What to do when your baby won’t sleep

When your baby won’t sleep, it’s easy to lose perspective. Heck, it’s normal to lose perspective. One of our BabyBliss mums told me how she screamed at her own mum for forgetting to bring the shopping bags on their shopping trip and burst into tears walking along a main road then threw a bunch of drycleaning on the ground and sat down and sobbed for no reason.

Only there was a reason. She’d only had 3 hours sleep per night for about 6 weeks! That’s a pretty good reason (apologies to her mum; don’t worry, they’re ok now!).

So what are some things to do when your baby won’t sleep?

1. Get help

Give yourself and your baby a break. Some data shows at least two in five babies have sleep problems But in my experience, I’d say it’s more like 90% have at least a few days or weeks where sleep is incredibly difficult and it feels like it’s never going to end. It’s ok to ask for help. Ask your sister, ask your mum, ask your partner, ask your next door neighbor (if you have a nice one). “Can I get a bit of help? Could you just pop round and watch the baby for a bit while I have a shower and maybe a 45 minute catnap?” “I know this is crazy, but would you mind terribly much making a meal, even just some soup or something? I’m just exhausted and I can’t do it.” Any mother I know would help if you tell them the baby hasn’t been sleeping. I mean it. It’s like a secret code. It’s ok to ask.

2. Freak out for a minute

It’s totally fine to freak out about this just for a minute. It is ridiculously stressful to have no sleep. It’s actually outlawed as a form of torture. I’m not trying to diminish the incredible suffering of victims of torture but I’m just saying that sleep deprivation is serious and it’s totally understandable to be upset about it. But try not to fall into a hole (see tip number 1; it’s ok to ask for help).

3. Keep in mind that it’s not forever

There are very few 12 year olds who are still waking their parents up 13 times a night. Let’s face it, there are very few six year olds doing that. Now, I’m not saying that waiting 12 years is a very encouraging thought but I can assure you that the situation you are facing is not permanent. It will eventually get better even if you do nothing (and I’m not advocating doing nothing).

4. Give yourself credit

You are doing a tough job. There’s no official guide book for what you’re doing. There’s millions of words written about parenthood but no one knows the answers and no one has the perfect solution for your baby. You know your baby best of all and if you’re struggling, you can be sure that most people would be struggling. It’s not easy, otherwise mothers would all be walking around with great hair and perfectly ironed clean clothes. Instead, there are lots of mums greeting the day with a disheveled pony tail and track pants. You are keeping a whole other human alive. There’s many years ahead and at the moment you’re just getting to know each other and working out a routine. If this was a paid job, you’d probably still be in the probation period. No one expects you to know everything so take the pressure off yourself and take a tiny breath and a tiny moment to congratulate yourself for getting through the day. It’s not easy.

5. Consider what practical steps you can take to make a difference.

Before 12 weeks, it really is a responsive time and you can’t suddenly change your baby into a mega-sleeping machine. You can create a rhythm to the day but your baby has a little tummy and can’t suddenly sleep eight hours every night without a feed; it’s not physically possible. But after 12 weeks, there are a range of steps you can take to start making a difference. You can check out my blog about five practical things to do when your baby won’t sleep or talk to someone you trust about what steps worked for them. Try not to frenetically google and try everything. Try to pick a few things and really stick with them otherwise it can be confusing and stressful.

Most of all, remember, you’re ok and your baby’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up; parenting is a tough job.

All the best

Jo

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