Becoming a parent is definitely one of the most magical and rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. But it’s also been one of the most challenging, difficult and demanding at times.
One of the experiences that will always fall into the latter list is when baby is not sleeping and the sleep deprivation that seems to be synonymous with parenting – it really is utterly torturous at times.
Parenting seems to be synonymous with sleep deprivation.
When I had my first child, Isabella, I always thought the worst time for sleep deprivation would be the newborn phase: up feeding every three hours like clockwork all day and night.
Sadly, for me, that wasn’t the worst of it; in fact, I almost became used to it because there was a rhythm to it. I would wake, feed (half asleep), lay Isabella back down and go back to sleep knowing I had a few hours of sleep ahead.
No, the worst for me has just begun.
Broken sleep for the past 4 years
No, the worst for me has just begun. We were never ‘lucky’ enough to have ‘good sleepers’.
Isabella didn’t start sleeping though the night until she was 9 months old and Benjamin still isn’t sleeping through the night and he’s 14 months! He will USUALLY only wake up once (unless he’s ill or teething), but that can be any time from 9:00pm – 4:30am.
There’s no pattern to it and therefore we are always anticipating a broken night’s sleep.
But more than this, Isabella, now 3, can sometimes wake to go to the toilet, or because she’s having a night terror or even cry out in her sleep. Luckily for us they don’t usually wake each other up.
But it certainly means our sleep has been broken sleep on and off for the past 4 years. I literally can’t remember the last time I had a week of unbroken sleep. I never feel well rested.
The 18 month sleep regression
What really hit us hard the first time round though was the 18 month sleep regression. It was so sudden and out of the blue; we had never even heard of the 18 month sleep regression. It was only after nights upon nights of questioning her screaming that we stumbled upon this phrase.
I was googling ’baby keeps waking up screaming’.
It had become so bad that I was googling things like, “baby keeps waking up screaming”, “why won’t my baby stop crying”, ”baby not sleeping” it was only after I typed her age that the 18 month sleep regression became a ‘thing’ in my head.
So what does the 18 month sleep regression look like? It can mean your toddler who was sleeping suddenly doesn’t, they might not nap during the day as well, they may have more night terrors, or they may even just wake earlier in the morning.
Your toddler has become more independent; she’s learning she can say no and is testing it out.
It comes about because your toddler has become more independent; she’d learning she can say no and is testing it out. Isabella seemed fine when actually being put to bed, but she seemed to just want some company when she woke up during sleep cycles. As soon as we went into the room, she was happy and settled.
I really wasn’t aware of the 18 month sleep regression and almost scoffed at what others were saying. But now we’ve been left sleepless and haggard for the weeks at a time and with Benjamin fast approaching 18 months and with no sign of a full night sleep on the horizon,
A mammoth struggle
I fully empathise with those of you who are in the same boat, when your baby won’t sleep. It really is a mammoth struggle and some days I really don’t know how I function, especially on the days I have to go to work and teach.
Somehow though, we manage, we survive and we thoroughly enjoy the moments in between the lack of sleep. But what, apart from ranting about it, can we do about the lack of sleep?
Sometimes, a good moan can get us through the day.
Well I do believe that united whinging can really help – it’s what unites us on the most difficult of days. We aren’t moaning about being a parent, we still love our children unconditionally but sometimes, a good moan can get us through the day.
Is your baby not sleeping – practical measures
More practical measures though are investing in really good memory foam pillows so we get as restful a night as we can! I pinched my husband’s memory foam pillow when I was pregnant with Isabella and never gave it back, it really helps me to get comfortable and fall asleep quickly.
Next we purchased a toddler clock to help Isabella identify when it’s night and morning. She’s was only 18 months old when we introduced it and it worked to a degree.
But the thing that we found worked even better was a pretty lamp on a timer. Isabella chose a flower lamp and it comes on at 7am. This was more visual for her and worked a lot better when she was younger too as she seemed up understand the concept a little more.
A bedtime routine with a definite end.
A good bedtime routine will always benefit in the long run too. Even if it sometimes feels that it isn’t making a blind bit of difference, a short and incredibly consistent bedtime routine with a definite end will help signal to your baby when it’s bedtime. We have always kept the same bedtime routine and have now introduced it to Benjamin too.
Try some sort of comforter. Just make sure you buy two (or three) as soon as your little one has latched onto one. Because Benjamin has fallen in love with Isabella’s one which is now nearly 4 years old, I can’t find a duplicate anywhere so we don’t have a backup bunny just in case it ever gets lost – I have nightmares about it getting lost!!
Sometimes a nightlight can help if your child is waking and is now scared of the dark.
But my final tip, if all else fails, is that I bring them into our bed. Yes, I said it, I used to bring Isabella into bed with us and I’ve also done the same on occasion with Benjamin. Before I became a parent, I swore I’d never share my bed, but sometimes it really is the only way for anyone to get some sleep and I would do it again and again.
If you have any helpful tips, when baby is not sleeping, to get us through the sleep deprivation, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’m Michelle and I’m a parent to a three year old little girl, Isabella, and a one year old little boy, Benjamin (which by default also makes me a coffee addict).
I first started blogging at What Mummy Thinks about three months in to my maternity leave with my eldest, something else to focus on other than dirty nappies.
Three years on and I still love sharing my experiences of motherhood (good and bad) and all thing family.
Baby not sleeping? Try Michelle’s way.
- A toddler clock to help your child identify when it’s night and morning.
- Or a pretty lamp on a timer that comes on when it’s morning.
- Some sort of comforter. Make sure you buy two (or three) as soon as your little one has latched onto one.
- A short and incredibly consistent bedtime routine with a definite end.
- Bring them into your bed, sometimes it really is the only way for anyone to get some sleep.
This also helps
- Moan about it.
- Invest in really good memory foam pillows to get as restful a night as you can.