Thursday, June 3, 2010

How to Solve Sleep Deprivation... Without Any Clue What You're Doing!

I'm willing to bet that very parent experiences sleep 'issues' (to put it mildly) with their child to some varying degree throughout the first couple of years...

For about 3 months toward the end of last year, our 'issues' became our entire life as we struggled to understand, cope with and find a solution to the problem of our baby waking throughout the night. You simply cannot understand sleep deprivation until you have had something scream at you at 2am in the morning. Every day. For 3 months straight.

Pregnancy insomnia doesn't count.
Nor does tossing and turning over a problem at work.
Or the garbage truck waking you at 5am.

Those problems are temporary. And have a use-by date.

The problem with another human being stealing your sleep is that they completely remove the control you have over your own life. At 2am, when your body is screaming to be unconscious, your eyes are welded closed and a baby is literally screaming into your ear it can be difficult to think rationally. Especially if you havn't had more than a few hours sleep at a time in months. This sort of sleep deprivation is classified as torture in most parts of the world. And for good reason.

Anyway, I finally sorted out our problems at the end of last year by making some of the changes recommended in this book. The key changes we implemented we have faithfully held onto for the last 6 months or so and have worked beautifully.

The most life-changing of them were:

1. Using a safe-t-sleep wrap.
2. Tucking Fern into a Grobag.

Until last week.

Last week, out of the blue and for no apparent reason, Fern started waking up again throughout the night. Just once the first night. Then a couple of times the second. After that, it was on for young and old. That old, familiar feeling of confusion and helplessness started to enter my thought stream and my body repelled against this sudden and unexpected sleep deprivation.

What was going on?

In desperation, we brought Fern into our own bed (something we stopped doing a long, long time ago) and she would spend literally an hour and a half cocooned into me, twirling my hair. Twirl, twirl, twirl. It drove me insane. It was like a tap slowly dripping onto my face. I would finally carry her back to her own bed, almost in tears, having spent 2 hours in the middle of the night being subjected to torture and eventually she would go off to sleep. But the damage was already done and the next day we were all like zombies, adding to our growing sleep deficit that would claim bankruptcy in monetary terms!

Then, when Fern woke the other night, my husband finally snapped. He walked into her room, turned all the lights on and pulled her out of bed. He sat her up on the change table and suddenly announced "you know what, Fern? This is not working any more. You are too old for this."

Dan then stripped the bed of all its sheeting, removed the safe-t-sleep and threw it all on the floor. He then made a show of re-making the bed with proper sheets, blankets and a cot pillow. He removed Fern's sleeping bag and told her that she wouldn't have to sleep in it anymore.

He placed her back inside her bed (we were all wide awake by this stage), tucked her in firmly with her new blankets and lay her head on her pillow. He told her "there you go, you'll be able to sleep now". He kissed her, told her we love her and then he walked out of the room.

Cue screaming.

But as Dan climbed back into bed, we waited and couldn't hear a single peep coming from Fern's nursery.

And when we heard from her again, it was morning.

And that was days ago. Since this tiny change, Fern has slept through the night for a solid 12 hours without waking. Her 2 day sleeps have been perfect with not one single tear shed at any stage. She wakes up singing. And she has even started 'sleeping in' - something she has never done since the day she was born.

Turns out she was ready. For what, I can only guess. Perhaps for a bit of empowerment, or simply for a change.

Whatever the reason, I've decided not to question it.

Parent crises #23039 solved. For now. God I love this mothering gig.


  1. Isn't that a fantastic book! Written so simply, when you are at your wits end and dead on your feet from lack of sleep!
    H has been sleeping through since 6 months, but we had a terrible time before then!

  2. I'm chiming in on support for that book too which is THE ONLY thing that worked for us and I MEAN THE ONLY! I also agree with you that no one who hasn't been through the special brand of hell with a small, non-sleeping little person, understands sleep deprivation. I have totally sent my preggers friends to your blog for advice on new baby stuff cos you're the BEST. How funny that she just wanted to move about. Little people, I swear it's just moving from one crises to another. :) My little guy is growing out of the sleeping bags (too tall - on the 97th percentile so happens all the time) so we're going to have to let them go soon I think.


  3. Oh Nicole, I can SO relate to this post and the funny thing is, I was only thinking a few days ago that I should email you and see what little Fern sleeps in as I am debating the whole sleeping bag/sheets dilema at present too. Not having a decent night's sleep is the worst, I can usually manage to plod on the next day but I feel sorry for hubby who has to go to work and actually deal with people. I smiled when I read about your hubby snapping as we had the same situation here a few weeks back - after Grace woke for the umpteenth time and I had gone to settle her, Paul came storming into the nursery and yelled, 'What is her problem?' (with several expletives in there too!!) to which I replied, I have no idea, why don't you ask her :) I've put it down to teething but we'll see.... Glad little Fern is sleeping well for you now xx


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