Maybe we need to stop offering false hope to parents of babies who don’t sleep.

For the first 4 months of my daughter’s life if someone asked me ‘how is she in the nights?’, I would answer ‘brilliant…for now’.

See, at the beginning she would sleep for a good 5 hour stretch every night.  But I just knew it wouldn’t last.  I knew that something would come along and it would all go to pot.   And that something turned out to be the 4 month sleep regression.

It was crazy, in the space of about a week she went from sleeping these lovely long stretches at night to waking up every 2-3 hours (at best).  On our worst nights she woke up pretty much every hour.  And each time she woke, she fed.

This carried on until she was about a year old and I finally managed to cut out her night feeds.  She still rarely sleeps all through the night, but the days of 2-hourly wake ups are behind us.

Those 8 months were some of the longest, hardest months I’ve ever had.

There were days where I was so tired I felt dizzy.

I constantly craved caffeine and sugar.

A lot of exhausted tears were shed.

And one thing that really didn’t help?  False hope!

offer false hope parents babies don't sleep (1)

When you tell people that your baby is waking a lot in the night, they’ll more often than not offer you some advice.  And the internet is full of suggestions and miracle cures.

And you get your hopes up.  You start to believe that your baby will sleep better if you just do this one thing.

The thing is, some of the advice will work for some babies, but not for others.  Sometimes you can try everything under the sun and still get nowhere, because your baby just isn’t a ‘sleeper’.

And sometimes, the advice being handed out isn’t even right.

One big thing that we hear a lot is that your baby will start to sleep for longer stretches if you switch them to formula, or start feeding them solid foods.

And I remember reading this and being told this and really getting my hopes up that Nerys would sleep better once she got to 6 months and was starting to eat solids.

But, it made absolutely no difference to us.  I would give her a bowl of cereal before taking her up for her bath, in the hope that it would fill her tummy and get her to sleep for longer.  But it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.

So I was really quite relieved to read this research from Dr. Amy Brown at Swansea University that found that switching to formula or giving solid foods had no effect on how many times babies wake in the night.

The study involved asking over 700 mothers with babies aged 6-12 months how often their baby woke up each night, and whether or not they fed them each time.

Dr Brown found that “there was no difference in the number of times babies woke up dependent on whether they were breast or formula fed, how many feeds they had in the day or how many solid meals they ate.”

So, basically, no matter what you feed your baby if they’re going to wake in the night, they’re going to wake in the night.

And I think there’s some comfort in that.

I mean, it’s not what you want to read at 3am when you’re desperate for an answer (and some sleep), but there is some comfort in knowing that it’s just the way it is.

You can easily drive yourself crazy by worrying about what you’ve done wrong to make your baby a ‘bad sleeper’ and putting together plans of attack to solve the problem based on bits of advice you’ve read.  But maybe it isn’t a problem that needs to be fixed.  Maybe it’s just the way it is.  Just the way your baby is.

I know that my approach in the end was to try my best to just accept the sleepless nights.  To steer into the skid.

It’s not a miracle cure or a perfect solution to your sleep problems, but here’s what helped get me through it:

  • Accepting the situation and keeping in mind that, one day, it would improve.

 

  • Coffee.  Lots of coffee.  And sweet things.  My body was craving sugar and energy, and while I’m sure there are healthier ways to get what I needed I was too tired to do more than grab a handful of skittles.

 

  • Having other people to talk to who were going through the same thing.  This is huge.  A good friend of mine was dealing with the same thing as me at the same time, and seeing her every morning on the school run and comparing stories from the previous night (and knowing I wasn’t in it alone) really helped get me through.

 

  • Taking naps.  Whenever and wherever I could, I would shut my eyes.  And at the weekend I would head back to bed for a good few hours and let my husband have quality time with the kids so I could catch up on some sleep.

 

  • Netflix.  When Nerys woke up for a feed in the night I would grab the ipad and prop it up in bed next to me and at least be entertained while she fed (and fed and fed).  I got through all of Prison Break, Orange is the new black and Charmed (along with few other shows) in those 8 months of endless night-feeds.

So those are my thoughts on the whole thing, and my advice for getting through it.

I’d love to know what other people think about this.  If you had/have a baby who wakes a lot in the night, have you found any advice useful, or did it just give you false hope?

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12 Comments

  1. 04/01/2017 / 8:38 am

    My son woke several times in the night to feed and slowly whittled the amount down to none at ten months. We were lucky that he fed and then went straight back to sleep however I had several friends who had babies that would be up for hours in the night and, for some of them, it’s still not improved. The nights were I have been up with mini R every hour have nearly killed me so i can’t even begin to imagine how you survive when it’s every night. I guess people want to say something supportive and give hope but you’re right, it’s not always wise. My friend got told the same about weaning and it made no difference. I take my hate off to any parent who has a child that isn’t fond of sleep. #BloggerClubUK

    • 04/03/2017 / 1:11 pm

      I’m with you, I feel like I got off lightly in a way because Nerys was the same, she woke a lot some nights but would generally go straight back to sleep after a feed. And now when she wakes in the night she does go back off quite quickly with one of us by her. I can’t imagine what state I would be in if she was actually awake for half the night. x

  2. 04/03/2017 / 3:17 pm

    Amen to that. The expectations of baby sleep is just ridiculous. We had such a bad sleeper (who is now an amazing sleeper) and all this talk about what should or shouldn’t be happening just made everything so much worse. Great post and thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely x

    • 04/03/2017 / 6:04 pm

      That’s so often the case isn’t it, babies who don’t sleep well end up being great sleepers when they’re older! But that hard stage when they’re not sleeping really is made harder by feeling like we’re doing things wrong! x

  3. 04/06/2017 / 10:03 pm

    I love this post – I’ve shared it several times already! My firstborn is only now sleeping through reliably – he’s 3. My second baby wakes up pretty much every 2 hours. I completely agree with you that false hope doesn’t help at all. We really need to support each other as parents of small, non-sleeping children. #coolmumclub

    • 04/09/2017 / 3:31 pm

      Thank you so much Naomi! And you’re right, what we need is support, not false hope! Things are still very hit and miss here, some nights are great, others we play musical beds and everyone in the house has a disturbed night! x

  4. 04/07/2017 / 9:55 am

    I’m probably not the best person to talk about sleep – Monkey went 6 hours at 6 weeks I have no idea why. He just did. I gave no idea if we can get that lucky this time round with number two. If not it’s going to come as even more of a shock! I do agree that false hope can not help one little bit though and your practical suggestions are a lot more helpful, thank you for joining us at #BloggerClubUK hope to see you again this week X

    • 04/09/2017 / 3:26 pm

      It’s funny isn’t it, some babies just seem to love their sleep while others fight it with everything they’ve got! I really hope you do get lucky again with number two! x

  5. 04/01/2017 / 10:19 am

    YES!! This post really speaks to me right now, especially after an awful night where my baby woke up at 9.30 after going to bed at 7, and then wouldn’t go back to sleep until 2am!! Then hourly wake ups until 6am where he finally gave in and slept until 9am. The previous night he slept 8 – 2 then til 9am after a quick feed. He also was a great sleeper until he hit 4 months, he also didn’t get any better when he started eating solids, and I also often get advised to switch him to forumla to make him sleep longer….I know none of these things will work, I know I just have to wait it out. The one thing that really annoys is when I get asked “Is he a good baby?” To which I reply, yes of course! And so they say “oh so he sleeps through the night then?” Erm, no!! People need to get over the idea that a baby needs to be sleeping through the night, it puts way too much pressure on mums if their baby wakes frequently. Lovely post, thanks for sharing #bloggerclubuk

    • 04/03/2017 / 1:08 pm

      Argh, that thing about babies being ‘good’ if they sleep well is so annoying! And you’re right, there really is pressure on parents to get their babies sleeping through, it feels like we’re doing something wrong if they wake a lot, when really that’s just the way it is. x

  6. 04/02/2017 / 10:50 pm

    Ah this is excellent! So true. Some babies just sleep better than others. So far at 4 and a half months we are doing well but I know it could all change. I read the gentle sleep book by Sarah Ockwell Smith when he was just a few weeks old (something to do during the night feeds!) and all of the research she summarises in that basically says it’s completely normal for babies, toddlers and even preschoolers to wake up. I think knowing it’s normal and preparing yourself for it absolutely helps, you are right.
    Also it really winds me up when everyone asks about baby’s sleep. I find it strange that suddenly everybody has an opinion on it and cares how much sleep I am getting!! #coolmumclub

    • 04/03/2017 / 12:57 pm

      It’s the same with breastfeeding, if you know that it might be hard, and that the baby will feed constantly, you can prepare for that and it makes it a little easier to cope! Thinking that all other babies sleep through the night makes you think there’s something wrong when yours wakes all the time, when actually that’s normal! x

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