Sleep deprivation when you have a baby can be the actual the worst. It can feel like it’s never going to end. Even when well-meaning people try to tell you it will pass ‘one day’, it can feel like that one day is so far off, that you might actually lose your mind before then.
So why bother saying it? In fact, why are they even speaking to you? Why anything? Lack of sleep can leave you feeling a bit angry. And more than a bit fuzzy around the edges.
When your first baby lulls you into a false sense of sleep security
Despite my enthusiastic reading up on baby care before I had my first child, parenting is something you learn on the job. And one of the things I’ve learnt along the way, is that what works for one child, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Each of my three babies were different, and I was a different mother to each of them in turn.
My first baby was such a naturally chill child, that even though I was blundering my way through, things pretty much just worked out. When it came to his sleep, I had no idea about the feed, play, sleep rhythm, and spent hours of every day walking the halls, rocking him in the belief that babies need to sleep, so probably he should be sleeping now, right? He’d squirm for a while, but eventually he just … went to sleep.
When he was three months old, I uneventfully transitioned him from the bassinet beside my bed, to a cot in his own room. And when I decided it was time to teach him to sleep through the night, I employed the slowly-creep-out-of-the-room method. This involved putting him down in his cot, and on the first night sitting right next to him with my arm through the bars. As each night went by, I gradually removed myself. Slowly I inched my way towards the door, so that eventually I was at the door, then in the hallway, then: done.
But your second baby is not into the whole sleeping caper
Fast forward 10 years and my second child was born. Not only did I feel like I’d forgotten everything I’d learnt and was starting all over again, but I had a completely different personality on my hands. Loud, delightful and communicative, this baby was nothing like his chill sibling. And this baby wanted to be close to me all the time. There was no separateness between us. I wanted to be close to him all the time too. He’d look up at me with his giant brown eyes and the longest lashes I’d ever seen, and I’d feel like – this baby needs me. I can’t leave him alone!
For his first five months, he slept happily in the bed with me and his dad, or next to our bed in a baby hammock, but he was most content snuggled up to me like a tiny puppy.
The 10-minute naps from hell
Then it happened. At around six months, he was still sleeping with us and he started waking every 40 minutes. Then every 10. And unlike the first time round with my firstborn, where I could just structure the day around the baby, I now had a 10-year-old to drive to school and take to basketball practice – and you know, life – to attend to. I was tired. Crazy tired. But my partner, who had to get up early every morning to go to his office job, was wrecked. Something had to be done.
Enter: Sleep expert Jo Ryan
I asked around and found baby sleep expert Jo Ryan. After a phone consult, Jo explained that she could make a customised program for us that would help us teach our baby to sleep through the night, and would provide follow-up consults to see how we were doing.
Jo’s first piece of advice was to replace my baby’s dummy with a comforting toy – which not only worked, but the toy is still one of his most treasured possessions. Other advice she gave us was developmentally appropriate but also specific to our baby and his needs. She made us a routine that would work with the reality of our family’s schedule.
It nearly broke us: but it didn’t
I have to be honest: my second child was very tricky to teach to sleep. We had to be consistent in employing the techniques and unlike with my first child, there was a lot of crying. Not just by the baby. My partner and I took turns settling him. Sometimes we felt like we were broken.
But it worked. He started to self-settle and after three weeks of doing the same thing, he slept through the night. And he kept sleeping through.
I started recommending Jo to any of my friends who had trouble with their baby’s sleep, AKA most of my friends, because: most babies.
Sleep advice actually works
I was able to use Jo’s expertise again – pre-emptively, with my third child and that was pretty smooth sailing, because for the most part, now I knew what to expect. Of course, things still popped up that I needed help with, like the four-month sleep regression, and I got in touch with Jo again and found out exactly what to do. I was learning on the job. With not inconsiderable help from Jo.
Find what works for you
I strongly believe that every parent has to do what’s right for them and their baby. There’s no one size fits all, and there’s no one who is better equipped to deal with your baby’s needs than you. But what Jo’s expertise taught me, was that with a bit of help, there is a light at the end of the sleepless tunnel.
Having trouble getting your baby to sleep? Jo Ryan is one of our Sleep School experts who can help you. Click to find out more about Sleep School or to book a one-on-one session with Jo today.