Extreme Night Waking – tips for living, loving & surviving the ultimate Sleep Thief

Photography: Georgia Russell

By Carly Grubb

So this is for the mums who have a baby who does not fit the sleep mold.

The ones with babies who takes them to a level of sleep deprivation few will ever know.

Sleep deprivation that has no light at the end of the tunnel.

Sleep deprivation that doesn’t simply end after the newborn phase, wonder week, teething or sickness.

To those mothering highly sensitive, super cuddly, super needy, darling little people.

To those mothers who have doubted themselves and their baby and felt like failures as they watch sleep come so easily to those around them with a few tricks and bits of ‘training’.

This is for you, if you’ve thought of running away to sleep a full night in a hotel.

This for you, if you sobbed your heart out as your little dear lies gazing up at you at 3am.

You know this is for you, if you agree that only three wake ups is a ‘good’ night.

This is also for the fathers, the grandparents, the aunts, uncles, friends and acquaintances who want to understand the battle your loved one is going through as she mothers this little blessing who is no doubt precious beyond words, whilst wearing her down to her very core.

First of all, don’t think for one second I am trying to make this situation you are in seem easy. I know firsthand the physical, mental and emotional strain you feel right now. Sleep deprivation fucking hurts. It really fucking hurts. It saps you of your energy, you can’t think clearly and you lose motivation very quickly as your world swiftly shrinks down to one singleminded desire … SLEEP! For many of us, these sensational high needs babies don’t even feel the need to get any sleep from the day they are born. While many babies sleep off their birth experience, ours are wide awake, often easily terrified, fussy little buggers and you’ll know doubt have had a midwife or early days visitor comment, ‘Ooh, he’s very awake for a newborn.’ No such thing as time for mum to sleep and recover from the birth … Nope, especially not if the mum is a first time mother who is no doubt trying her darnedest to do everything ‘right’ and will be trying to put said baby down once asleep to avoid cosleeping.

It is exhausting and overwhelming.

Also, don’t think I am any stranger to extreme night waking. I remember when I was going through it, I felt so alone. I didn’t know anyone else whose baby woke every 20-40mins all night every night, for a few months straight from 6 months. I’d read gentle parenting books or blogs in the early months and think, ‘That’s all freaking well and good if you have nice easygoing kid but how can I keep up that kind of comfort with my crazily, intense baby?’ I was sure they couldn’t mean it was for me as good as it sounded.

But in the end, these gentle methods were actually EXACTLY what was needed for both my baby and myself. We needed a way to tune into each other. I needed to stop trying to control what was uncontrollable and start working WITH the baby I had, instead of the baby the books decided he should be. These methods did not make him sleep more or better. There was no magical cure and there was no magical change that suddenly saw him turn into a sleeper. I remained sleep deprived. Extremely sleep deprived. He marginally improved towards the end of my second pregnancy and again a bit more after the new baby was born. By then, sleep deprivation was my norm. But I was and am okay.

So here’s my tips for trying to not only survive the ultimate sleep thief in your life but also to live, love and feel good about yourself and your baby.

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