How to survive when your baby won’t go the f**k to sleep


(Illustration by Lorna Cowley)

Sleep-deprivation can kill. I know this because the Internet told me.

It was about 4am and I was up yet again with my new baby. I needed answers. I needed to know that I would survive the torture of being kept awake, night after night, after night.

So with my heart in my mouth, I frantically Googled, ‘Can you die of sleep-deprivation?’

I was so shocked by what I found out that I woke up my husband, James, to break the news:

‘James, James, wake up!’ I cried, until he finally opened his eyes. ‘I am going to die.’

I waved my mobile phone at him. ‘OH MY GOD! It says here that in the 1980s this scientist bloke conducted a series of ground-breaking sleep experiments and, after staying awake for 32 days, all of his subjects died.’

I should mention at this point in the story that those ‘subjects’ were rats. But still, it was a terrifying thing to discover after many months of barely any sleep.

‘Well, in that case, you really ought to sleep while the baby sleeps instead of messing around on your phone,’ groaned James, before rolling back over and (annoyingly) going straight back to sleep.

‘Yes, sleep while you can my love,’ I whispered manically into the darkness.  ‘Because soon I’ll be dead and you’ll have to deal with the baby every single night. Alone. See how you like that!’

So it is a fact. Sleep-deprivation can kill you, if you are a rat.

But thankfully, if you are a human parent it probably won’t. I know this because I was severely sleep-deprived for four years and I did not die. I was exhausted, depressed, anxious and often felt like I was dying, but I lived to tell the tale. This tale.

I should start by telling you about my two daughters, aka the Sleep Thieves.

The two tiny, beautiful girls who stole my heart, my sleep and almost my sanity.

Babies wake up at night. I knew this going into motherhood. But my offspring didn’t just wake up a few times for a feed or a nappy change.

On a bad night, they woke up every half hour; on a good night, every few hours; and on a really bad night, they would just refuse to go to sleep at all. Born just 18 months apart, they were both highly adept in the art of wakefulness.

People told me things would improve. ‘Babies settle down at six months,’ they said.

‘They will sleep better when they start on solids,’ they reassured me.  ‘When they start crawling/walking/talking, they’ll definitely sleep,’ they promised.

‘They’ were liars. Mine did not. Both my children saw sleep as unnecessary until they were well into toddlerhood.

As a result, I spent the first few years of motherhood living like some kind of weird zombie, surviving on reheated coffee and half-eaten biscuits.

Parenthood was nothing like I expected when I was expecting. I expected babies to be tucked up in bed by 8pm (because they’re babies and they do as we say, right?).

I envisaged my husband and me heading downstairs after we had kissed our little angel good night. Then we’d open a bottle of wine and happily bask in our post-baby bubble.

I did not expect my daughter to wake up every half hour and scream the moment I put her back in her cot. Neither did I think that we would spend our evenings tensely watching TV with the subtitles on, not daring to talk, laugh or flush the toilet for fear we would ‘wake the baby’.

I expected to love my baby, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with her and for it to give me strength I never knew I had. And I certainly did not expect to lose my first year of motherhood to postnatal depression and anxiety. In hindsight, the only thing I should have expected when I was expecting – was a baby.

I know what you are thinking, ‘Why the hell are you writing a book when you could be sleeping, you dickhead?’ Well, back when I was in the pits of sleep-deprivation, knowing that there were other babies who hated to sleep as much as (or more than!) mine always made me feel better.

There was great comfort in knowing my child was not an alien freak baby and that I was not alone in my nightly battles. I also discovered that when it comes to parenting on barely any sleep, if you didn’t laugh you would cry. A lot. And possibly never stop.

So I guess I wrote this book in the hope it would provide some laughter and comfort to tired parents.

I can’t tell you how to get your baby to sleep. I won’t tell you how to get your baby to sleep. In fact, I have no sleep advice whatsoever. However, I can tell you that with the help of coffee, wine and a sense of humour – you WILL survive those sleepless nights.

‘100% of babies do not do things by the book.’


Have you almost passed out doing  Pantley or cried yourself out following Ford? Are you too damn tired to try another stupid sleep solution that probably won’t work anyway? Then help is at hand!

In my quest for sleep, I finally stumbled across a technique that worked for my babies.

The effort-free G.O.T.O.S.L.E.E.P method is designed for the extremely exhausted and guarantees to get any baby to go sleep… eventually.

Get yourself ready for bed before you start your baby’s bedtime routine.

Babies can take several hours to fall asleep, so you need to be comfortable and ready to slip straight into your own bed with your baby once you have given up trying to put her down in her cot.

Organisation is key to a successful bedtime.

Before you begin baby’s bedtime routine, empty your bladder and ensure your smartphone is fully charged. Trying to get your baby to sleep is a good opportunity to enjoy some quality screen time. You may be trapped under a baby, but you have the world at your fingertips.

Transfer Ready. Is your baby drowsy but awake?

Then she is not Transfer Ready. Wait until she is in a deep sleep. Then wait another ten minutes, just to be sure. Recent studies have revealed that 99 per cent of babies believe that drowsy but awake is bollocks, so do not make the transfer too soon.

Only you.

If your baby refuses to sleep anywhere other than on you, then rest assured this is completely normal. The solution is actually quite simple. Stock up on coffee until the phase passes.

Sleep crutch.

It is very useful to make a rod for your own back. If your baby will only sleep in bed with you, let her. (Although, this is not advisable if you smoke, drink alcohol or sleep on a bed of nails etc etc.)

If she will only settle after a feed, then feed her. If you need to rock or sing her into dreamland, do it. These fail proof sleep-inducing techniques have been successfully getting infants to sleep since babies were invented. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Learn not to sleep.

In the beginning, trying to get a baby to sleep when you have been awake for three days is tough. But do not fear. Eventually your body will become accustomed to the sleepless nights and you will get better at parenting while exhausted.

 “Studies show that 100 per cent of sleep-deprived humans survive parenthood.”

Eye contact.

It is very important that you make eye contact with your baby when settling her at

night. That adoring look she gives you is often the only thing that will stop you from selling her to a travelling circus.

Escape. The baby is finally asleep!

Did you know that sleeping babies have the ability to sense when their parent is about to leave the room?  To avoid waking the baby, you must exit with extreme caution. Do not breathe, do not rush and whatever happens do not look back.

Pour yourself a large drink.

Once you have left the baby’s room, immediately pour yourself a glass of wine and relax (for about 15 minutes until the baby wakes up again).

To read more the book is available in most bookshops or on Amazon in Hardcover or on Kindle.