There’s a moment, just between awake and asleep, when I think I’m dreaming. The snuffles are in my mind and I have a delicious few hours yet with my head firmly on the pillow.
I wake before she’s properly awake herself. The snuffles get louder and I lie there in the darkness praying she’s just readjusting herself, getting comfortable for more sleep. And then she cries. I look at the clock – if I’m unlucky just one hour will have passed since she was last awake. If I’m lucky then it’ll be two. If I’m really lucky it will be three. One time it was five, but that’s never happened again.
As I wrench myself from sleep, mouth and mind thick and foggy, I reach for my baby. She’s usually hungry. As she suckles at the breast I take deep breaths and force myself to stay awake. I sway slightly, as sleep threatens to creep back under my eyelids and close them again. There’s the hint of a ghost in the corner of the room – dark shapes that aren’t there in daylight. Probably an echo of my dream.
Once she’s finished feeding I rub her back and encourage a soft burp. Sometimes she’s fast asleep before she’s finished. Often she’s still awake. I lay her gently back in her cot next to my bed. And then I lie there in the dark, praying once again that she will sleep.
If I’m lucky she will quickly drop off into a deep slumber, with me not far behind. If I’m unlucky she’ll cry again, needing to be cuddled. If I’m really unlucky then not even her dummy will do the trick – I’ll still be rocking and cuddling (and most probably crying with her) an hour later.
Good nights are at least one chunk of three hours sleep with no interruption. Bad nights are an hour snatched here and there, in between soothing a baby that won’t sleep and a four year old who’s had a bad dream. Those nights leave me nauseous with tiredness – sometimes the nausea is real and I vomit through lack of sleep. It’s raw and primal, as my body screams for rest – just five minutes! The result is a strange sensation of being awake but not alert. My head is fudgy with treacle. I can’t remember anything. My body is not my own.
The following day I exist in a blur of irrationality. I wonder how many more nights like this I can handle before my body will simply give up and shut down. Can you die from sleep deprivation? I Google it. The answer is not reassuring. I spend the rest of the day thinking I’m dying.
The internet is no help. “Give her a bottle!” scream the forums. “Co-sleep!” shout the others. “Set a routine!” “Feed for longer!” “Leave her to cry!” “Cuddle her until she stops!” My head is a whirl of conflicting advice – but I am too tired to take any of it in anyway. I resolve to ignore everyone and find my own solution.
We try a bottle of formula at 10pm. My devotion to sleep wins against my dedication to breastfeeding. The baby still wakes two hours later. The formula goes in the bin. We try co-sleeping. The baby sleeps soundly for the longest period yet. I, however, am even more tired than before. I get a numb side as I snuggle around my baby. My 31 year habit of sleeping on my front burrowed under the duvet does not suit sleeping with a baby in the crook of my arm.
I resolve to buy a co-sleeper. The treacle in my head is so thick, though, that I can’t decide which one I need. In the end I give up and ask Facebook, happy to leave the decision in the hands of others. It’s £80 but it seems a small price to pay – I’d happily remortgage our house in return for two hours straight slumber right now.
She is only 13 weeks old. Nothing really. Far too young to expect a lot in the way of sleep. But 13 weeks without sleep is a lot. I listen as other mothers tell me of their babies who slept through at four weeks old. I ache for the sleep they speak of – six, seven and eight hour stretches in one go. My baby girl gurgles happily at me and anyone who looks at her, as if playing innocent in the face of her mother’s accusations, “She is allergic to sleep at the moment!”.
My plans to spend the evening catching up on work and ironing are postponed. I have a bath, Googling “baby sleep at 13 weeks” and go to bed.
Tonight is a new night. Wish me luck.
Kirsty Wyatt says
I love your honest and raw blog posts.
You are a much stronger woman than I, Molly. With my first, just a few days of constant cluster feeds and a few hours sleep broke me and I caved into formula feeding merely so that dear husband and I could share the night feeds. I’m 6 weeks away from being due my 2nd and whilst I can’t wait for the newborn cuddles, the sleep deprivation is daunting.
Here’s to hoping it gets better for you all.
Sleep deprivation is the single hardest thing about tiny babies I think. But they are so tiny for such a short time, I think somehow we just get through it. Cake also helps.
The Breastest News says
Aww sleep deprivation is so hard 🙁 I’m praying my 2nd won’t be as bad as Logan, he never slept through the night until he was 13 months old @_@ And like your little angel he wanted to feed every 1-2 hours at some points. I was knackered. I really hope you find a solution that suits you both well and you manage to get some well deserved sleep soon. I have no advice really but completely feel your pain *hugs* xx
Complicated Gorgeousness says
I don’t care what people say but this lack of sleep thing with newborns IS actually one of the hardest things you have to do in life. It swamps everything and is a robber of joy. With my oldest two they didn’t begin to sleep through until they started weaning. My youngest is a terrible sleeper but we get at least four or five hour stretches which I think is just enough for your body to cope again. I have no advice as I am sure you have tried everything. I find loads of moaning and finding kindred spirit moaners is the way ahead 😉 in the interim. Failing that I wish you a lottery win and a wet nurse. Best of luck xx
Oh yay to that. I’ve heard about “Twilight nannies” which basically come to your home and do the night shift with babies. They sound AMAZING! It’s what rich people have – just need to win the lottery and find myself one of those! x
Fi Star-Stone says
Firstly – here’s a gentle hug – its so hard I know, I’ve been there too and with Oz it was so much harder as Boo was only 12 months and teething. That foggy head, that constant thought on sleep. Sleep oh sleeeeeep, come to meeeee!
Honey, give yourself a break – you are doing a fantastic job. Only YOU know what is best for your little one.
Yes, of course I know I advise lots of parents with routines or tips on getting better sleep but essentially it is THEM that know best. Trust your instincts always. Listen to the advice but only act on what YOUR think will work or what is best.
Every child is different, every family is different.
Here if you need a chat anytime.
Big love xx
P.S – I know you have a download of my book – scroll to the sleep deprivation bit, lots of tips for surviving the zombie days.
Thank you so much for your lovely comment Fi. Your advice is really useful – definitely going to re-read that section of the book (if I can keep my eyes open long enough to focus!). It turns out baby girl has silent reflux, which would explain things. Her sleep last night was a bit better as we propped her up and she slept on a slope. Fingers crossed that works again!
Kate Takes 5 says
Oh Lord that brings it all back! How do we survive it??! I co-slept with all of mine but it’s still knackering. I think someone else giving the last night feed (bottle as necessary) and you go to bed early is a bit of help – but it’s a long way off 8 hours! Wishing you all the luck. x
Oh 8 hours – I remember that! In fact, I remember when I’d moan that I felt tired if I had less than 9 hours sleep! NINE HOURS! I didn’t know I was born.
Oh my dear you really are in the trenches. I’ve no magical advice I’m afraid, and if there was a wonderful instantaneous solution we’d all be doing it, just sympathy and hugs. It is incredibly tough – I’ve got to the point where I was so tired the room was spinning even when I lay down and my sister had a stage when her son was really tiny of hallucinating another baby and getting really worried about where it was and trying to go and find it. Oh the things we put ourselves through for our children!
When you’re in the midst of it, you can totally see how sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture before can’t you? It’s awful! Thankfully last night seemed to be a bit better. I think we finally have a reason for the issues at night which tie in with a couple of other things that have been a cause for concern over the past couple of weeks. Another blog post to come on all of that soon! x
Oh good luck tonight Molly. Jasmin was exactly the same. She often didn’t nap in the day either unless in the front pack. I wish I had advice, or that I’d figured out a magic solution. Of course, I don’t have any of that. The months passed in a fog. So, all I have is support from one sleep deprived mummy to another really, because it’s so friggin hard dealing with the lack of sleep. Especially when you have an older one too. You’re not alone xxx
Thanks Kiran – it really does help to know I’m not the only one going through it! Of course I know that when I’m in my rational daylight state, but in the middle of the night, staring into the darkness, you can really feel like it’s just you and your crying baby awake in the whole world!
Natalie Bailey says
I’ve said this before but your blog posts could literally have come right out of my mouth! The sleep deprivation has reached new levels during the school hols where my 4 year old has also been waking from cough/dreams/cover falling off inbetween my 17 week old who wakes every 2-3 hours. And I too was googling ’17 weeks sleep’ yesterday! So, if it helps, you are not alone! I feel your sleep deprived pain and send hugs and good luck!
Oh hugs right back to you – sounds like we both need a hot cup of tea and a large slice of cake. Which leads me to another question – how on earth are people meant to stay healthy and commit to their January no-bad-food resolutions when they’re existing on zero sleep? Impossible!
I felt like that. I used to wonder all the time if lack of sleep would kill me. Sat on the floor in my son’s room, tears rolling down my cheeks as I hoped and prayed I wouldn’t have to get up again. Wishing I had one of those babies that magically slept through the night. Listening to those wives tales, designed to make you feel like you are doing everything wrong and that you should change everything you are doing.
The worst thing is that there isn’t a one size fits all solution. You will find the right combo for you both but it isn’t as quick as you need.
I won’t insult you with the ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ crap, at the end of the day, but I truly hope you find a solution soon. Sleep deprivation is truly a form of torture.
Sleep tight! xx
Thank you for such a wonderful comment – you’re so right about the “sleep when the baby sleeps” comment. It’s impossible, especially when you have things to do in the evening! Really grateful for your lovely comment though, it really does help to know other people have gone through it and come out of it the other side (alive!). x
Natalie @ Little Jam Pot Life Blog says
Love this honest post, and can relate so much. we have a just 4, 2.5yo and 11mo. My little boy has been waking two hourly the past two months (teething isnt helping) but also developmental I guess. He never usually cries , but whines, calls out mama as he knows im right there next to him, wants a breastfeed or simply cuddle.
none of mine slept through until about 13months, even that wasn’t all the time. I feel your pain (tiredness) though, the nights when you have no idea how you will get through it, start to feel guilty for not “coping” then being tearful, and not being the happy and full of energy mum your other children need you to be.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, we can get there! 🙂
I think in hindsight, we should embrace the fact that they aren’t this small for long (even though it is bloody tiring 🙂 )
Very wise advice! Thankfully last night was a bit better so I’m not so bleary eyed today. It makes you realise how everything is worse when you don’t have any sleep – all the usual parenting coping mechanisms and patience just go out of the window, which leads to feelings of guilt which certainly don’t help!
Co – sleeping would’ve been my suggestion – we did it with all 3 of ours (largely because, 1st time round, our House in NZ had neither central heating or double glazing & Big is a Southern hemisphere winter Baby!) But we never had any sort of co-sleeping device……We simply created a space for them between us and our pillows!
Sleep will come – perhaps if you take her bedding to bed with you, your smell will help her stay settled…….I also wouldn’t totally rule out the formula – maybe offering her a bigger bottle so she can drink as much as she wants will help if she’s simply hungry due to growth spurts etc!
We’ve just ordered a rental of a Bednest co-sleeper, so hopefully that will help. We’ve also found out today that there is an underlying issue to it all – looks like baby girl has silent reflux which would explain why she doesn’t want to be flat on her back at night. Last night we propped up her cot so she was sleeping on a slope and it seemed to help. The Bednest has a setting where you can slope the mattress too, so I’m hoping that may make things better. Fingers crossed!
Oooh, yes – also crossing my fingers on your behalf!
Polly Davies says
It’s so hard isn’t it?! The first week has been kind on me… he slept soundly snuggled with me in between feeds, but already after 8 days I can feel the effects of broken sleep… a nap today kept me going just…. With the girls, I gave in and they had a bottle or two of formula in the evenings.. i’d feed them around 9/10 then go to bed and leave them downstairs with G – he’s a night owl so never goes to bed before 3am so he’d sit with them till then and then I’d take over, at least it was a few hours of solid sleep. Big hugs…. it’s hard to believe you’ll ever sleep again when you’re in the midst of it isn’t it!
It is! I’ve done that too with baby girl – left her downstairs with her dad in the evening while I go for a sleep once the 4 year old is in bed. Impossible all the time though as I’d never get any work done! Last night was a bit better thankfully so I’m feeling less like I’m going to die today!! Huge congratulations again on your beautiful baby boy. Glad to hear he is settling well at night! xx