Because sleep deprivation is the oldest form of torture
If you have ever dealt with a baby that wakes up every 45 minutes, all night long, you already know what I’m talking about.
I was blessed with the most perfect child, and for the first 3 weeks of her life she slept like a log; she was marathon feeder, a cuddler, and a snorer. We couldn’t have asked for a better being.
When she reached her first month of life, something switched in her brain, and she woke up. The only thing she did was eating, and crying. She avoided sleeping as if it was her full-time job.
It would take us more than an hour of rocking, shushing and patting before she would finally give up and close her eyes, and she would then wake up every hour or so, demanding more feeding, rocking, and patting.
I was exhausted, we were exhausted.
Something we were not told during the antenatal classes is that babies sleep in cycles that last about 40 minutes. Each cycle is made up of active sleep and quiet sleep. Babies move around and grunt during active sleep, and sleep deeply during quiet sleep.
At the end of each cycle, babies wake up for a little while. They might grizzle, groan or cry. They might need help to settle for the next sleep cycle.
Around 2–3 months, babies start developing night and day sleep patterns, and this means they tend to start sleeping more during the night.
Unfortunately, our baby didn’t start sleeping more after 3 months of age, and I felt that our life was crumbling apart; I was losing weight, hair, and patience. I couldn’t hold a conversation with my husband without a crying baby in the background.
I felt so much resentment towards those mums that were having an easier experience, and I was also resentful towards my daughter as sometimes I was just hungry and tired and all I wanted to do was sleep and eat.
That’s when I followed the advice on one of my mum’s friend and I called a sleep consultant.
It saved us, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in life.
It is really unfortunate that I have been judged by relatives, friends and fellow mothers because of that; no one has ever said anything mean to my face but I had to cope with so many comments such as “Oh poor baby, how can you do that” or “I would never be able to let my baby cries, it’s heartbreaking”.
And so I’m here to tell the world, and those mothers that are considering hiring a sleep consultant:
Of course it broke my heart!
Listening to my daughter crying for an extended period was dreadful and heart wrenching; I was seriously considering leaving my husband home alone with her so I didn’t have to deal with it. But I couldn’t. I wanted to stay close and be there until the last tear dried out. It took her 2 hours to fall asleep the first night; my body was so ridden with anxiety that I couldn’t close my eyes that night (ironic), and I instead got cranky and mean with my partner (very wise). The second night she cried for 1 hour, and then less and less. Then she stopped. 20 months down the track, she walks herself to bed. I have never experienced such a dreadful pain, the thought of living my only child crying in a dark room by herself was thoughts-consuming, but it worked, and she became a much better child because of it.
This is how our life changed
My daughter improved dramatically; she wasn’t reaching all the milestones and she was cranky during the day, always looking for an extra feed. When she started sleeping at night, she became more joyful and alive; she immediately cut down on feeds, and she started sitting and rolling like a pro.
I also flourished; my skin changed, my appetite came back, I stopped feeling so damn anxious all the time and my relationship with my husband instantly bloomed.
It doesn’t work with every baby
There have been many setbacks after calling the sleep consultant. My daughter initially slept almost through the night; then the teething, separation anxiety, nightmares started disrupting her routine, and she became quite demanding. She then felt sick, started childcare, and had to deal with a fair bit of travelling. Of course, her sleep routine was majorly disrupted by every single illness, change of environment and so forth, but she never forgot the basis, and she always knew how to fall asleep without any help from us.
Unfortunately, this type of training doesn’t work with every baby, and mothers need to be mindful of that.
We need to look at the big picture
Sleep deprivation was consuming me. After all, it is a form of torture.
In hindsight (what a marvellous thing hindsight is), I would have felt so much better knowing it wasn’t going to last forever. As mothers, we tend to be so consumed by the “small” things: my baby doesn’t eat veggies, doesn’t nap enough, doesn’t want to play with other kids, doesn’t roll, doesn’t walk, doesn’t wear shoes. The list is infinite, and we have been through them all (and we still are), but it feels so different now.
If my daughter doesn’t want to eat today, so be it; she will eat tomorrow. I have learnt through experience that nothing lasts forever, and what we worry about this week, it will be completely different next week.
If you are planning to hire a sleep consultant, go with your gut; don’t have any expectations, as it can work wonderfully, or maybe not. It won’t be easy, but it could also be the best decision of your life.