New Babies And Sleep Deprivation

I was spoilt with my first child. Born in November 2016, my daughter Emilia would always fall asleep when she was tired no matter where she was. Whether in my arms, in the car or on a bike, she never needed to be told when to go to sleep. I was quietly confident when i fell pregnant for a second time that my excellent parenting skills would mean this baby would be a good sleeper also. Wrong! 

When Sebastian was born in August 2019, I was in for a shock. Not only because he spent the first week of his life in intensive care (thats another story for another day) but when we finally brought him home, he spent every evening crying in what seemed like pain. I began to realise that he was suffering from colic. There is much debate as to the cause of colic with many believing the discomfort a child feels is a result of trapped wind. I too thought this was the case at the time. However. I have now come to realise that over-tiredness was the cause of the heart wrenching screams I would hear night after night. 

Sebastian hardly slept in during the day. Looking back now, I don’t know why I didn’t realise there was an issue with his sleep. It wasn’t until he was six months old and I was still pushing him around in a pram for hours on end trying to get him to sleep and waking up several times through the night to feed, that I decided enough was enough. Luckily, by that time the colic had disappeared but I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t think for myself. So I enlisted the help of a sleep therapist. 

The initial consultation lasted an hour via a video call. I explained Sebastian’s daytime routine and was asked whether I waned to go hard and fast or soft and slow. The sleep deprived mother in me decided hard and fast was the answer but after one night of “cry it out”, I quickly aborted the plan and opted for a softer slower approach. Intermittent comforting works on the premise you let your baby cry, going into their room intermittently to comfort. After each comfort, you extend the amount of time between the next comfort until your baby self soothes. After only a few night’s Seb was sleeping through. He had gone from waking several times, to sleeping 12 hours uninterrupted. 

What surprised me most throughout the whole process, was that baby sleep patterns are pretty standard with one size fitting all. The difference as to whether your baby sleeps or not, is their determination to stay awake. Some newborn babies need to be told to go to sleep, whilst others don’t. And as babies get older, they can suffer serious FOMO (fear of missing out) and again need to be put to bed to go to sleep to prevent over tiredness. Sebastian could self settle, he just didn’t know when it was time to go to sleep. So during the day I began putting him down for a nap in his cot, and to my surprise he would fall asleep by himself within minutes. My pushing him in a pram to try to get him to sleep was having the opposite of the desired affect. He was far too interested in the outside world to go to sleep. 

Lockdown happened just after sleep training began, so I can’t comment on what would happen if I was about all day every day and unable to put him in his cot to sleep. For the moment, his naps are predictable and sufficient to get him happily through the day. I think the most important lesson I have taken from the experience, is to ask for help. You may think you know what you are doing, but sometimes when you are in the midst of a difficult situation you can’t see the wood through the trees.

And finally, if you too are sleep deprived and your baby is now past 3 months old, I strongly recommend getting the help if a sleep therapist so both you and your baby can get a peaceful nights rest and enjoy your days together.