What NOT to say to a sleep deprived mum – and four things you should!

Sleep deprivation can feel like you’ve been hit by a truck every single day. Not only do you look as bad as you feel, but every step is painful and exhausting. Luckily, you’ve got a gorgeous baby to help you stay cheerful and positive, but some days even the cute baby isn’t enough to help you get through the day, especially when people say stuff to you that doesn’t help.

In fact, if you’re anything like I used to be, the things that people say to you when you’re exhausted and emotional can make things a hundred times worse. I remember my sleep deprivation days all too well, and more than that, I remember the comments and opinions that seriously irked me back in those days.

Here are a few that I still recall – if you’re a tired mum, which of these comments do your head in?

“You look tired”

Duh. Did you not just hear me tell you my baby woke up ten times last night? Of course I look tired, I’M NOT SLEEPING. But thanks for reminding me how crap I look at the moment.

“If it’s any consolation, you look great”

A colleague said this to me once, after I’d told her how little sleep I’d had that month. But although she meant well, it wasn’t consolation at all, because it was a lie. I didn’t look great, I looked like I hadn’t slept in a month. I was tired but not completely gullible.

“My baby sleeps from 7pm to 7am”

‘It’s almost as though she loves sleep!’ a mum once told me about her newborn. I nearly threw up. Look, if your baby sleeps like an angel, I’m happy for you, really I am. But when you’re chronically sleep deprived and on the brink of falling apart, hearing comments like this just made it even worse.

“I’m tired too because…”

I had a work colleague tell me that he too, couldn’t sleep the night before, because his cat kept meowing. Someone else told me that the wind kept them awake, or a sore leg caused them a restless night. Say what? Tired mums can’t relate to this, because we could sleep through the noise of a building site if we were allowed to. We wouldn’t even need a pillow or doona, just the chance to lie horizontally. Noisy wind and household pets DO NOT compare to the pain of getting up to a baby all night.

“When you’re up, I’m up too”

My husband tried this one on me more than once, and it never went down well. What he was trying to say was that he was vaguely aware of when I was in and out of bed, but doing this while lying in a comfy bed with your eyes closed the whole time hardly compares to feeding and settling a wakeful baby all night. Grrrrr!

“Cherish every moment”

Comments like these, and anything suggesting that you should be grateful while you’re in the throes of sleep deprivation are the opposite of helpful when you feel like a walking zombie. Of course you’re grateful for your baby, sheesh! But chances are, you’re also wondering how long a person can keep functioning on two hours of broken sleep a night.

“Have you tried…”

Everyone has a solution for you when your baby won’t sleep, and chances are, you’ve already tried it. Of course you have. What, you’re going to go through night after night of not sleeping and never look for a solution? Pfft.

What to say instead:

Sleep deprivation might make us a bit irrational but there are things to say that can actually help too. Any of the following statements would have been gratefully accepted by me during the worst of my sleepless moments:

“Your baby is gorgeous.” Always cheered me up a little.

“Sit down and I’ll make you a cup of tea.” Yes please!

“Want me to come over and help settle the baby all night?” Okay so no one ever said this to me, but it was a fantasy of mine.

“You’re doing everything right by your baby – and you will sleep again soon, I promise.” Again, no one said this to me. But looking back at that time, I know that I was doing right by my babies. And these days we all sleep through, every single night. So just in case no one says this last one to you, you’ve heard it from me now.

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