As a mum of a 4 year old and 10 month old, the sleep deprivation struggle has at times been real. Those early days of motherhood when you’re feeding your little one every 2 hours is really bloody hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But, those 2 hourly sessions do quickly become 3 hours (I promise!) and then you might actually get a 4 hour stretch in the middle of the night and immediately feel like a new women who can take on the world!
I was certainly fuelled by caffeine and sugar during those early days with my two but I do think the older they get, the more complicated the sleep dynamic can occasionally become. Firstly, they lull you into a false sense of security. When your little one first arrives, one of the main topics of conversation is ‘oooo, how’s the sleep thing going?’. After a few months of feeling like the walking dead, you do finally get over the line of regular 6-12 hour sleep. And then ‘sleep regression’ kicks in. You know it’s an actual thing when it has a relatable title. But that too shall pass (thanks to controlled crying in my case – I know, how controversial am I) and as you start to state your child’s age in years not months, you confidently feel that those sleep deprived days are behind you and give yourself a self congratulatory pat on the back for your excellent parenting.
And then they start waking up in the night again. A lot. And that false sense of security they lulled you into is quickly replaced by the fear that your child has a nocturnal alarm button that is pressed as soon as your eyes start to flicker to a close. I’ve got to be honest, we’ve only had small episodes of this for which we are very grateful but for many, a childs nightly sleep (or non-sleep) tendencies can disrupt lift for several years. Urgh, I need more coffee just thinking about it. In my experience, here’s what works for us – I am in no way trained in sleep therapy and every child is different. Also, this shizzle could all fall apart for us at any given moment and I’m constantly walking on the same tightrope as you;
- Children wake up for a reason
Yes, this is true. At least at first. Children genuinely do at times have feelings of anxiety and worry that they can’t necessarily articulate so their behaviour reflects these feelings in different ways. But kids are resilient. Far more resilient than adults. And the original emotional issue that was originally causing them to wake could well have been forgotten 2 weeks into calling you 7 times a night to ‘find’ Nanny the Rabbit. They probably just quite like the 2 am chit chat now. I do think that as adults we over analyze lots of stuff. Children (obviously depending on any complexity in their life) don’t have the same frame of references (or baggage) that we do so can move on much more quickly.
2. Routines are too restrictive
Well, depending on how you apply the routine in my view. I work four days a week and my children attend a mixture of nursery and grandparents houses. Their days are punctuated by different people taking care of them who all have slightly different ways of doing things. But they both start and end the day with the same routine. I believe it gives them some kind of sense of security when one day they’re at rolling around in shaving foam at nursery (anyone else loathe messy play??) and the next they’re sat in a grandparents house having a contraband sweet treat and quiet cuddle. But we always eat breakfast together and leave after Ben & Holly has finished (yes we have the TV on, I’m not supermum you know!) and they always have bath, story, milk and bed at night. That said when times are tough (and the chance of getting your child to contemplate sleep is slim) breaking the routine for a night can be like pressing the re-set button. It’s use is multi-purpose in my view.
3. You’re a parent, sleep deprivation goes with the territory
Well, yes and no on this one. I do think that we’re the only ones who can usually solve the problem as we do know our children best but there is a caveat to this that comes later. Perhaps a sleepover at Grandmas could break the cycle – although you won’t get any sleep whilst they’re away as you’ll be too guilt ridden that your children will have separation anxiety (they won’t, remember the contraband sweet treats I mentioned earlier) or that Grandma will never have them over again as they’ve had such an appalling night. But just remember, ‘Grandma’ was ‘mummy’ back in the day and the familiar zombie feeling may gain you some renewed empathy.
When I mentioned earlier that we’re the only ones that can solve the problem, the caveat was that we don’t actually need to do it all on our own. There’s a reason why people such as sleep consultants exist. You are not alone sleep deprived manic state, we’ve all been there at some point. There’s no silver bullet that will solve every possible child sleep issue but just try not to lose your mind, ask for help you need it and never EVER let the Nespresso supply run too low. x
What got you through the sleep deprivation stage and would you do anything differently?