‘As a first-time mum, I felt pressured into sleep training. This is why I stopped.’

After I was awarded my PhD in Sleep Deprivation, I threw the rule book out the window. 

It did, however, take until my second pregnancy to grow the confidence to trust my motherly instincts. I was a scared first-time mum trying to follow all the rules and present a ‘together’ facade, because showing any sign of struggle made me feel like I was failing. Especially when it came to sleeping. 

Watch: How to get a newborn baby to sleep. Post continues below.

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My eldest was a tricky baby to get to sleep. Bath, warm tummy massage to help with her gas, book, bottle, cuddles, pats, rocking, noise machine, lullabies, quick kiss goodnight from Mary Magdalene, a sprinkling of Holy Water, and a performance from the 12 Dancing Princesses.

I’d do whatever it took to get that little bundle off to sleep, until I realised I was doing it ‘wrong’. Anything more than feeding and putting her into the cot ‘drowsy but awake’ after her bath was always met with a shake of the head because "you need to stop creating bad habits and spoiling her”. 

I would Google, read books, ask the clinic nurse, ask Facebook - I would have asked a damn rock if it would respond to me. The only feedback I seemed to get was steering me towards the idea that babies were textbooks that just needed to be trained.

Eventually at six months we bowed to pressure and introduced sleep training, because if they’re not sleeping through by six months, it means something’s wrong with either your baby or your mothering skills and you need to fix it.

Well, I hated it. 

We fired the 12 Dancing Princesses and asked Mary to only come back during visiting hours. After her bed routine we’d pop her into the cot and creep out of the dark room. Every five minutes we’d return to calm her, then leave again. Then repeat.

Remember how I said I hated it? Seriously, I HATED it. It went against everything I thought I should offer as a mother. It was as though I was teaching her that parents only parent in daylight.

Comfort? Gone.

Mum? Gone.

Dad? Gone.

All because it was nighttime.

Image: Supplied.


Then the twins came along. Holy s**t, the hurricane of multiple babies' needs...

The 12 Dancing Princesses weren’t enough. “BRING IN ANOTHER PRINCESS” I’d roar, because honestly, anything to get them to sleep at this point. The Holy Water wasn’t Holy enough, Mary’s kisses weren’t doing it, and they’d wake for my liquid gold.

“They’re waking out of habit”.

“You need to stop feeding them”.

“You need to stop going in every time they cry”.

“You’re spoiling them”.

Suggestions were hurled at me like a shot-put competition, each suggestion heavier than the last because nothing sat right with me.

I could stop feeding them.

I could stop going in every time they cried.

Except that I couldn’t. Not like last time. Others could, and seriously, great if that works for you, because we’ve all got our own parenting styles, but this just wasn’t for me and I was backing myself this time.

Instead, I’d feed them off to sleep with a baby latched on either side of me, watching their sleepy little eyes close while thinking “I still can’t believe there’s two of them” for a solid 13 months.

It was the only calm part of my day where I could sit and cherish their content little faces. I have no regrets.

Image: Supplied.


From 18 months we’d put them in bed with us when they woke and wouldn’t fall back asleep. 

I could feel their little bodies relax as they snuggled in, and they’d sleep all night feeling secure. I felt like my bed was their own personal karate studio, but it made me feel like if I’d achieved nothing more than providing their comfort, I was satisfied.

“You sit with me mummy?” became their last adorable request of the day as they got older, and I’d sit there while I watched their sleepy little eyes flutter closed, seeing the fluorescent light of their soul dim to a calm sleepy flicker. 

They’ve been needing me less and less as time goes on, so I’m not sure what the rush was. The biggest problem I found was the lack of support reminding me it’s ok for babies to wake. “You’re doing a good job” would have been nice to hear instead of the instant response that I needed to stop responding overnight.

Don’t get me wrong – sleep is great and necessary, and I’m a tired cranky b*tch without it, but I wish I’d heard that it’s ok and normal if your baby doesn’t sleep through.

So, in case you need to hear it too - it’s ok that your baby wakes overnight, and you’re doing a great job.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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