Counting sheep, or sleep…I can’t remember which

What does tiredness look like?

Sleep Deprivation, you ol’ Devil…

My son is 18 months old and has never slept through. Very occasionally he only wakes once, but usually it’s 2-3 times.

I find that if I can get a block of 3 hours’ straight sleep, I’m fine. Although, when I say ‘fine’, I, of course, mean can vaguely function without turning into a screaming, weeping mess.

We recently went through a phase of 2-hourly wakings. That was a killer. I woke up each morning feeling more tired than when I went to bed. I felt like a zombie as I went through the rituals of breakfast, driving to appointments and trying to invent lunch. I dreaded being stopped at the rail crossing – the rhythmic clanging almost lulled me into a doze.

I know there’s sleep training out there. I know he’s much older than a lot of other kiddies that sleep through. I know that if he slept through, I’d get more sleep and life would be sooooo much better. But here’s the thing. I’ve tried sleep training before and I hated it. I don’t really need advice on what I should be doing, because, to me, what I should be doing is loving my kid and making sure he knows he’s safe, secure and loved. I think I’m doing that alright.

Kids have been waking up during the night since…well….since kids were ever around. The difference is, we used to live communally for survival, so you’d have help at hand.Even a couple of generations ago, there’d usually be a maiden aunt on hand to give you a break.

So instead of advice, just give me (or any other poor sleep-deprived parent you know) a hug and let me know that this phase will pass.

Don’t make us feel like we’re doing this to be martyrs – we’re not. Don’t start a sentence with “You should try-” because there are better ways at offering help. Frankly, the idea of changing any sort of routine or method of getting kids to sleep differently at this stage just makes me anxious.

I just have to keep repeating my frazzled mantra – “I’m doing the right thing for us and we have lovely, wonderful kids – sleep will come”.

mucking in the mother guilt

Becoming a mother leaves you open to all sorts of criticism and unwanted advice – some good, most not. Whether it be what age you introduce solids, how long you should breastfeed, how you discipline your child (or don’t), or what you should do to get your baby to sleep through the night.

There’s a lot of pressure on mamas to make the right choices. Having people constantly asking you whether your baby sleeps through the night is one of these pressures.

Sleeping like a baby?

My little girl was a cat-napper, woke numerous times (at one stage hourly) through the night which she could only be coaxed back to nod by a breastfeed, and didn’t respond to any of the gentle sleep cues we worked so long and hard at. At nine months of age, in desperation due to undiagnosed post-natal depression and in response to much prodding from family & friends, we tried Sleep School. It didn’t work for us.

Then something wonderful happened. I talked to a couple of mums with older kids, who had exactly the same trouble as me, and guess what? Their children now slept through the night. There was an end in sight.  Instead of cursing her for disturbing my sleep – I took on the role of soothing her back to sleep. Acceptance, and knowing that others had been there before, helped me.

The reason I’m writing this is because I often post articles on my personal facebook page about gentle sleep techniques, as opposed to controlled crying, to help a few other mums who I know are going through the same thing, and let them know it’s alright. There have been numerous articles recently about controlled crying, like this, this and this.

Unfortunately, I’ve inadvertently ostracised a few mums who have had to go down the cc route – especially one wonderful mum who has been such a great support for me the last couple of years. I really didn’t mean to do that – after all, I tried the Sleep School, too. I know it works for some people, but it doesn’t work for everybody.

The headlines (‘baby torture’, ‘could damage brain development’) are not helpful to the people that actually need that information. Even though I was trying to provide support and information to some mamas, I was actually adding to the mummy-war arsenal, albeit unintentionally: there is so much guilt and negativity in the headlines alone.

So what do I do? Do I remove the articles, or do I add some sort of disclosure/warning? The content in the articles is still valid, but I don’t want to make other mamas feel guilty because they’ve taken a different route in this crazy car called Parenthood.

I hope my friend will forgive me – I will try and work up the courage to call her, but I’m still having a rough time with anxiety at the moment, and the thought of an unanswered call makes me jittery.

My philosophy is that we all do things differently. Each kid is different, and each parent is, too. We should do what we feel is right for our own families. We get defensive about our choices as parents, when, really, we should just accept them as done and move on. Easier said than done, when everybody wants to put their own two cents in, but then again, isn’t it wonderful that we have so many choices to make as parents, that we can all do things differently? I don’t think there is a right or wrong choice. There’s just life, and you do what you do to get on with it.