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Mother & Baby
Yes, your baby needs to sleep for her wellbeing and development. But here’s where newborns rule the roost: they grab the zeds when it’s convenient for them, ignoring the usual rules of night and day. Left on the sidelines is a frazzled mother, grasping on to her sanity. Maggie Fisher is a health visitor who runs a sleep support group for parents. She believes sleep deprivation and its consequences aren’t taken seriously enough. ‘It’s a recognised form of torture and the effect it can have on you and your relationships – especially with your partner – is colossal,’ she says.’ Research has shown that a lack of sleep impairs our judgement and ability to think, prevents our brains producing new cells and restricts our immune system.
Tell us something we don’t know. So what should we do
No-sleep SOSMothers and experts share their tips for surviving sleep deprivation…Take the pressure off‘In the early days, a day/night routine just doesn’t apply for many mothers and babies. Reminding yourself it’s a 24-hour cycle – that you are <expected> to be up at night– takes away some of the stress.’Pru Guthrie, doula
Accept help‘My mum said to me, “You’re never going to be superwoman so you might as well give up trying.” There’s nothing wrong with accepting help and now I take every offer I can get.’ Bella Love, mum to Freddie, seven months
Sleep when your baby sleeps‘OK, it’s an old cliché, but when your baby sleeps in the day, you <must> lie down as well. You may feel worse when you wake up, but you’ll reap the benefits later in the day.’Maggie Fisher, health visitor
Enlist your partner‘Get your partner to do his share – even if he works, he can help out at weekends. Knowing there will be a night where I can catch up on sleep keeps me going.’Jessie Teggins, mum to Lily, four months
Eat properly‘Don’t skip meals or go for chocolate and coffee as a pick-me-up – the rush will leave you feeling drained. Instead go for slow-release carbs like brown rice, wholemeal bread and cereal.’Alison Singer, dietician
Do some exercise‘Getting off the sofa, going outside and doing some exercise – even if it’s just a walk – will make you feel more alert and your baby will sleep much better.’Jennifer Harbottle, mum to Stella, 11 months
‘I hardly slept for a year!’After her baby Ryan had kept her awake for nearly 14 months, Roxane Pirhadi, 36, from west London, didn’t know where to turn…
‘When Ryan was newborn, I expected to get up every few hours with him. But I never imagined I’d still be up five times a night a year later. ‘To say I was exhausted doesn’t begin to describe it. I got through each day on autopilot, doing the basics. Whenever I thought I couldn’t take any more, I’d play with Ryan to keep me going. Every bit of me ached. I’m a bad sleeper myself, but almost as soon as I nodded off, he’d be crying again.
‘Friends said it would get better in time. I read hundreds of books looking for tips and talked to professionals, but their advice on letting Ryan settle himself didn’t work and I was terrified of leaving him alone. My husband tried to help, but as we live in a flat I could always hear the baby. Desperate to reassure Ryan, I moved in to his room. I was simply too tired to think about what was best.
‘The problem got worse until at 10 months he was waking every half hour during the night. I coped with virtually no sleep for another three months then snapped. I called my husband. “This is killing me,” I sobbed.
‘Then I saw an advert in the internet for a sleep clinic. The counsellor, Andrea Grace, explained that Ryan needed a calming bedtime routine and said I’d have to face my fears and leave him to cry – just for a short while. If only it was so simple, I thought.‘And yet I was stunned when, on the first night when I left Ryan, he only cried for five minutes and woke just twice. On the second night he was asleep in under a minute and slept through. I still woke up – I was used to it – but the next day I was on a high and had so much energy. And that was it. I know it sounds too good to be true, but in two nights Ryan was sleeping by himself.
‘Looking back, I wish I’d sought help sooner. I would have enjoyed Ryan’s first 14 months properly and gone back to work. There’s no way I could do a job the way I was. Getting some sleep has brought back my old happy self. I'm having so much fun with my baby and loving every minute of being a mum – and now, especially bedtime!'
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How to survive on hardly any sleep
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