real life

"My baby didn't sleep longer than 1.5 hours for seven months."

On the 19th of February this year I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He is absolutely perfect. He is the most amazing thing I have ever seen and he makes me want to write poems and sing songs about him. The love I feel for him is immerse and indescribable.

My baby boy however did not, until recently, know how to sleep for more than 1.5 hours. I did what I thought were all the right things but I rarely could get him to sleep longer than that. Sometimes he’d throw me a bone and sleep for three hours but this was rare and unpredictable. For the first 4 months I handled sleep deprivation quite well but as the months dragged on my desperation grew.

Like a lot of people, while I was pregnant I read a lot trying to prepare myself for what I was in for. I never found anything on sleep deprivation. I found a lot on the sunshine and rainbows that is having a baby and quite a bit on PND, but not much on sleep deprivation. People I spoke to would jokingly say ‘get plenty of sleep now’ but that was about it. I actually remember internally rolling my eyes and thinking ‘gosh people carry on, it’s not going to be that bad.’ Oh my dear past self how very wrong you were.

"For the first 4 months I handled sleep deprivation quite well but as the months dragged on my desperation grew." Image via iStock.

Sleep deprivation deserves so much more of an explanation than an off handed remark. It deserves public funding to educate new parents! I’m all about mental preparation and although you can't truly appreciate sleep deprivation until you're living it, something, anything on the subject would have been nice. It is a level of desperation that I have never faced before. It is feeling so alone at 3am when the world is at its quietest. It's feeling so tired you can feel it in your bones. It's being frustrated with your snoring partner. It's praying to a god you don't believe in.

It's begging your baby to not wake up when you put them down and shoving your nipple in their mouth to make them quiet. It's learning to feed lying down. It's considering letting them cry it out. It's reading Tizzie Halls stupid book. It's going to a wedding, telling the baby sitter you'll be home by midnight and having your husband whisper to you 'let's leave early and go and sleep in the car' and actually considering it. It's being anywhere and thinking I'd rather be sleeping right now. It's weighing up anything to decide whether doing it is worth the 5 minutes extra sleep you could have - "I could wash my hair for the first time in 3 weeks. Nah I’d rather sleep".

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WATCH a clip on the effects of sleep deprivation below. Post continues after video...

Video via “Ted-Ed”

Towards the seven month mark of not having any more than 1.5 hours sleep in over two months, sleep deprivation takes on a new level. It is understanding why people shake their babies. It is waking up anxious as you know that in 12 hours you have to deal with the same thing again. It is not wanting your baby. It's having a dream about smothering your baby and waking up with your chest so tight and in a panic and checking on your baby fearing it wasn't a dream. It's feeling so alone despite the amount of support you get from your partner or family and friends.

Reading that, you may think I had PND but I can assure you after a 'good night' of only 4 wake ups I would be back to being my usual happy self.

I should also add that my partner offered countless times to do the night shift but;

A. I could always hear my baby boy and

B. My baby boy wanted me and the big milkies to settle him.

"Towards the seven month mark of not having any more than 1.5 hours sleep in over two months, sleep deprivation takes on a new level." Image via iStock.

There is help though! NSW, like other states, have family care centres or as they are commonly known, sleep schools. These services are funded through Medicare and you simply have to pay a boarding fee. This service saved my sanity and maybe my marriage. I went for a four night residential stay and by the end of it my little boy was sleeping through the night with one feed at 10pm-ish. I talk to a lot of people about sleep school and there is a belief that it uses the cry it out method and this couldn't be further from the truth. I learned to interpret my child's cries; he has three, one that he simply does while winding down which is more of a grizzle chat than a cry.

I'm on the other side of sleep deprivation now and I enjoy my baby so much more. He is so much happier now, given that he is not sleep deprived either. It is bright and sunny on the other side and I've found the sunshine and rainbows that is having a baby.

Did you suffer with sleep deprivation with a newborn?

Leah Jacobs lives in rural NSW where she have worked as an electrician for 10 years. She became a mother in February to a cheeky baby boy. She has 4 sisters who she enjoys socialising with on the weekends. Leah also enjoys fishing, camping and generally being outdoors.

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