My baby doesn’t sleep!
Well, that’s not entirely true now but I’ll start at the beginning.
From the moment we found out we were pregnant we started discussing how we wanted to parent and the types of parenting techniques we favoured. One thing we both agreed on was the necessity of a good nights sleep. A baby that was a bad sleeper was just not an option. I have always gone to bed early, even pre-children, and I do not do well without sleep. We both felt we could cope with whatever a newborn had to throw at us as long as we had had a good sleep the night before.
We decided to read up on all things sleep related and don’t mind admitting to highlighting the pages of a fair few sleep training books! (Even writing additional notes down the sides!) We thought we were well prepared and that we knew exactly what to do to encourage our baby to sleep brilliantly! We were sleep experts and our baby would be sleeping through the night in no time!
Guess what? Our baby didn’t sleep. In fact, out of 10 babies in our NCT class Ted was the worst sleeper by far! Out of every baby in all 5 of his baby classes Ted won the award for worst sleeper. In 6 months we never met a baby as bad on the sleeping scale as our Ted. Why? What happened? What did we do wrong?
We have a whole host of theories as to why and what, but the fact of the matter was that we had a six month old that was waking hourly and only going back to sleep with a feed. Between 7pm and 7am I would sometimes give him 10 night feeds!! It wasn’t always this bad.. For the first 6 weeks Ted was quite a good sleeper. For one reason or another the night wakings slowly increased and our sleep rapidly decreased! I was averaging a couple of hours sleep a night between feeds.
Some days I didn’t get dressed, some days I didn’t remember to eat, some days I cried, some days I felt as if I was slowly going insane. Actually officially insane! I suffered from incredibly bad headaches and my eye-sight became strained. I felt constantly nauseous. Sleep deprivation is a pretty hideous thing. I can see why it is used as a form of torture.
I lost my car keys daily, I went shopping and left the groceries in the shop, I forgot when I had to be and where, I forgot what day is was and I didn’t really care. I would start sentences and not be able to finish them. People would take the mick and laugh at my baby brain but it was so much more than that. My coping strategy was to get through one day at a time.
Ted is an incredible baby. Those of you that follow the blog will know that he is rarely without a smile. He never, ever cries. So much so, that for the first few months we were worried that something was wrong with him! He is so content. He will play by himself, he isn’t clingy and he is happy pretty much 100% of the time. During the day! People would often tell me how lucky I was to have this smiley, happy baby and how envious they were of Ted and his temperament! Why couldn’t they have such luck with their baby?! I would smile sweetly thinking if only they knew I’d been up most of the night with this ‘perfect baby’!
Now I know some people have babies that are very upset and needy during the day. My heart goes out to them. I do not believe that I could have coped if this were the case with Ted. Luckily I was able to cope with each day because he was so happy and easy to take care of.
This didn’t stop me feeling like a complete failure as his mother. ‘My baby doesn’t sleep’ rang though my head all day long! Why did MY baby wake 10 times a night? Why did MY baby need so many night-feeds? Was I producing the worst breast-milk ever made? Was it my diet? Had I done something wrong? Each of these worries was made increasingly worse by other people! As much as they wanted to be helpful, they really weren’t! On a daily basis I heard these comments
- Sleep when the baby sleeps during the day – he was only sleeping for 20-30 minutes each nap. I don’t know about you but I cannot fall asleep in this pressurised time frame.
- Try _________ (fill in the blank with massage, osteopathy, aromatherapy, formula, baby rice, controlled crying etc etc) If its out there, we’ve tried it!
- You should speak to such and such. HER baby sleeps through the night so she must know how to do it.
- You look shattered. You need a good nights sleep. You’ll feel better. AAAAHHHHH
- Try and get some rest. How? When?
- Why isn’t he sleeping through? He’s 6 months now. He should be doing better than this! Yes, thank you, I know his age.
The problem with sleep deprivation is that the more tired you become, the less strength you have to try anything new. If giving him a boob gets him back to sleep, even if it is only for 45 minutes, then I’m going to do it. You become desperate.
All this time I have a parenting partner, a husband, that is also wondering what the hell went wrong! Now, he experiences things from a slightly different perspective. He can’t breastfeed so he cant really help out too much. He wants to support me but what’s the point in him waking up when I’m the one that needs to do the feeding? He also has to go to work and he couldn’t possibly function and hold down a job on 2 hours sleep a night.
However, it is incredibly frustrating to fall back into bed after the 8th feed of the night and lie next to your husband in the same position he fell asleep in 7 hours ago! Sometimes the daily morning question of “how was the during the night?” nearly received a smack in the face! Other days it was met with tears. He woke up anxious and full of guilt. I know that however good he felt from his hour upon hour of uninterrupted sleep, he felt equally as bad that he could not fix the mess we had got ourselves into. How to get your baby to sleep? Was the questioned that needed to get answered!
The one thing that kept me going through the past long six months without sleep was gratefulness. We experienced a miscarriage at 12 weeks (over our wedding weekend) and it broke my heart. I was terrified we would never fall pregnant again. When we did I was terrified of history repeating itself. When I finally held Teddy in my arms I knew, no matter what, I would always be so grateful for him and that I would never take him for granted. No matter how tired I was during those feeds, I would look at Ted and remind myself how desperately we wanted him and how I wouldn’t be without him for a second. That feeling can provide a great deal of strength at 3am! I will forever be grateful to have my baby boy.
As we hit the 6 month mark we introduced Ted to solids. This didn’t make him suddenly sleep through the night like the hundreds of helpful people had promised. It made no difference! This was the final straw! We admitted defeat and started thinking about inviting a sleep expert into our home to help. We were clearly useless parents and had no idea what we were doing! We needed outside help! That’s when we found Jo Tantum.
Jo Tantum is a leading baby sleep expert. She was running a campaign with Pampers to help sleep deprived parents. We obviously fitted the criteria! We were lucky enough to have a skype call with Jo and tell her our situation.
The results were astounding.
Here’s a summery of what Jo taught us-
- As much as Jo was interested in the night-time, she was also focused on the day time. She explained how important the day time naps were to encourage the night-time sleep. Sleep promotes sleep. Ted was sleeping for up to an hour in 2 – 3 naps during the day. Jo told us this should be 3-4 hours in 3 naps! We listened in disbelief!
- Jo told us that the nights couldn’t get better without an improved day routine. We were lucky enough that she wrote Teddy a day plan to follow. This said when he should eat his meals, have a breast-feed and when he should nap and for how long.
- The fantastic news was that Jo did not expect us to leave Ted to cry. She taught us a technique to help Teddy settle back to sleep without feeding. It involves a loud shushing noise and a rhythmic gentle pushing movement.
- Jo suggested we didn’t drop all night feeds at once but to slowly reduce them over the 10 days.
- She taught us about light and deep sleep and told us that the baby will come in and out of sleep but needs to be taught how to self-settle each time.
- Finally, Jo told us we had to give the new routine and techniques 7-10 days to see the results and that we should write a log to see the progress.
As the call ended we vowed to stick together, to follow her advice for 10 days regardless and see what happened. We both had very little hope!
However, 3 weeks after that call, I am sitting here writing this after a full nights sleep. Not from me, ( I still lay there waiting for him to wake! I hope this will soon pass) but from Ted. He now goes to bed at 6.30-7 and wakes at 6-6.30 I cannot even believe that I am writing that. I think that our situation was pretty much as bad as it can get and yet 10 days of following Jo’s advice and our lives are completely transformed. We stick to Jo’s routine but it isn’t rigid. The timings can slip 15 minutes either way but Teddy pretty much sticks to it of his own accord. I cannot tell you how nice it is to know when he will fall asleep and know when he will wake. It does mean that we can no longer go to all of our classes anymore. For the 10 days we were implementing the routine, I didn’t leave the house because I wanted to stick to the timings and for Ted to fall asleep in his cot rather than in the car or pushchair. It was well worth it though. We will now find classes and arrange seeing friends around his routine. He will also be happier in these classes because they will be timed around his sleeping and feeding needs rather than the other way round!
I am under no illusions that this will last forever. Sickness, teething and other baby realted issues will of course affect Ted and his sleeping. What I do know is that, thanks to Jo, I am now equipped to cope with this and I have the techniques to help Teddy fall back to sleep and self-soothe. All without tears!
If I meet another sleep deprived parent I will be sure not to make a list of ‘have you tried…..’ suggestions! I will not make judgements of them and their baby or make presumptions. Instead I will just listen and supportively nod in the way only someone that has experienced true sleep deprivation can. And offer an enormous hug!
Jo has worked miracles in our family. I cannot thank her enough. She is our sleep angel!
SO, my baby DIDN’T sleep. But now he does!
Click here to see a video of our Skype chat with Jo – the moment that turned our world around!
If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP.