Hey sleep deprived mum…..
Hey Sleep Deprived Mum,
Sleep deprivation for some people is hideous depression inducing and as thick as a black cloud over their motherhood journey. Others can survive on less sleep and sleep deprivation isn’t quite as unbearable. No matter where you sit on this continuum and how you cope with sleep deprivation all the experts agree it’s not healthy for any adult to endure long term sleep deprivation.
The effects are well documented, everything from post natal depression, to obesity are linked to severe pro-longed lack of sleep.
The good news is you can do something about it IF you WANT to. No one is going to force you to change your sleep situation, and no one even needs to know about your sleep situation.
It’s very rare that we hear of people being told they have created a rod for their own back (what a nasty friend!), or that they are depriving their child of an important skill, or that they are only delaying having to sleep train them at some point. Surround yourself with supportive people who understand your parenting style or at least respect it. Many parents say to us they feel they have “created this bad habit” and they feel guilty. You have nothing to feel guilty about, unless CYFS is checking up on you, you are doing a great job and the best job you can! You have been getting your children to sleep in a way which worked for you and your family. Perhaps you have reached a point where you are ready to change something.
It’s OK to change your mind and decide “actually X is no longer working for me”. Even Dr Sears the pioneer of attachment parenting explains if you start to resent your children or your situation and desire a change then something should change.
Those of you who do want to work on consolidating your child’s sleep and especially their night time sleep then there are a few things to consider.
The process of falling asleep and then falling asleep alone is a learnt process as explained by Dr William C Dement and Dr Christian Guilleminault (Founding editors of the world’s leading scientific journal of sleep research).
Providing a growing brain with sufficient sleep is needed for the ability to concentrate, for the body to grow and repair, for the immune system to work well, and for your child’s temperament to be easier. (These things are true for adults too! I am a grumpy toad when sleep deprived.)
How you get that sufficient sleep is up to you, this isn’t designed to make you feel guilty about rocking to sleep, or bed sharing. If your child is sleeping and you are happy, that’s fabulous. If you are not happy and/or your child and/or you are not getting consolidated periods of sleep then wanting to change this is not selfish, and don’t let anyone make you think it is.
Some people will tell you there are reasons you can’t teach your baby to sleep better. But these are just things which you should consider before teaching your baby to sleep better and those of you who have seen out intake forms will know these are all things we take into consideration when helping you with your sleep.
These considerations, (not giant hurdles or barriers) include but are not limited to.
- Hunger – this one is easy to work out once you know what to look for. Growth, feeding patterns, solid food analyses by our nutritionist (Megan!), there size and age. Not usually a major problem or an easy fix.
- Food allergy or intolerance, this will be evident in your child’s bowel motions, medical history, skin conditions, and other signs. Elimination of these foods for 3 weeks and some pro-biotics is a good idea.
- Developmental leaps, this is where a child learns a new skill. Talking, standing, crawling, rolling these all interfere with sleep for a few days. Often your child will be awake happy practicing their new skill until they are ready to go back to bed. Or they will need you to lie them down or roll them over for a few days. They will go back to sleep.
- Separation anxiety, this has peaks and troughs throughout your babies life, and is influenced by what they are doing throughout the day and whether you are working. This will come into consideration when picking a method to teach your baby to sleep better. (In the room or out – you might chose to stay in if SA is an issue).
- Teething, this rarely causes screaming at night, or long periods of ruined sleep if your child knows how to go back to sleep once the annoyance of a tooth has woken them. Most medical professionals agree the pain from teething rarely warrants pain relief (drugs), and we always look at their day time temperament as they won’t suddenly be worse at night when their blood pressure is lower (lying flat) than when they are awake. They might need comfort, some pain relief or teething spray and they can go back to sleep.
- Low levels of essential vitamins or minerals. We all know the obvious ones like iron and magnesium, what about omega 3, the B vitamins, zinc, and foods containing tryptophan? This is why it’s always important to evaluate your child’s diet in conjunction with sleep help. We use Megan from nourished nutrition.
- Pain, if your child has reflux which is not under control, or severely itchy eczema these things definitely affect sleep and it’s not fair to expect to change your child’s sleep habits dramatically when these things are causing pain.
Once these factors have been considered teaching your child to sleep is the next step. There are so many ways to do this. Some are quick, some are slow, some involve tears and shutting the door, some involve staying with your baby and lots of cuddles and breastfeeding. We can help you with any method you and your family feel comfortable with.
Please don’t feel if you are not happy you have to continue on in your current situation.
No one is going to undermine you as a parent and our clients tell us the opposite they use words and phrasing like empowered, and confident as a mother, after they have been through this process.
There are some really negative things floating around the internet about sleep, and motherhood and being a parent and how to do it all. We have always felt the negativity comes from a place of misunderstanding around what it is exactly we do, how we do it, (we can’t speak for anyone else) and insecurity about people’s own personal choices. Disassociate yourself from these negative people and blogs and do what you want to do to make your family happy and well rested this Christmas.
Sleep deprived mum….. it gets better!