My 10-month-old baby girl is bad sleeper. A terrible sleeper, in fact.
This isn’t a story about how to get your baby to sleep through the night. A full night’s sleep is a work in progress that I suspect will take a while.
I don’t believe there is a magic solution, and due to my baby’s medical issues,
I also don’t think sleep training, or letting her cry-it-out are the answers.
So as my husband and I slowly battle our way towards a world where we hope we will one day get better sleep, I am becoming a master in coping with sleep deprivation.
No doubt about it, sleep deprivation is a killer. Some days are just so bone-shatteringly hard.
We still have nights where E wakes up every 2.5 hours all night long. My body constantly aches, I have a non-stop headache, and some days I scarf down sugar like a crazy teenager.
Here are the ways I’ve managed to cope with 10 months of surviving on very little sleep:
Lowering my self expectations
I’ve put way too much pressure on myself to accomplish something other than just keeping myself and my baby alive.
On really bad days, this is an achievement in itself.
I try to get just one thing done a day, even if that one thing is something simple like going to the grocery store. When I spend crazy days doing things like taking my baby solo to art galleries in Manhattan, I feel like a total champion.
Not comparing myself to anyone else
This is probably the hardest thing for me to do. I’m part of a fantastic mother’s group who have helped me cope with my difficult baby. The women are also amazing high achievers, with many balancing their babes with extraordinary careers.
I have to repeat to myself, almost daily, that these women are not me, that their situation is not mine.
Particularly in the earlier months, I had to constantly remind myself that I was doing really well some days if I just managed to get out the door and show up to mother’s group at all. I was out! And not in my pajamas! Victory!
Remembering that everyone has their own problems
Sometimes it feels like I have the worst baby ever. But I don’t.
She’s actually a pretty awesome baby apart from the sleep business.
It’s easy to let that one (albeit huge) thing overshadow everything else. There are also a lot of other issues we could be having, but are blessed with an otherwise very healthy, friendly baby. No separation anxiety. Weight/height/development spot on.
She’s super happy and rarely cries or whines during the day. That adds up to one pretty cool kid we’ve been given.
Getting a solid support system
I’m an internet junky and have been emailing all of my family and friends with babies pretty constantly since E was born to ask for advice on any number of issues – the big one being sleep.
I’ve asked every single one of my friends with kids for their tips on how they got their baby to sleep better, and have been blessed that not only do they keep replying to my frantic, copious emails, but that they gave fantastic advice – all different, and most self-learned behaviours that they stumbled upon.
They also made me feel normal for having such a tricksy, non-sleeping baby like E, and reminded me that babies all do things in their own time.
Some have toddlers who still wake up during the night, some have horror stories of sleep training attempts (such as crying till they vomited after being left for five minutes to cry). It’s a great reminder that “sleep training” isn’t the magic answer for every baby.
Since I have no family nearby to help out I’m lucky that we can afford to hire some.
I had a night nurse for a week when my husband traveled for business when my baby was about three weeks old.
She was an amazing lady who basically held the baby all night long so I could get some much needed sleep.
I now have a fantastic baby sitter who comes once or twice a week to take care of the baby for a few hours while I take time to write, or, after extremely bad nights, get a bit of time to myself to recharge my energy.
My husband and I also take shifts every day to allow each of us to get some sleep.
Since my baby is still wanting to be breastfed when she wakes during the night, I take the night shift, and my husband takes E in the morning for a few hours before he heads to work.
Those extra 2 or 3 hours sleep in the morning makes a world of difference. We also have been to numerous doctors – medical specialists, pediatricians and sleep specialists – to get advice, and have been given a lot of different methods to try, each with varying degrees of success.
Remembering this too shall pass
We have the occasional golden night with just one wake up, where I get five hours straight of sleep.
That is such an amazing improvement that when I get a moment like that, I’m given a glimpse of how things will slowly, eventually, get better, and am energized to get through the next day.
And, as people constantly remind me, you never see a teenager who doesn’t like anything better than to sleep all day and all night.
Christine Knight is an Australian learning to navigate life in New York with her 9-month-old baby and husband. She’s on hiatus from her career in writing, marketing and advertising while she obsessively photographs and blogs about her baby’s first year.
Looking for more sleep help? Check out our post on fussy babies and sleep here.