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Why are we at all surprised that Michelle Bridges is getting a night nurse for her baby Axel?

Michelle Bridges is getting a night nurse for her eight-month-old Axel after struggling to cope with exhaustion brought on by his constant wake ups.

The 45-year-old hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since her son was born in December, and has said that after getting lots of advice from other mums she has decided to splash out and bring in a sleep trainer.

She told The Morning Show that she had based her decision on “sound advice, from a lot of other ladies who have gone through the same thing”.

“So hand over heart, I have to say it’s been seven months and I have not slept a full night. I didn’t even know that was possible but apparently it is. I’m still talking, just,” Bridges said on Facebook.

Michelle Bridges’ son Axel. Source. Instagram.

Her open and honest post leaves you feeling admiration, that Bridges – pegged as a “Super Mum” by many – is really no different from the rest of us. (Well on the inside anyway).

But her frankness does leave you wondering, what DID she expect?

Has anyone ever promised that a baby would sleep through in the first year? Where has the expectation come from that the first year is anything but exhausting? Whether you are a celebrity fitness guru or a regular old vomit strewn kinda mum, babies are babies  – and they’ve never promised they’ll sleep through. They’ve never promised any such thing.

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So why do we think they will?

Despite social media opening up the topic of motherhood more and allowing women to seek out more methods of support, the pressure on new mums doesn’t seem to be decreasing –  instead it is getting worse. There is the pressure to lose the baby weight, to breastfeed not bottle, to “enjoy every minute” and the big one – for your baby to sleep through.

Breastfeeding advocate Meg “The Milk Meg” Nagle has broached the topic in a Facebook post.   She makes it clear that while she understands motherhood is tiring, she says parents need to understand that frequent waking is normal.

“Babies are not meant to sleep through. Not getting a full night’s sleep in 7 months after the birth of your baby is NORMAL. I will spread this message until the day I take my last breath. Babies need frequent cuddles and frequent feeds. This is not a sleep problem. It is normal behaviour. PLEASE do not be fooled into thinking you need a ‘night nurse’,” she wrote.

Of course as Meg makes clear, and I agree with, there is nothing wrong with getting a night nurse if it’s the right thing for your family, but it’s important to dispel the myth that babies sleep though, or to perpetuate the belief that having a seven or eight-month-old waking up at night is unusual, because it’s not.

What studies actually show us is that many, many babies do not sleep all night, every night, until they are close to a year old.

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You kind of wonder what did she expect? Image via Instagram.

The Information Sleep Information Source website – a project put together by Durham University Parent-Infant Sleep Lab to provide information around infant sleep shows that 27% of babies had not regularly slept ever from 10pm to 6am by the age of one year.

Most doctors, websites, baby nurses and paediatricians base their guidelines on “sleeping through” on a study done in 1957. It found that of 160 babies, 70% “began sleeping through the night” at the age of three months.

The definition they had of “sleeping through” was a five-hour stretch from midnight to 5am, the babies were all in separate rooms from their parents (so there is a chance that many woke, fussed, self-settled and went back to sleep while their blissful parents slept through dreaming of Elvis Presley and Rock Hudson) and nearly all were bottle fed and supplemented with baby rice.

The study also fails to show that that half of their sample reverted back to night waking regardless of the age at which parents believed they had begun “sleeping through”.

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Michelle Bridges says she is struggling. Via Instagram.

As we have all experienced with every change or transition your baby’s sleep cycle gets disrupted too.  Some babies might sleep though early on, only to start to wake up around the five-month point.  Others might be great sleepers until you move them out of a bassinet into a cot.

Some might never really sleep through at all. By the time they are three or four-years-old they may still be waking up each night. Over and over and over again.

EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

Perpetuating the great myth that a baby will sleep though by three months sets up a realm of expectations and pressure for new parents that will, inevitably, come crashing down around their sleep deprived heads if they fall for it.

Infants aren’t going to sleep through and parents need to not  expect it, but devise strategies and harness support to get through it.

Beach baby workout!! ❤️????????????????????

A video posted by Michelle Bridges (@mishbridges) on

Whether it’s help from relatives, a lactation consultant, extra help from your partner or – yes if your circumstances allow a night nurse - getting through that first year is tough, but building up these expectations and deadlines for ourselves just makes it tougher.

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