How to Survive the Expert Advice When Your Baby Won’t Sleep

expert‘SIXTEEN hours they say she needs! What are we doing wrong?’ I yell at my husband, who rolls over sleepily to join me for our regular nightly debate.

‘Is she hungry? Is she teething? Is she eating her teeth? She falls fast asleep on me but as soon as I even think about putting her in the cot she wakes up screaming!’

‘Do you check her limbs are limp?’ He enquired.

‘Yes, Dr bloody Sears, I do. I also wait for the right time in her sleep cycle, listen for steady breathing and slowly put her down in the cot I have checked is warm enough, in the room I have checked is cool enough!’

I had been a mum for several months and still had NO idea how to get my baby to go to sleep or stay asleep.

I had read all the books.

I knew all the stuff. Growth spurts, sleep regression and separation anxiety. I could prevent nappy rash and spot the signs of meningitis.

But knowing all the ‘stuff’ had not made motherhood any easier.

My baby did not do things by the book. Especially when it came to sleep.

Babies should sleep around ten hours per night and have three naps per day, I had read.

Sixteen hours sleep? Whatever…

Not my daughter. She had laughed in the face of sleep advice and had decided that sixteen hours of sleep per day was not for her.

As a result, I was sleep-deprived, stressed and felt like a failure.

I thought I knew what my baby needed. I knew what I needed – sleep! But somewhere in between What To Expect When You Are Expecting, babyexpertsknowbest.com and countless ‘life-changing’ sleep advice books, I had lost the ability to trust my gut feeling.

I felt my daughter needed to be close to me while she slept. My gut was telling me that she did not yet feel secure enough to sleep alone.

But what the hell did my gut know?

My gut hasn’t got childcare qualifications or written a book. It doesn’t have 68 million followers on Twitter or any ‘research’ to back it up.

I had read it was bad  to co-sleep. It could put my baby at risk and I would be ‘making a rod for my own back.’   She would NEVER learn to sleep alone. I had read that it was essential to stick to a bedtime routine NO MATTER WHAT.

I had also forgotten how to use my common sense since becoming a mum.

‘So your baby won’t sleep in her cot but she’ll sleep with you? You only get a couple of hours of broken sleep a night and some nights you get NO sleep at all?

You spend every evening in a dark room for three hours sticking to the Bedtime Routine? Err, skip the routine, let her sleep with you and get some bloody sleep. Problem solved.”

Shut the hell up, Common Sense, I thought. I am just a mum. I will not bugger up my child by ignoring the ‘experts.

So I did everything the ‘right’ way and continued to be severely sleep-deprived, stressed and feel like a failure.

But I kept on ignoring my maternal instincts. Doing things that felt wrong because I thought they were ‘right’ and my baby still wouldn’t sleep.

As time passed, motherhood had taken its toll on my mental health, my physical health and my self-esteem.

‘A good night’s sleep is essential to your baby’s brain development. A baby needs to be taught how to be a good sleeper.’ They claimed.

I had got to the point where I felt guilty for NOT leaving my baby to cry. What kind of mother cuddles her baby when she screams? Was I being cruel by not letting her cry herself to sleep?

In desperation one night, my husband I left our daughter to cry. We had tried all the gentle sleep training methods and nothing had worked so this was our last hope.

It was the worst ten minutes of my life.   Just TEN minutes of my baby screaming for comfort was all it took for me to realise that I had been an IDIOT.

I brought her into my bed and held her in my arms. She was so upset it took most of the night to settle her to sleep.

When I looked at her little face drenched with tears and listened to her struggling to get her breath back after crying, I decided there and then to STOP giving a fuck about the expert advice.

From that day forward the only thing I gave a damn about was my baby. I followed her lead and gave her what she needed. I did what I thought was best for my family. I didn’t get much sleep for a while but I dealt with it. We were happy and my baby was OK.

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Co-no sleeping

 

So dear baby sleep ‘experts.’ Write your books, launch your websites, advertise your services, but stop using scare-mongering as a sales technique.

By suggesting that if someone does not follow your method in your book or by paying for your help, he will end up ‘stupid/insecure/a sociopath,’ you are making the parent who’s baby does not respond to this method feel like a failure.

Why not simply say, ‘this is one option – why not see if it works for your family. If not try something else.’

To the parenting gurus with books to sell telling us that sleep training is damaging our offspring – THIS IS NOT ON. To the baby experts with books to sell claiming that co-sleeping is damaging our offspring – THIS IS NOT ON.

You are not only killing our maternal instincts and zapping our confidence but you are belittling the work of all the decent baby sleep consultants out there who genuinely want to help people.

I know all of the stuff..

If it feels right, sleep with your babies – follow the safety guidelines and unless you drink, smoke or sleep on a bed of nails, they will turn out just fine.

 If it is feels right, gently sleep coach your baby – as long as you are not leaving them to cry in a dark room all night long – they will turn out fine.

Let them have a dummy, feed them, rock them, sing to them, lie down with them. Do what YOU feel your baby needs.

The books can tell us about the ‘stuff’. They can teach us practical things, advise us on safety measures and milestones – but they can’t tell us how to be a mother to our babies.

We are grown up parents and perfectly capable of using our common sense. We need to believe we are not idiots and have the courage of our convictions.

 Let’s ‘Mum Up’ and stop giving so many fucks about what the ‘experts’ say.

Oh and for the record, at around two and a half years old my baby started sleeping through the night in her own bed. Not because of a ‘technique’ or because I followed some expert advice but because she JUST did. Now she is a bright, happy toddler and is neither stupid, insecure or a sociopath. I just wish I had stopped giving a damn sooner.

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13 thoughts on “How to Survive the Expert Advice When Your Baby Won’t Sleep

  1. I love all of your articles. This one, however, hit close to heart. All the sleep training books I read made me feel like an idiot. I spent my first year of motherhood trying to ‘teach’ a baby to sleep on her own in her own room, which meant none of us slept. After that I put her in my bed and voila she actually knew how to sleep 😉 By the way she is now 3.5years old she sleeps in her room 12 hours a night and I never had to teach her to do it. I see posts all the time in my mom’s group, new moms scared to hold their babies in their arms for too long or from comforting them when they are sick for fear of having to ‘retrain’ them again. One mother didn’t know if she should go in, to roll her crying, sleep trained 4 month old, back onto his back since he wasn’t rolling over consistently. She didn’t want to undo all the work. I don’t blame her but these stupid books. No one would have to ask that if they didn’t read that garbage. Thanks for another great read 🙂

    • I know so many mothers totally stressed out trying to do the ‘right’ thing according to the books! Wish I hadn’t wasted a year of my motherhood so stressed by it all! Glad your little one sleeps now. Proof mums really do know best! Thanks for the lovely comment! x

  2. And what’s the plan if all your gut tells you is that you’re going to be sectioned if you don’t get some sleep soon? I don’t have any mum gut instincts. Not cut out for this at all but at least I haven’t been daft enough to read any of the books!

    • Good idea not to read the books! I am sure you are doing a great job! If you are really struggling talk to someone. GP or a friend. My gut told me time and time again I was not cut out for motherhood but turned out I have PND. Check out your local Home-start. They were a life line for me.

  3. Part of this brought a little tear to my eye! All so true, I wish I had co-slept earlier but was too terrified / warned off. I am now a big fan of going with the flow and doing what’s easiest for all of us!

  4. But … without the hysteria, how will they ever sell books? You know logic and sense doesn’t sell jack.

    On a slightly more encouraging note, I myself adopted the fuck-it-all method to get my kids to sleep about a month after my oldest was born at my mother’s urging and slightly before I lost my mind. 12 years and 3 kids later, all my kids slept on their tummies (go ahead and call CPS – this isn’t my real name anyway), slept with me or not with me, nursed in bed with me (or not), took a bottle before bed (or not), and each child changed about four or five times over a few years. And they are all still alive! And not spoiled or angry or psychos; they are normal. I can attest, the fuck-it-all method of getting kids to sleep works wonders!

  5. Lady – where were you when my mini me was a baby. This could have saved my life :). Thank you a million thank you’s for writing this and for keeping it real. Every mother to be should be handed this. Love and blessings xoxox

Feel free to leave a reply..misery loves company.