yet ready. It’s not a race to get back into your skinny jeans. You won’t win a prize for going on a night out with your mates when your baby reaches 12 weeks old, if you secretly just want to stay home in your dressing gown.
4. Knowing it was normal
Apart from breast vs bottle, I don’t think there’s a more emotive or debated baby subject than sleep. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone’s opinions are different. Unfortunately, despite what many would have us believe, there’s no miracle “cure” for a baby who doesn’t sleep. All this advice (that, incidentally, we’re far too knackered to read anyway) contributes to one overarching belief that it’s not normal for babies to wake up multiple times in the night.
Of course, the fact is, it’s TOTALLY normal. There are SO MANY people with babies and toddlers that don’t “sleep through the night” (as Gill says – what does that even mean anyway?). Babies that don’t sleep are not freaks of nature.
5. Knowing that it wasn’t my fault
My first baby slept, my second baby didn’t. This doesn’t mean I did anything wrong. None of it was my fault. Repeat this to yourself over and over again: IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
6. Remembering that it won’t last forever
If you’re currently in the thick of it then take heart, it DOES get easier. And the good bits do outweigh the bad, even if it might not feel like that when your eyes are burning through lack of sleep and you think you might vomit. But it doesn’t last forever and, one day, you will look back and realise you’re through the worst of it.
Until then, eat biscuits, watch Netflix, ignore the hoovering and don’t even think about hitting up Google for some advice.
Tell me, what helped you survive sleep deprivation? Any other advice to add?