“Sleep deprivation hit me like a pile of bricks when my eldest son was 10-weeks-old.”

Video via Nathan Dailo

We have all been there, the moment that sleep deprivation hits you like a pile of bricks.

For me, it was when my eldest son was 10-weeks-old. We hadn’t slept properly for weeks and everything was becoming hard – housework, daily routine, exercise, eating but most of all; relationships.

My husband, Joel, and I who never fight started sniping at each other and despite spending nearly 10 years together without having had one, it suddenly became a daily occurrence.

I knew something had to change. The sleep deprivation was starting to ruin every aspect of our lives. The best time of my life was becoming horrible and to be honest, really hard.

I had been working in the fields of Early Childhood Education and wellbeing since 2007 and knew all the things to do that would allow me to have “good habits in place”. But I had been so convinced in my hazy mummy brain that developing any sleep skills meant CIO (cry it out) and I was not (and am still not) comfortable with that.

Sleep training my children
Veena knows first-hand what being an exhausted mum feels like. Now she's looking to help other families. Image: Supplied.

I had read many books and had done so much research. Professionally, I was extremely well versed in infant behaviour and what to do and what not to do. But there I was, bouncing up and down on a yoga ball for up to 90 minutes, six to eight times a day (I even developed a gluteal muscle strain) trying to get my little mini me to sleep.

What I needed was support. I needed someone to come in and give me a cuddle, some tough love and say, “You are going to be OK and I’m here to help you."

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Now don’t get me wrong, on the whole I have a truly amazingly supportive and wonderful family. Being a wife to an international pilot meant I was on my own for days at a time and after my newborn was diagnosed with chronic reflux at 10-days-old, my confidence was shattered.

I sought support... and I never looked back.

Fast forward two years and I am now providing support, guidance and knowledge to sleep deprived parents all over the world. I run my own Paediatric Sleep Consultancy Business: Sleep Sweet Sleep Deep. My mission is to support and arm parents with all the tools and techniques they need to not only have their children sleeping well, but to give themselves a chance to be the best versions of themselves.

In my experience, quality of life as a parent goes hand in hand with maximising their’s and their children’s sleep.

Life is busy, especially when I am on my own. However the fact that both my kids (Asher - two and Bodhi - five months) sleep from 7pm to 7am helps a lot. I never sleep trained my youngest. He was breastfed on demand and it was all about developing great sleep habits. He never cried and naturally slept through the night at eight-weeks-old - it was the Christmas gift that kept on giving.

Now that both my boys are great sleepers, it gives me time to work, relax, workout and rejuvenate. Most importantly having sleep in our lives means my boys are well rested and can tackle the day to their fullest potential. I get quality time with each of my children when the other is having a nap, and Joel and I can connect when they are asleep at night. I am a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and consultant/educator when I am well rested. I cannot tell you what a difference it makes.

I see children who once had a massive sleep debt amd were so tired get a new lease on life. They're happier, healthier, engaged and sleeping so well. The links between sleep and authentic learning cannot be ignored. When your child sleeps well it allows the opportunity for greater constructive learning and developmental growth. Hearing comments like, “your help has been life changing," "this guidance and support has given us our lives back", and "you are a miracle worker” is why I do what I do.

Sleep training my children
"Now that both my boys are great sleepers, it gives me time to work, relax, workout and rejuvenate." Image: Supplied.

At the end of the day this is what I strive to provide my clients: gentle and kind methods to encourage their children to self sleep and eventually self settle. The idea that when you become a parent “sleep is no longer an option” does not have to be your reality. Every child is so unique and different so we provide an individualised sleep initiative that caters to the needs of each child and their families.

We assist in providing the foundations for a lifetime of independence and great sleep habits. I think there is the misconception that hiring a sleep consultant means using CIO. This is not true. We use responsive, hands on sensitive sleep methods. The idea of CIO is an outdated technique.

As for combating sleep deprivation, here are rules to live by:

1. Exercise.

When you can get outside, even if it means a 15 minute walk. You will be surprised how much difference that endorphin release will make. If you managed to changed out of your spit up stained clothes and get out of the house, you’re a total hero in my book.

2. You are what you eat.

Unless you are a crazy food prep person that has stocked their freezer full of 12 weeks worth of pre-packed meals, somewhere in the haze phase (first 12 months of having a baby at home) you are going to reach for the quick (sometimes unhealthy) food options. It only took two weeks for our local Mexican place to know us by name. Try to limit this.

One of the most common things I hear from parents is “oh we’ve been eating so much cr*p since we brought bub home”. Your body is already struggling to function, try giving it only the best fuel (but with dessert, of course).

3. Curb your sleep standards.

Know that some sleep regressions are part of normal healthy early childhood development and it will not last forever, especially if you enlist the help of an expert and establish great sleep habits.

4. Reach out.

You are not alone. Helping parents move on from being sleep deprived is why I do what I do, and it’s my passion. Any parent who says they weren’t exhausted once becoming a parent is lying to you. I’m calling it.

Utilise the help that is out there, get support from family members and join a parent group (nothing boosts morale more than sharing war stories with other parents).

And most importantly seek professional help when things get too much. If you are experiencing a sleep difficulty that has been going on for more than a week or so, think about setting the foundations for some great sleep habits. Be consistent in what you do, your tiny human loves when you are predictable. They just don’t like to be predictable themselves.

With the right guidance and understanding of childhood sleep, statistics state that sleep deprivation can be cut by 80 per cent with the utilisation of a proper routine, self-sleep techniques and settling skills. This could see you and your family sleeping all night long, instead of staying up all night. And I don't know a single parent who would complain about that.

Veena Parry International Paediatiric (zero to six years) Sleep Consulatant and mumma of two has been affectionately dubbed the “Baby Whisperer” and “Sleep Fairy” by all those that know of the miracles she can perform on sleep-deprived children and families. For more information you can check out her website Sleep Sweet Sleep Deep, Instagram and Facebook.

Cut the crap.

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