Sleep deprivation, and a solution. A guest post.

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This week, we have AtoZMummy, sharing her thoughts on how sleep deprivation has affected her life, and that of her families, when her second child Baby A arrived, and started having sleep issues when he was about 5 months old. She’s also had a battle, to win, with sleep, she and I have shared many a mutual moan over social media, about our sleep issues and have sympathised with each other. I really hope she is able to get her full nights of much needed sleep soon!

Sleep deprivation is something that I was never particularly bothered by before I had kids.  The reason for that was evidently because I had never been sleep deprived before.  I’d been tired, I’d been exhausted but that was easily remedied by a good night’s sleep and maybe even a cheeky nap.  Boy Z was born in January 2009 and I was given a slow introduction to sleep deprivation.  He slept fairly well, waking a few times a night for a feed but I was prepared for that, it’s what babies do.  His sleeping didn’t really improve and at about 16 months he was still waking at similar intervals for feeding and I was exhausted.  He slept wonderfully during the day though so I usually had the opportunity to catch up.  He cut all his teeth and by around 18 months he was sleeping through the night more or less all the time.  Phew… job done.

Baby A came along in September 2012 and was an absolute dream.  Initially I had to wake him every 3 hours to feed at night as he slept non-stop.  After a few weeks he was sleeping through usually from around 9pm till 5 or 6am.  The first 5 months were blissful, I got lots done and was beginning to wonder what people were banging on about… 2 kids was a breeze!  Baby A hit 5 months and decided that sleep was for wimps.  It got progressively worse until we hit July when he was about 10 months old and I was at the end of my tether.

My husband was sleeping in the lounge and Baby A was in bed with me.  I won’t say he was “sleeping” with me as there was naff all sleeping going on.  I’d get him down by about 8 or 9 and he would then wake hourly, if not more frequently.  It was Ramadan and as a Muslim I wanted to fast.  Breastfeeding mothers don’t have to fast if it affects their health.  The breastfeeding wasn’t directly making the fasting difficult but a few hours of broken sleep was so I had to stop.  I ended up going in search of a Health Visitor as I was convinced there was something wrong with my baby.  There had to be!  I arrived at the Sure Start centre after being reassured over the phone through my tears that there would be a HV there.  There wasn’t.  I broke down to the young girl who was weighing babies when she suggested that I could try coming back the following week as sometimes a HV pops in.  I sobbed and said that I’d have thrown my baby out of the window by next week and what do you know, a HV was knocking on my door the next morning. 

I obviously wouldn’t have harmed Baby A in a million years but I was lost and didn’t know what to do.  I hadn’t tried getting him to self-settle as I truly believed there was something wrong with him and thought it could make him worse.  The HV was LOVELY and talked me through how I managed to get Boy Z to self-settle when I put him to bed when he was 6 months (with great success) and she suggested trying the same with Baby A.  I tried it.  It was exhausting as I couldn’t just leave him to cry, I had to go in and settle him every few minutes.  But it worked.  A few evenings of pure hell but it worked.  As deep down I knew it would!  Initially I tried night weaning him but it just didn’t feel right so we stopped that after a few nights.  However the self-settling made the world of difference.  He was a happier baby, he was more awake during the day and I was happier for it.  I genuinely believe it saved my marriage as I don’t know how much longer we could have gone on the way we were.  He now will go down to sleep without any issue at around 7.30 and generally will sleep until around 3am which is when the fun begins!  If we’re lucky we get another two or three hours from him but I will generally up be a couple of times.  We’re still shattered and I am still a bit like a zombie but I just have to keep reminding myself how much better things have become.  We still start our day at around 5.30 four or five times a week but when I’m really desperate I can still sneak a nap in as he naps like a pro. 

Sleep deprivation is horrendous.  It is like an illness and the frustration of knowing that one or two good nights sleep would make it all go away is terrible.  But the end is in sight now.  He has cut 2 molars this week and another 2 are coming which leaves only another 4 teeth that need to cut.  I am hoping and praying that he will follow in the footsteps of his big brother and decide to sleep through once the teething is over.  There is a little glimmer of light and I am hanging on to that for dear life!  The wonderful thing about doing it all second time over is that I now KNOW that it will stop… I will sleep again… eventually!  

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