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

TIP 1 – Change Your Mindset

  • This will be the ultimate mind game. You can choose to change your focus. This took me a good 6 months to realise but I actually felt less tired when I stopped thinking about how tired I should be. The pain does lessen as your body adjusts to less and broken sleep but often our mind still registers, ‘Oh, I only got about 3.5 accumulated hours of sleep last night, I am EXAHUSTED!’ Yes, that is bugger all sleep but I bet your bottom dollar if you are a regular at this kind of stuff, you’ll still kick goals the next day if you just get on up and get on with it. Make a plan for the morning to get your grumpy, tired arse moving and get on with it.
  • Stop calculating how much sleep you had, how long you were awake, predicting the next wake up. None of it matters and none of it helps your frame of mind.
  • If it was a particularly bullshit night, give yourself the chance to cry, vent to someone, make a seriously yummy cuppa, have a little pity party and THEN get on with it!

TIP 2 – Perspective

  • You are not alone. You are not the first and won’t be the last mother to go through this. You haven’t done anything wrong. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with your baby (of course you will have no doubt ruled out any health concerns). You are not failing, in fact, you are doing brilliantly, your baby IS just as hard as you imagine and there are easier babies getting around and that’s why it looks easy for others.
  • People may simply not get what you are going through because everyone has their own version of a ‘good night’ and a ‘bad night’. When we went through our worst patch of waking every 20-40 mins, I would have given ANYTHING for a 2 hour stretch of sleep! ANYTHING! And then I’d have a friend complaining of their shocking night which involved baby waking 3 times, 2 of which were between 4am and 6am (meaning there was at least one bloody good long stretch in there). It all depends on your perspective. This isn’t a competition so I do try to understand when others complain about a night of sleep I can literally only dream of, but more than anything, I try to turn this into a positive… From our perspective, we can fully appreciate when our babies DO genuinely have a better night. It might not be the best but better is all we truly sleep deprived folk need for a little reboot here and there. We appreciate it far more than those who have never been where we are.

TIP 3 – Try Stuff and Investigate Different Avenues

  • Investigate health concerns – paediatrician, lactation consultant, chiropractor, osteopath, naturopath, dietician … We consulted all of them. Every possible health concern was ruled out. It’s a strange feeling you get as each possible ’cause’ of your child’s wakefulness is ruled out. On one hand, it is an extraordinary relief to know your wee one hasn’t been battling any sort of pain or discomfort preventing their sound sleep but on the other hand, if it were ‘something’ then you might have found a fix and sleep sweet sleep may have beckoned. Cue mummy guilt for not feeling 100% grateful at that moment for your beautifully healthy little sleep thief. It’s a lingering thought and fully understandable in the circumstances. You’re human, brush off the guilt.
  • I could never have reached acceptance if I hadn’t tried everything I wanted to try first. The only regret here was that I did unfortunately try a few things that went against my motherly instinct and caused my baby trauma and I can’t take it back (sleep school being the top of my list). Is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right? If the answer is yes, go for it. If it doesn’t work, it simply wasn’t what your baby needed. You didn’t fail and they aren’t being difficult. It was an idea that didn’t work. Move on.

At the end of the day, this was a season and for this season, this is what I needed to do.

TIP 4 – Acceptance

  • It may seem negative but simply accepting that your baby IS going to wake at 20, 40, 60 mins (whatever their current stint of choice is) and EXPECTING them to wake versus hoping they may magically sleep for longer actually helped me a lot! While I was in the ‘Maybe tonight is the magical night where he sleeps longer’, I lived with continual feelings of disappointment and frustration as night after night it didn’t happen. Accepting the waking helped.
  • Accepting that there was NOTHING I could do to stop my baby waking helped me refocus my energy on what I could control – getting myself the best quality sleep I could, when I could. Quality over quantity. For me, this meant eating dinner early with bub so I didn’t have to eat into the sleep time to cook or eat; showering as soon as bub was down to help me wind down and to guarantee I had a shower each day; bedsharing once bub woke after I went to bed; putting him on the boob – screw night time resettling; and laying and resting or occasionally napping while bub catnapped during the day. Did this bode well for my night time social life? No. Did I get much time to talk with my husband? Not unless we went for a walk to get bub to sleep which became a fabulous way to ensure we talked away from the TV. At the end of the day, this was a season and for this season, this is what I needed to do. I still socialised during the day and enjoyed my adult time then. The nights, well they were for sleeping any chance I could.
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