Sleep Deprivation, toddlers and yearning for sleep

co-sleeping, sleep deprivation, why mums are so tired, extended breastfeeding, polly jemima, enchanted pixie

It’s just 7am as I write this, sat on the sofa with my toddler. Nursery Rhymes playing, a giant mug of tea in my hands, and a plate of toast between us. We’re not usually up so early, we awoke to take one of the girls across town for her college bus {pulled ligaments in her knee mean she’s on a brace and on crutches and can’t carry all her bags}.

It’s raining, and I am tired. SO tired.

When you have a newborn, sleep deprivation is to be expected. Yet, society seems to have convinced us that by the time our babies are a few months old they should be sleeping all night long and we’ll be well-rested. As a new Mama 18 years ago, I fully believed that’s what happened. To be fair, my first daughter was one of those babies who just slept. She slept twelve hours a night from around 8 weeks old – no matter what. I thought this parenting lark was easy. Oh how wrong I was…

The rest of my babies haven’t had such a great love of sleeping as she did, meaning it has been YEARS since I slept all night long. I’m sure there have been a handful of nights here and there in between babies when I must have slept all night long. My second was still getting me up when the third was born. When the fourth was born number three was still in my bed, so while I probably slept fairly well, it was still disturbed. The fourth was still in my bed when the fifth was born…

So it could be possibly almost fifteen years since I had a good nights sleep. Yikes. And to think I wonder why I am so tired…

For the most part I am used to it, and my body can cope. Oren usually wakes when I get into bed, then a couple of times through the night. More often than not I don’t really wake for those night feeds, just roll over, pop a boob in his mouth and go back to sleep. Then we’ll get the odd couple of nights when he thinks he’s a newborn again and wants to feed every hour.

Mama’s just have to power through this sleep deprivation. There isn’t the support of a village anymore to support us, we still have to work, look after the kids, run a house, and do a million other tasks every day, regardless of how little sleep we have had. If we mention we are tired, we get told to quit breastfeeding, put them in their own beds, leave them to cry it out… none of which are solutions that I would even think about. The benefits of extended breastfeeding are so well known, and co-sleeping is such a beautiful experience. CIO is something I would never ever consider… leaving my baby to cry themselves to sleep, putting them into survival mode and leaving them stressed and scared is not my idea of good parenting.

If a Mama tells you she is tired, instead of trying to offer her solutions, offer her empathy. Remind her it’s normal for our babies and toddlers to wake frequently. Ask if you can do anything to help… watch the little ones so she can have a nap, run some errands, send her for a soak in the bath, cook her dinner. Just because it is a toddler keeping her awake and not a newborn, the sleep deprivation is still real.

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