Huge 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.