6 Lessons Learned Through Sleep Deprivation
When pregnant with Emilia I was on bedrest for 4 months. During this time I did what any other first time Mom would do – read everything on newborn sleep so that when Emilia came, we would be ready.
When the time came to have Emilia, we thought we knew exactly what to do when it came to sleep. After all my reading, I assumed she would be a good sleeper in no time. All that we needed to do was swaddle, rock her, put her down drowsy (but still awake), and then let her sleep peacefully in her bassinet.
As any first time mom knows, babies don’t follow the lovely plans we create for them. Instead of following my plan, Emilia decided that she didn’t want to nap or sleep at night.
I quickly (very quickly) forgot everything that was read and went into survival mode. Rocking her for hours at night to sleep and taking her on many long walks just so she would get a nap in. Some nights she would sleep well and other nights she would be up 8 times.
When Emilia was almost 3 months old our house flooded. We had to leave and stay in a hotel. During those few weeks Emilia was up crying every 45 minutes. Before putting her back down in her bassinet, she needed to be rocked to sleep for at least 30 minutes. If she wasn’t rocked she would wake herself right back up and the whole process would have to start over.
Needless to say, there was no sleep happening.
Those long nights were extremely difficult. Nothing I read could have prepared me for what it felt like to be that sleep deprived. However, despite how challenging this time was, there was a few lessons that I learned.
1. Parenting is easier said than done.
I’ve spent the last 7 years studying parenting and working with parents who have children with challenging behaviours. But it wasn’t until I became a parent myself did I understand how hard it can be to put into practice what I preach. I may know what the textbook says is right, but in moments of hardship it can be very difficult to practice this.
2. The night dread is REAL.
I never realized this was a thing before becoming a mother. The night dread happens when you are SO sleep deprived but you know that when night time comes you still are not going to be able to sleep. You start to dread the nights all day because you know how horrible they are going to be. The night dread is real, and is the worst.
3. Sleep is actually the best thing ever.
During this time I actually had some serious FOMO (fear of missing out) for sleep. No matter how much of a good time I was having, my mind would be calculating how much sleep I could be getting instead of doing that very fun thing. This made it hard to enjoy all of the other great things that were going on in my life at the time.
4. Coffee is the second best thing ever.
No explanation needed here.
In all seriousness, this is one of the biggest things we learned. After much late night reading on the topic it became clear that Emilia had developed a sleep association. Due to this she was waking between each sleep cycle and would cry until I nursed and rocked her.
When we decided it was time to sleep train, we did so much reading online to figure out what the best method would be. There are thousands of articles online from people claiming that they were able to get their newborn to sleep 12 hours through the night. There are also thousands of articles saying night wakings are normal and we should expect them for the next year. Blog upon blog talked about the damaging effects they believed sleep training (or the cry it out method) had on children.
As new parents we felt SO overwhelmed and confused.
So we turned to scientific research. We studied research articles on sleep training, as well as on the long-term impact of cry-it-out. After doing this research we came up with a plan that we felt very confident about.
6. It truly takes a village to raise a child.
Throughout my challenging pregnancy as well as through those days where I was so sleep deprived I could barely function, we relied on our community to get us by. Having a solid community of people supporting you helps make all the difference in those tough moments.
I’m writing about this because I have been really reflecting on what I want this blog to be (this is why things have been so quiet lately).
My hope is that through this blog we can develop a community of people with a shared understanding of behaviour and mental health, where we can support each other without judgement.
No one is perfect, and we will all go through moments in our lives where we are struggling.
This blog will be a place where you can come to find answers that you can trust when faced with challenging parenting issues related to behaviour and mental health.
In future blog posts you will see information that is educational in nature. These posts will provide an explanation as to why behaviour happens, and have practical tips that are based off of research. In this blog you will also find posts that are more personal, sharing my own challenges and accomplishments and how they relate to research as I navigate through this crazy journey of parenting.
Thank you for reading this and sticking with me as I try to figure out exactly how this blog will go! I look forward to sharing in community together with all of you.
Also, in case you were wondering – the sleep training went very well! I’m happy to tell you that she is waking only 1 time a night (sometimes 2) to feed, and will immediately fall back asleep! There is no more night dread and sleep FOMO which is amazing! 😉 Emilia is much more rested, and our whole family is happier for it.
If anyone is interested in how I sleep trained using evidence based practice comment below!