The number one, most life changing advice I ever got on baby sleep


Some nights sleep just doesn’t happen… Source: Mulberry Magazine


Sleep. It’s an innocent word, and one I didn’t think about too often before I became a mother.

Back then, sleep was only referred to when I had a late night or slept in. Occasionally I got insomnia. But other than that, I didn’t think about my own, or anyone else’s sleep too much.

I got my fair share of advice during pregnancy, but despite all the preparation for how rough my nights as a parent were going to be, I entered motherhood with a few fairly significant misconceptions about baby sleep.

12 hours isn’t enough, right?

Books and reputable health websites suggested newborn babies should be getting 18 hours sleep in a 24 hour period. My son averaged 12 hours. Even though I was giving my son plenty of opportunities to sleep, rocking and shushing and patting him, he just didn’t seem to want to do it.

In an effort to solve his sleep problems, I recorded every nap, feed and nappy change on a baby tracker app. The app produced graphs showing me when and how much sleep my son was getting. For months I obsessed over the data, staring at the numbers and hoping that the answer for more sleep would jump out at me.


A photo posted by Kidspot (@kidspot) on Jul 13, 2016 at 4:13pm PDT


The dreaded 10-month sleep regression

Then my son stopped wanting his daytime naps, and would resist sleep at all costs. No matter what I tried, or how long I tried for, he just wouldn’t go to sleep. This happened regularly – at least a few days a week – and on those days, I would often end up in the hallway outside his room curled up in a fetal position, sobbing as he screamed blue murder from his cot.

My son’s sleep (or lack thereof) was causing me so much angst and anxiety. My self-esteem was closely tied to his sleep. If he slept for 2 hours I was a ‘great mum’, if only 45 minutes, then I was a ‘bad mum’, or some days, zero minutes – then I was the ‘worst mum on earth’!

The question that changed it all

One day I was venting about my son’s sleep situation to my mum, who besides raising four children of her own, is also a baby health nurse. She knows her stuff.

In the middle of my high-pitched venting session, Mum asked me a simple question. “Why does it stress you out so much when he doesn’t sleep?”

It caught me off guard, and I pushed her question aside. But she persisted.

“I don’t know, I guess because I feel like a failure as a mother.”

“Why?” She asked again.

I rubbed my temples. Soul-searching wasn’t easy with a sleep-deprived brain.

“Because if he doesn’t sleep…” I couldn’t finish the sentence. The reality was suddenly too ridiculous.


A photo posted by Kidspot (@kidspot) on Jun 16, 2016 at 3:02am PDT


Babies don’t belong in a lab

You see, in that moment I realised that I had this irrational recurring thought. That if my son didn’t sleep enough or at all, it would be disastrous… That everything would fall apart and the whole day would be ruined. But the reality is that some days my son goes without his nap. He is awake for 12 hours straight. And miraculously, he survives. I survive.

I had wrongly assumed baby sleep was like a science experiment, and if I tweaked things enough and troubleshooted the problem systematically, he eventually would go to sleep. If he didn’t, then I told myself I wasn’t trying hard enough.

But at times, no matter what you do, your baby won’t sleep. Even when they’re tired and you’ve been trying for hours. And that’s normal and okay. Sometimes there is no logical reason why he’s not sleeping, just like when adults get random nights of insomnia. And during those moments, there’s probably not much you can do.

“Okay, so what do I do then, Mum?”

Suddenly she was my guru with all the answers.

And then my mum gave me the best piece of baby sleep advice I’ve ever received.

“Get him out of the cot, give him a cuddle and read him a book. Play with him. Sing him songs and let him climb all over you.”

I must have been looking at her in utter disbelief because she added this simple yet mind-blowing statement.

“Sometimes, your baby needs you more than they need sleep.”