My child, the sleep thief

Those of you who know me or have been following my Instagram will know that H is a total sleep thief. She wasn’t off to the best start. We had a number of feeding issues in the first days of her life that meant she lost over 10% of her birth weight. H was a very unsettled baby and for the first few weeks she would cry and squirm constantly, especially throughout the night. We later discovered she has a cows milk protein allergy (CMPA) so had spent those first few weeks of her life in pain. At 3 weeks old the colic started (more on this at a later date!). I believe these factors combined have contributed to her being a terrible sleeper.

For the first 4 months of her life this caused me a ton of stress. Every night I would clock watch, and seeing each sleep stretch last only 1-3 hours (some times less) would make me feel so low. As my mum friends began to glow over their little ones starting to sleep longer and longer, many through the night, my anxiety grew.

It is a very popular topic for new mothers to be asked “how is she/ he sleeping?” by multiple family members, friends, fellow mums, and surprisingly total strangers. My answer of “appallingly” would then be followed at times by a tirade of advice on white noise, sleep aiding toys, perfect temperature, cry it out methods, perfect sleep locations, and weaning. The majority of these had been tried and tested by us to no avail.

Whilst H’s sleep (or lack of) still gets me down, I have come to let a lot of my anxieties go. I believe that some babies are ready to sleep through the night from an early age, whist others can take much longer – and this is okay! Every adult I know has a different sleep pattern, some need 10 hours to function whilst others can manage on significantly less. Pre-baby I needed a good 8 hours, my husband averages about 6, and Margaret Thatcher claimed to have functioned on just 4! Some people get up for a glass of water in the night, others do not. Some go to bed at 9pm, others at midnight. Surely this can mean that, to an extent, babies sleep needs are different too.

Sleeping through the night, in a crib of their own, is a very modern Western concept and whilst it works perfectly for some families I do not see the harm in adopting the sleep values of other cultures. In some countries like Argentina and some parts of Asia it is not uncommon for babies to be routinely put to bed at 10 or 11pm, and in contrast to a Western emphasis on routine, there is much more flexibility. Co-sleeping is another difference; whilst not recommended in the UK until after 6 months due to SIDS risk, other cultures such as Japan co-sleep with their babies sometimes into toddlerhood and beyond. In Western society, especially the US, there is emphasis on sleep  training to get babies into routines and sleeping through the night as early as possible, whilst in other parts of the world this is a bizarre notion and babies are expected to have night wakings and never left to cry for even a moment. I must hasten to add however that the latter tends to be cultures whereby childcare is very much shared among extended family members and therefore mums are able to sleep due to this support system and less likely to become “mombies” (a mum who was once able to adequately function but is now some sort of zombie due to sleep deprivation). I do not believe that any of these approaches to sleep are ‘wrong’, I have come to the conclusion that us mamas should roll with whatever works for us and our baby – no judgement!

Sleep deprivation sucks, and if you are reading this as a fellow victim of a sleep thief then my heart goes out to you.

Things will get better.

Hang in there mama, we got this.


6 thoughts on “My child, the sleep thief

  1. Hanna Cherrington says:

    Hey lovely,
    I just wanted to let you know from one ‘Mombie’ to another- you’re doing a great job!
    My little cherry baba is a sleep thief also and she doesn’t even have the allergy or colic to blame for it…she just likes to feed through the night! And you know what, quite rightly too…they are learning and developing so much, that must be hungry work!
    Last thing- what is with the constant questioning, the first thing anyone ever asks is ‘Does she sleep through yet?!’ Id love to give them my honest response but I am far too polite 😜


    • MamaBearofOne says:

      Always lovely connecting with a fellow victim!
      I know, people should just not ask!
      They’ll sleep one day, I hope 😉😂 xx


  2. S G says:

    I used to be once of those ‘glowing’ mums as E slept 7-9 hours at 3.5 months. Now at 6 months it’s a ‘good’ night if she only wakes twice to feed and only stirs a few times in-between (ie, I manage maybe 2 stretches of 3 hours and the rest is non-existent). Her sleep has got steadily worse since 4 months but we haven’t changed anything. 5 hours sleep would be heaven!!!


  3. Becky Smith says:

    You are doing a fantastic job, I really struggle to remember the first 9 weeks, I was feeding lo every hour day and night (mainly due to tongue tie and reflux). I really don’t have a clue how I functioned, in fact most days had tears involved somewhere! I learnt to ignore everyone else’s “helpful” comments, you know what is best and what works with your baby – just roll with it is my motto!


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