I remember when I found out I was pregnant how happy and excited I was. At that time I had no idea what to expect during and after the pregnancy. I didn’t know what to expect when it came to sleep. I didn’t really discuss child sleep with my friends that had kids. It seemed like no one wanted to talk about it. Having a child was tough but rewarding. That was basically all they told me.
It all started 5 months into the pregnancy. I didn’t know that being pregnant meant barely sleeping. My body was aching and I couldn’t find the right sleeping position. I couldn’t sleep on my belly, well obviously because the baby was in there :). I couldn’t sleep on back because that would interfere with the blood circulation. I couldn’t sleep on my right side because that also affected the circulation. I was nauseous and had to constantly pee. The leg cramps were the worst. Let me give you the golden tip right here! If you get a leg cramp, no matter in how much excruciating pain you are in, turn to the side of the bed and put both legs on the floor. This works like magic ;). You can thank me later :).
After months of highs and lows finally came the time to give birth. The first couple of days I was on cloud nine. My little girl barely cried and she slept most of the time. I was so happy. But then that dream world came crashing down. My daughter had been sleeping simply because she wasn’t getting any milk in and didn’t have the energy to cry. She was getting weaker every day. I barely produced milk and didn’t even know it. I was devastated. Luckily with help from a lactation consultant we managed to solve that issue.
Once she started eating the way she should that when she started to sleep less. She had more energy and I didn’t have a clue when I should be putting her down. At that time I lived in the Netherlands and we had something called a “Consultatie Bureau”. This is basically a health center where we take babies and toddlers for regular check ups. On many occasions I sat down in tears telling the nurse or doctor that my daughter just would not sleep. I was at the end of my rope and maybe even borderline PPD*. The usual answer I got was make sure you have a routine, make sure it’s quiet when your baby needs to sleep and be consistent. Well thank you very much! That didn’t help me with anything. Oh how I would have paid any amount of money to someone who could tell me EXACTLY what I had to do. Unfortunately there were no child sleep consultants around 7 years ago when I needed them.
And so I managed to get by on some sleep (4 hours on a good day) for almost 3 years. My relationship suffered, my work suffered, I didn’t have a social life because I wanted to take full advantage of every minute I had free to sleep. At one point I was so tired that I couldn’t sleep. My baby had an irritable, exhausted, always on the verge of crying mom. And my partner was doing his best to keep everything going but didn’t have a clue about how to get her sleeping better either. I barely remember the important milestones during that time because I was so incredibly tired and being sleep deprived even affected my memory. I had two car accidents during that first year. Luckily they weren’t serious ones and what I’m most grateful for is that my daughter wasn’t in the car with me during both incidents. So many parents get behind the wheel in this impaired state because they need to do groceries or drive to work and this is extremely dangerous. Please get someone else to drive you! And please do not put your child in the car with you.
So after almost 3 years finally there was some light at the end of the tunnel. My daughter started waking less and less until she stopped waking in the middle of the night all together. This was an extremely trying time in my life and to be very honest I was miserable. That’s why when I’m talking to parents about sleep deprivation I know first hand what it means and how it can make you feel.
My message to sleep deprived parents is don’t be too proud to ask a friend or family member to take care of your child(ren) once in a while. You need to rest, believe me you need sleep too. And if you are able to, hire a certified child sleep consultant. I will walk you through the whole process step by step and you will not have to do any guess work. I will lay it all out for you. I will be there to support you every day. No need to do this alone because you are not alone.
Contact me anytime at: firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a DM on twitter @btstchildsleep.
*PPD is Post Partum Depression: baby blues is one thing but feeling like having a baby is too overwhelming and it seems to get worse? Feel irritable, you don’t want to eat, you can’t sleep, are you crying all the time, feel helpless? Do you feel like you are incapable of taking care of yourself or your child? Please talk to someone about this as soon as possible! Talk to your doctor, friends or family. Do not feel ashamed because you are NOT alone!
I thought about sharing this with you to show that just like most of you here on the page, I also have my sleep challenges. So yes, I am human too :p.
It all started 2 weeks ago when we embarked on a family trip that had us cross different time zones and gain 6 hours.
When going on a trip that has you switching time zones you have a couple of options:
– You can choose to either make small adjustments daily for a week before your trip. So if
you can start by waking and putting your child to bed 10-15mins earlier or later
depending on whether you are gaining or losing
– Or do nothing ahead of time and once you get to your destination have lots of patience
and give your child time to adjust by him/ herself.
I chose for the latter. My son is 17 months old and I usually put him to bed around 6.15pm. He sleeps until the next day 6.15-6.30am. So it was a big shock for him when all of the sudden I expected him to stay awake 6 extra hours. The first night the poor boy fussed and cried until 2am. I was aware that his internal clock needed to adjust and I just needed to have patience with him. It is important to realize you cannot force a child to sleep when you want your
child to sleep and realize he basically needs time to adjust. Also he is in an unfamiliar place and needs reassurance that everything is OK.
I used the pick up and put down method to help soothe him every time he would start to cry. I kept delaying the response time until finally he fell asleep. You can only imagine how exhausted and broken I was the next day. I had myself trouble falling asleep in a strange place, I had to deal with a time zone change and I had a cranky, overtired baby on my hands.
The next day I made sure to expose him to plenty of sunlight during the day, stuck to his normal routine, changed his crib sheets to the used ones from home that I had brought with me and put him in his packnplay extra early. He did wake around 9 pm and had trouble falling asleep until 11pm. On the third day he slept soundly through the night.
Once we got back we gained 6 hours and again I decided on letting my little one adjust by himself. It took the same amount of time (3 days) for him to get adjust to the old schedule. I did notice that being home he didn’t fuss as much and even though he was awake, he wasn’t crying like he did when we were on our trip.
Traveling with small children is not always a walk in the park. Be aware that your child needs some time to adjust and might need more comforting on the first few days. Some children are more sensitive to unfamiliar surroundings than others. Patience and consistency are incredibly important!
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