When sleep deprived mothers call out for help, we need to listen
I hear it all the time - “that’s what parenting is, if you can’t hack it you shouldn’t have had kids”, “my little one never slept, it’s normal”, “what’s wrong with Mothers these days”.For some it isn’t about enjoying this time, it’s not about unrealistic expectations, it’s about mental, emotional and physical survival. As a sleep consultant I see the depths of sleep deprivation. We aren’t talking about parents up two times a night to feed or cuddle back to sleep. We’re talking about mothers/fathers who no matter what they do cannot get their little ones to sleep. Parents who are woken every 45 minutes overnight, who spend hours trying to get their baby to sleep and little ones that are clearly unsettled, distressed and severely sleep deprived as well. More than just sleep Sleep deprivation isn’t just about sleep, it affects a baby’s ability to feed well and digest their milk, it affects their mood, their development and it also affects their general emotional and physical health. Sleep deprivation is not pretty and it’s not something that should be ignored. It is real, the struggle is real and the effects are profound. PND, Post-natal anxiety, Post-natal psychosis, significant relationship issues including divorce, motor vehicle accidents, non-accidental injuries such as shaken baby syndrome and poor immune health are some of the negative effects that can be attributed to sleep deprivation. It takes less than a minute to scroll down and make a comment but do we make the same comments to mothers suffering with breastfeeding issues or failure to cope or health related issues? Sleep is a pillar of health and affects both the mental and physical well being of the child and carer. The sooner we begin to acknowledge the importance of sleep and the role good sleep plays in positive outcomes – the better. It’s OK to say you’re struggling Sleepless nights are a part of having a baby, we get it. This message is about giving support and a voice to those who truly are struggling in the grips of significant sleep deprivation. So how can we help parents who need it during this tough time, whether it be online or someone in your life? If you don’t have anything encouraging or nice to say – Keep scrolling. Simple really. Our perception of sleep deprivation is often limited to our personal experience. There are a number of factors that make sleep deprivation harder for others. Support or lack of, prior mental health issues, health issues for bub or mum, and the severity of the sleep deprivation. I too often see mothers searching for suggestions or avenues of help only to be shut down with negative comments. Offer your help – What can I do to help you? It could be as simple as a cooked meal or some company during the day or night. Seek services, explore professional options for your friend or family member – they don’t have to engage in these options but for some mothers they don’t have the time or energy to even begin looking. If it is someone you are really close to and they have an older child or children, offering to take them to the park or for a play is a great way to take pressure off mum. One of the hardest things about an unsettled baby with siblings is the guilt that comes along with not being able to entertain the other child or children like they once could. Don’t scare mothers away from help, there are always two sides. Sleep training might not be for you and that’s TOTALLY fine, but for some it is the very thing that puts their lives back on track, with their little ones finally settling, becoming happier and feeding better than ever. I have never worked with a selfish mum who just couldn’t be bothered waking up at night. In fact, most of the parents I work with are months or even years into sleep deprivation before they finally seek help. Like every challenge in motherhood it is best faced with support, no judgment and a whole lot of love. Tara xo As a Paediatric Nurse, International Nanny, Mother and qualified infant and toddler Sleep Consultant I have the the expertise to get sleep issues sorted. By working one on one with families I create personalised programs that provide support and guidance to see sleep struggles a thing of the past. For more information, you can contact me here.