Help, My Baby Wont Sleep – Guest Post by PND Recovery

Anxiety & SleepHuge thanks to Mandy for last week’s post about the picky eating struggle so many of us can relate to.  This week we’ve got the wonderful Amy talking about the stress and anxiety caused by her baby’s sleep patterns, again extremely relatable!

One of my biggest parenting struggles so far has been with my son’s sleep (or lack of it). I need to state straight off that it was not his fault – I believe what made it such a struggle was my anxiety around his sleep.

He is now 10 months old and I’m starting to realise I cannot control his sleep, and if I try to I’ll end up with a sad baby and a frustrated mum.

When I started on the parenting journey, I knew that newborns were likely to wake every 2 hours throughout the night. I was happy to go with the flow and see what happened. It was after a few months of this night-waking and not sleeping for longer than half an hour during the day, that it really started to take it’s toll on me.

I spent many anxious hours on the internet, searching like a ravenous animal hunting it’s prey. I needed to find the answer. I read countless books, from the gentle, gentle approach, to the leave them to cry until they pass-out technique. I took all the advice I could (except the crying thing – I couldn’t handle that).

I tried everything that I thought might make a difference.

I bought cuddly toys, tried numerous formulas (in the hope that introducing an evening bottle would keep him full for longer – it had no effect), no blankets, lots of blankets, white noise, opera music, dummys, fans, vapourizers, heaters, wrapping, unwrapping, dreamfeeds, teething gel, early bedtime, late bedtime, gripe water, more frequent breastfeeds in the day…. it went on & on for months. As you can probably imagine, it was exhausting!

I tried to preempt his wake ups in order to help him ‘transition to the next sleep phase’. This resulted in me spending my days lying-in-wait by his cot as he slept, ready to pounce with the dummy at any movement or groan.

I read countless websites on how long a baby should sleep and how long they should they be awake. I found myself timing his awake-time to the minute. Watching his tired signs like a hawk. A little yawn and that would be it… straight to bed. The problem was he never fitted into the “X month old should sleep…”.

My anxiety increased by the day and I found myself thinking ‘But if he wakes now then he’ll have to be up for 4 hours before bed and that’s not going to happen. So he’ll need a nap at 5pm and that’s too late for a nap – he’ll think it’s night time….’ the worry went on and on.

What made it harder for me was that all the babies in my mothers group were ‘sleepers’. Dozy, placid, sleepers. Oh how I wished to have one of those…

Unfortunately, nothing changed until I went to Tresillian, when my son was 8 months old. In Australia, Tresillian provides a residential stay facility, where they offer families guidance in sleep and settling. I stayed for 4 nights with my son and husband. There are nurses on 24/7 to help out. On day 2 of our stay, my son decided to have not only 1 but 2x 2hour naps in the day. The night time he was also an angel and only woke once for a feed – which they told me was to be expected for an 8 month old. I was left questioning the nurses – ‘nothing’s different, why has he spontaneously decided to sleep now?’ I never got a straight answer from the nurses.

When we got home, the 2 hour naps continued and the nights were pretty good too. I look back now and the only reason I can see that things changed was that I was given the confidence that my baby could sleep (if I stopped interrupting him) and my anxiety was dramatically reduced.

I also realised that I had learnt that I didn’t need to watch the video monitor like a hawk, in case he moved… and there was a blessing in disguise when my video baby-monitor broke. I now have a monitor with just sound so I can’t get anxious about the fact that he isn’t falling asleep straight away.

So, maybe it was me all along… my anxiety over his sleep meant that he was never able to try and get himself to sleep. I never really gave him a chance to work it out – I was constantly changing my tact.

If there is one thing I’d hope that you get out of my story, is please don’t waste as much time and energy as I did. I know it’s easy to say from my point of view but if you want to reduce your stress and anxiety, then try and take each moment by moment and try not to obsess about your babies sleep. Enjoy every second with your baby and I promise one day they will sleep and it probably won’t be anything that you changed.

(I’d like to mention that during this time I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression and Anxiety. If you are feeling as though you are not coping with your anxiety, please seek medical advice from your GP.)

For more of Amy’s story check out her blog PND Recovery.  Or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.  She is also doing some fantastic work to launch an online support community for mums struggling with PND in Australia (similar to Rosey’s #pndhour and #pndchat).  See this post for more details or search on Twitter using #PNDoz.

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43 comments on “Help, My Baby Wont Sleep – Guest Post by PND Recovery

  1. That cycle of running in and out and checking is all to familiar. I too listened too much to others’ input into my son’s sleep and this wrecked havoc on my wellbeing. I am glad that the centre worked for you! xx

  2. It’s so easy to get consumed with baby’s sleep – or lack of! My first child was awful! Middle one was a sleeper – and still is. And the youngest is somewhere in the middle. They really are all different. I’m glad things have got easier for you. Xxx

    1. Crazy how they are all different. As a first time mum, you think it must be something you’re doing wrong but the reality is that they probably aren’t great sleepers and will sleep when they are ready. I wasted alot of energy trying to “help” him sleep Zzz! xx

  3. I can really relate to the sleep anxiety – my daughter was a TERRIBLE sleeper for months and months, and she’s still not a brilliant sleeper at 8 months. I worried about her naps constantly and got really nervous around bedtime. At least now she’ll sleep for a few longer stretches at night, usually 4-6 hours. I think what changed was that I stopped feeding her every time she woke up – now I only feed her once or twice most nights. #justanotherlinky

  4. I have a friend who has a non sleep such as your little one. I imagine it to be exhausting. My son started sleeping through at 10 months, we have phases of disruption with teeth or growth spurts but he doesn’t fight sleep, for which I am greatful. A few people said to be that I’d been so relaxed during pregnancy and after that it may have affects my son and made him quite chilled too. I don’t know if that’s true. I believe babies are all different and “wired” differently. As parents we do what we can to survive: well done for being so strong #sundaystars

  5. Reblogged this on PND Recovery and commented:
    When I saw Butterfly Mother’s call out for guest bloggers on her Parenting Challenges Series I jumped at the chance. I was really happy that she accepted my offer and has posted my story about how I believe my son’s sleep and my anxiety around it, were tightly linked. I hope sharing my story helps others in a similar position. Here it is:

  6. Great post. With my first I worried so much about his sleep, when he napped, for how long and I would get ratty of someone was looking after him and he hadn’t slept normal. But with my second I softened. I think I had to having two children, our days were revolved around just one baby I now had two children. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx

    1. Yes it’s interesting how things change with no.2. I was so obsessed with my sons sleep but there were times I thought… if I had 2 kids there would be no way I could waste all this time trying to make him sleep. I would just have to go with the flow. Sometimes this made me feel a bit more relaxed but anxiety quickly crept back in… x

  7. Both of mine didn’t sleep through or give up night feeds until over a year. But I didn’t let it bother me too much, though people constantly make you feel like all other babies are sleeping all night from 2 weeks! Youngest has been a bit harder than eldest – eldest got it very suddenly at about 13 months & has been a great sleeper ever since. Youngest sleeps alone now (used to sleep with me for breastfeeding) & has no night feeds but she’s not so good at settling herself when wakes – wants someone to go to her. However, I have found that people I know who had theirs apparently sleeping better as young babies have had a lot more trouble with them as they became older babies and toddlers, and have much less independent or well behaved sleepers now. So I actually think that maybe there is something in them getting to it in their own time, even if it takes a while, as I think they are then more independent and secure because they worked it out themselves when they were ready. But that is just a guess based on what I’ve seen. I think there probably isn’t really a perfect formula for it – they’re all different. It’s annoying at the time, but even the ones who are bad sleepers for ages get there in the end. Never heard of one of those sleep clinics though – very interesting. #justanotherlinky

    1. Thanks for your comment… this gives me hope! It makes sense too. I hope my boy will be a good sleeper as I’ve had a year of sleep torture now… 😀 It’s only fair? Yes the sleep clinic was great, its a service here in Australia. They said it’s normal for babies to wake for a feed at night up to one year, so that helped me relax too.

    2. I think you’re probably right. My son was pretty great from 12 weeks until around 8 months but has been hit and miss ever since (nearly 3 now!). Amy lives in Australia so I wonder if maybe the sleep clinics are something they have over there? I hadn’t heard of such a magical thing either lol! Thanks for commenting x

  8. Bless you must have been awful. My 1st slept well 2nd woke every night till he was 3. Half the time I had no idea what woke him &he’d fall back to sleep as soon as I’d rearranged blankets/dummy/given water but I’d be wide awake & it definitely took its toll. All good now though. #bigpinklink Lifeinthemumslane

    1. Thank you, it’s funny how I’m reading these comments of other ‘non-sleepers’ but when i was frantically searching for a solution to his lack of sleep, I never came across the fact that it was normal… All these sleep experts are flooding the internet with stories of babies sleeping from 1 month.

  9. Sleep deprivation is pure mental torture!! I was lucky with my oldest two, they both slept quite well from the beginning. I’m now three weeks away from the birth of baby number three and am petrified that I’ve pushed my luck!! Thank you for sharing your story and for linking up to #SundayStars xx

    1. Oooh, I’m sure you’ll be lucky again 🙂 I think if I was to have another I would concerntrate on relaxing and following their cues, not what the internet said they ‘should’ be doing. Good luck xx

  10. Sleep deprivation does things to your mind at the best of times but the combination of anxiety and pnd or anxiety is so draining. There is something about being awake in the early hours, all alone that can make you feel so desperate and keeps the search for a ‘solution’ at the forefront of everything. I’m really glad that things have started to settle now, and I hope you’ve found a successful way of managing your anxiety and pnd and are enjoying life again. Many thanks for linking up such an emotive post to our #bigpinklink

  11. Thanks for your kind comment. Yes things are looking up (finally!) It’s been an emotional journey but I’ve learnt alot along the way and I’m grateful for that. I hope others reading my story will see hope that they are not alone. x

  12. Its nice to read your story and know I am not alone! My 9 month old only has two 30-60 minuite naps in the day, and still wakes for a feed in the night. She is the youngest of four, and my other children often wake in the night too 🙁 I try not to stress, but I do get really disheartened when she wakes as I am finished housework during the day and I havent had chance to sit down and have a break. I am battling Anxiety too, and I think lack of sleep doenst help. Sometimes I panic because Im not sleeping when I have the chance, which naturally keeps me awake longer, its a vicious circle. Thanks for sharing, glad you are feeling a bit better xx

  13. I’m glad things finally started improving for you! I was exactly the same when A was a baby, I literally became obsessed with his sleep, how long he was sleeping, why he wouldn’t go to sleep when I thought he would, it was awful but relaxing is so hard. #twinklytuesday

  14. Oh poor you. Sleep deprivation is the very worst. It is so awful when you feel like there must be an ‘answer’ or some way to ‘fix it’. It’s really hard to accept sometimes that there might not be an answer – babies are just really bad at sleeping. For every baby like the ones at your baby group there are 10 that just don’t sleep for the first year. Neither of mine slept through even once in their first year. I hope things continue to get better and there are lots of peaceful nights of rest in your future!

  15. Raising a kid really needs patience. Sometimes I feel exhausted when my baby doesn’t sleep until midnight. After a long time I apply these tips … Everything gradually becomes better.

  16. I can totally relate to this – I still remember how frustrated I was when sleep training my 8-month daughter. I think it’s what they call sleep anxiety. Always got really nervous around her bedtime.

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