Dear Mama of the extremely wakeful baby,

Dear Mama of the extremely wakeful baby,

I know you are tired. Scrap that, I know you are weary to your very core, but can I tell you something? You are one hell of a mum. 

I know you dream of the time you get more than a couple of hours sleep at a time, but can I tell you something? You are rocking this mothering gig.

I know you feel miserable some days and it’s hard to hold back the tears, but can I tell you something? Your baby appreciates your commitment.

I know you find it hard to talk about what’s going on. I know you feel fragile and often times, when you do open up, people just want to ‘fix’ your baby’s sleep and suggest things that don’t sit well in your heart, but can I tell you something? You don’t have to pay them any heed. You know your baby. Follow them and your heart.

I know you will go through painful patches of anxiety and doubt as you watch other people with their babies and see how easily sleep seems to come. But can I tell you something? If your baby were theirs, they’d be struggling just as much as you are.

I know you regularly question yourself and worry that maybe it is something you’ve done that has created this wakeful pattern, but can I tell you something? It’s not. You are simply responding to the unique person you’ve created who happens to have an intense need for comfort day and night.

I know you wonder if it will ever end, but can I tell you something? It will. I can’t tell you exactly when but it will, once that tiny person of yours is ready. Our clever little people are biologically designed to grow more independent with sleep in time.

I know you wonder some days if you can go on much longer like this, but can I tell you something? It’s okay to ask for and accept help. We were never meant to do this alone. You matter too and doing what you need to keep you chugging is vital if you are going to be able to keep meeting the needs of your baby.

I know you may be desperate to try something new, but can I tell you something? Be careful who you turn to because not all support is created equal and not all support has both your best interest and that of your child in mind. Ask questions, trust your gut and follow your heart. Don’t be afraid to walk away and look for a more suitable alternative, because they are out there.

I know you think you aren’t doing very well, like a wakeful child is somehow a signal of failure, but can I tell you something? I now know sooooooo many mamas who have had wakeful babies and each one of them is stronger, more compassionate, intensely proud and endlessly grateful for the experience and lessons that baby brought to their family.

Mother of the wakeful baby, it’s time to give the guilt and the doubt a break. If you feel like shit today, feel it. But after you’ve had a big cry and a nice hot shower or a yummy cuppa and vent to a trusted friend, look at that perfect human you’ve made and think of all that is right about them. It may be their winning smile, it may be the way their fingers curl around yours, it may be the sweet milky breath, it may be their contagious chuckle, it may be their chubby arms reaching desperately for you or clinging to your neck.

They are sensationally in love with you. They couldn’t be where they are without your tender loving, time and patience.

It really is okay tired mummy. You aren’t doing anything wrong.

Chin up, shoulders down, deep breath in.

You can do it xxx
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Grubby Mummy’s review of ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ by Pinky McKay

Grubby Mummy’s review of ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ by Pinky McKay

I am actually bubbling with excitement writing this review.

I have just finished this book and I feel like change is afoot and this book may well be the catalyst.

The mainstays of modern parenting books, particularly ones with a sleep focus, are sleep training, routines and schedules. They are full of charts and prescriptions of, ‘your baby SHOULD be doing this by X age …’. They are full of scaremongering about creating ‘bad habits’ and the importance of a baby getting X amount of sleep so that they develop properly.

Sleeping Like a Baby by Pinky McKay however, does none of these things.

Right from the dedication paragraph,

‘For all the parents who are soothing wakeful babies and feeling alone in the darkness of night-time, sleep deprivation and self doubt. Hold and cuddle and listen to your baby. Trust yourself – you have got this!’

You can feel the warmth, the understanding and dedication Pinky has put into this book.

She knows the importance of connecting with mothers and helping them stay connected to their baby.

It is an easy read. There are wonderful anecdotes from mothers dotted throughout the pages, helping you hear and recognise yourself and your little one in other people’s experiences, too.

You will not feel alone in your sleepless struggles after reading even a portion of his book.

This new updated edition is brimming with useful, up to date evidence based information regarding normal infant sleep and Pinky has done a magnificent job bringing the data to you in manageable, sleep deprived mama friendly language.

You could read this book from cover to cover or just pick out what you think is most relevant to you. It wouldn’t matter because I guarantee, you will be coming back any time you need those words of reassurance again, ‘Trust yourself- you have got this!’

With topics such as, 

  • The first six weeks,
  • Reducing the risk of SIDS or SUDI, 
  • Sharing sleep, 
  • Night feeds, 
  • Solids, 
  • Food to aid or hinder sleep, 
  • Dropping naps, 
  • Positive bedtime cues, 
  • A step by step plan to change ‘bad habits’ gently with love, 
  • Night weaning, 
  • Cot to bed transition
  • Looking after yourself

Pinky has covered thoroughly so many of the questions we as mothers ask ourselves as we wade our way through this weary season in our lives.

The words of this book have the power to change the conversation around Baby Sleep for the better. If this book became THE book that was recommended routinely at antenatal classes or by midwives, MCHNs and GPs or given as a gift at baby showers, I would happily predict we’d see a swift decline in the amount of anxiety seen in mothers around their child’s sleep patterns and the way the mother responds to her child.

This book is accessible. It is speaks to all mothers and treats them with the respect they deserve as the person who truly knows what is best for her child.

Sleeping Like a Baby is also a gift to all the babies of those mothers lucky enough to read its pages. These babies will be understood, respected and responded to with tenderness and confidence by mothers who know that they are doing this mothering business beautifully, even if their baby is wakeful.

I will close with some words at the very end of the book that made this mama all misty eyed,

‘A baby is a gift of life and it is up to each of us lucky enough to share this tiny life to make it worthwhile- to nurture and grow this little being, teaching it how to love and to love life. As you teach your baby that he is loved and worthwhile and special, he will also teach you about pure, unconditional love. For that is what you will find in your heart when you surrender to your feelings and allow yourself to connect unreservedly with the tiny person in your arms – day and night.’

Do yourself a favour mamas and invest in a copy today!

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GUEST BLOG- An 11 month old’s vent about his mum

GUEST BLOG- An 11 month old’s vent about his mum

By Adilah Stone 

Hi. My name is Zachariah and I’m 11 months old. I just need to have a vent about my mother. I mean, I’m usually a pretty sweet kid but lately I’ve been losing my shit like ten times a day. 

She just doesn’t understand me. Every time I get her attention she just tries to rub this stinky shit on my gums or make me drink some toxic crap. When really all I want is dad. D.A.D! How many times do I have to say it! I go to his office door calling and knocking and she just comes and takes me away! 

What. A. Bitch. 

Don’t get me started with dinner! I’ve played her games up until now but she just keeps trying to make me eat with my hands, all this big stuff that I’ve gotta chew too. How many times do I have to tell her, Give. Me. Stewed. Apple!! And geez is it really that hard to get me a spoon! 

And yes I feel abandoned. She’s always knicking off to help that loud little narcissist running around or mucking around in those cupboards I can’t reach or just living it up on the toilet. Just take me with you and give me that toilet roll to chew on! Geez! Is that too much to ask! 

And don’t get me started on our sleep and nap issues! Just let me sleep on the boob, why she gotta always try ‘transfer’ me? Seriously! She goes on about me gnawing on her nipples all night and won’t let me nap on the boob coz she’s gotta take care of that brother kid. But seriously, he can take care of himself, I’ve seen him eat with a spoon AND make the right sounds to get what he wants. 

Anyway enough about him. She is just being selfish. I’ve tried to sleep train her. But she doesn’t get it. She tries to confine me in this wrap thing that is really just like a bigger nappy and I’m so over it! If boob is too hard then just drive me around in the car for an hour. But she always says she’s tired and it’s dangerous to drive like that, but I’m like, just down some more of that black shit and get that motor purring! 

Anyway, I know you guys all have mothers so you’d understand. 

Sorry for the rant. X

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I have a problem with ‘it’s not a problem unless it’s a problem for you’ statements…

I have a problem with ‘it’s not a problem unless it’s a problem for you’ statements…

I have a problem with ‘it’s not a problem unless it’s a problem for you’ statements and it’s all to do with perception.I have read this statement used repeatedly and while technically, yes, it is right, I think it can be very unhelpful and confusing for a mother, especially one who is struggling.

As a first time mum, I had no clue what was and wasn’t normal for a baby especially when it came to sleep. I remember reading this ‘it’s not a problem…’ statement while I rocked, fed and held my intense wee man. I was exhausted. My body ached. I felt like I was stuck, like I was doing it all wrong and so reading this I ABSOLUTELY felt I had a problem for me.

But, a massive part of my problem was my lack of knowledge of what was normal.

If I had known that this high needs baby was behaving like a huge number of other high needs babies and that although I was shattered, I WAS doing everything right for my baby, the shape of that problem and therefore how I looked to solve it would have been vastly different.

When the problem shifts away from the baby and onto the mother and her wellbeing we stop trying to change the baby who is behaving just as they should (after making sure all potential medical reasons for wakefulness have been explored- intolerance, allergies, tongue and lip ties, birth trauma) and we start trying to work out the support and changes (physical, mental and environmental) required by that unique family and in particular, the mother, to help her through this weary season in her life.

It upset me greatly last week to see a particular sleep training company’s post appear in my newsfeed using this statement. They used it cleverly and appeared to be being super supportive and inclusive. It went on with various statements like … ‘If you love cosleeping, then great keep cosleeping.’ This automatically implies if you are cosleeping but not loving it then you SHOULD change it. Thing is, you don’t have to love every minute of something for it still to be the best option for your family. It may simply be what you need to do because it is what your unique child or children need. It may still be the way that gets YOU the best quality sleep in your setting, even if it is uncomfortable for you. You don’t have to love it. You may even kind of hate it. Not everything is meant to be easy, fun, stress free and full of sleep.

These sleep trainers are essentially building on the ‘create a rod for your own back’ mentality by making out that the things you have done or may do to get your child the sleep they need in the way that works best for them are all just ‘choices’ and therefore you can simply ‘choose’ to not do it anymore.

You can. You can try to train these things out of your baby and your relationship with them and while you feel like you shouldn’t have to comfort your child so much or be helping them back to sleep as often as you do, then naturally these sleep trainers ‘fix’ for what they view as the baby’s sleep problems sounds appealing.

No one in their right minds would sign up for seemingly endless night’s of disrupted sleep if they didn’t think it was absolutely necessary and above all a NORMAL part of this time in our lives while our baby needs us so intensely.

So, the take home message here is that if you are one very tired mama reaching out for support, if the support you choose looks firstly at ‘fixing’ your baby, you may want to investigate other options. Quality support for sleep deprived mothers in my opinion, should always start with the mother. Work with her. Help her mother her unique baby her way, the way her baby needs and help her make the changes and rally the support she needs to keep mothering this way. If some changes are deemed necessary for the baby, then gently making changes with love is only fair and no crying should be involved. A child who is ready, will do so without tears.

A shift in the support for tired mothers is beginning but the vast majority still focuses heavily on sleep training. I hope through continued discussion, this topic becomes routinely viewed through a different lens. One that honours both the mother AND her baby’s biological needs.

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Why you should learn about normal infant sleep behaviour

Why you should learn about normal infant sleep behaviour

As you will have noticed from my numerous articles centring around understanding normal infant sleep behaviour, I think it’s really important and useful information for all parents. 

But why?

I have had more than a few comments pointing to the fact that understanding what is ‘normal’ doesn’t make a mother less sleep deprived and that my writing is ‘unhelpful’ and ‘upsetting’ for desperately sleep deprived parents.

I beg to differ.

If my own experience taught me anything, THE most important thing to a mother, ahead of her own wellbeing (rightly or wrongly), is knowing her baby is okay. That her baby is healthy and thriving. That her baby is behaving as they should.

The stress, anxiety and worry of a mother who fears her baby is possibly not okay is immense and in my experience tenacious, persistent and all consuming.

A mother who fears her wakeful baby will in some way suffer or experience future challenges due to lack of sleep will make choices and move mountains to try and ‘remedy’ this issue all with the best interest of her child at heart (read my experience here).

The only way for a family to make genuinely informed decisions about how they manage the ups and downs of infant sleep is to firstly fully understand what fits into the wide range of normal.

Simply by knowing what is normal can help families make decisions with a clearer head. One that isn’t clouded by the impossible expectations often perpetuated in today’s society. It can help them mentally prepare, plan, adjust and manage. It can help them remain connected and allow them to enjoy more about their baby by taking sleep out of sharp focus.

My first baby sat at the very extreme end of the range of normal. Many babies who initially appear to be in this range do in fact have underlying issues which is why it is so important to still check and rule out possible concerns that that may be preventing your child from easier, sounder sleep. Food intolerance, allergies, tongue and lip ties, birth trauma … All have the potential to impact on sleep.

But, if, like us, you investigate it all and there is nothing else at play, please know that to have an average there has to be the extremes and being the extreme can still be normal. My extremely busy brained, super sensitive, sleep allergic baby now LOVES sleep and is currently peacefully sleeping for his lunch nap and will happily hit the hay for bed tonight, with not so much as a hint of resistance. He, in his own time, learned to love sleep.

Other sleepophobes continue to run on the smell of an oily rag and go on to live hugely successful lives.

An interesting thing I found with accepting the night waking as normal, taking up bedsharing and giving up on nighttime resettling (which so very rarely worked) was that it actually got my guy more and better quality sleep. He would stir rather than wake fully, a boob would appear, he’d hop on and off to sleep he’d go. We both lost way more sleep when I was getting up to him or having my husband trying to resettle. He still had some shitful nights where he was awake for stupid amounts of time but they became far less frequent and no doubt centred around developmental and growth periods.

For at least half of mothers, they will never need to know the extreme end of the wakeful child because as with all averages at least half will sit in the ‘average wakings to least wakings’ end of the spectrum. This means that MOST families are dealing with slightly below average, spot on average to even above average range of normal infant sleep and this to me has the potential to be very reassuring. Knowing that your child is actually sleeping very well for their peer group, even if you are tired yourself helps you keep on keeping on. It helps you realise that this is just where your child is at. They are doing exactly as they should.

I know as a mother on the extreme end, I seriously had to bite my tongue when mamas I know vented to me about their child’s sleep which was well within the range of average and even better when I would have done ANYTHING for 2 hour stretch even once a night. But, once again, I truly believe this comes down to education as well as perspective. From my extreme perspective, I could appreciate small reprieves or slightly longer stretches for the true miracle they were for me but for a friend who was used to very long, consistent stretches, she found riding the developmental cycles of waking very hard to understand and were a source of frustration for her. She didn’t know that it was normal for babies to cycle through periods of waking frequently even after they have achieved some longer stretches and therefore she was desperate to find a ‘fix’ when her baby started waking thinking the wheels had fallen off and they needed to train him to get things back on track.

This is why I think all families would benefit from understanding the norm. It would help them place their child’s sleep in the grand scheme of things and help them to appreciate the unique child they have without the fog of whether they are the most sensationally sleepy baby or the wakeful sparkler in the mix.

It would help them to take a look at their own family dynamic, lifestyle, health and support systems to make choices that work WITH the baby they have to ensure everybody can get the best quality sleep they can in their unique setting with realistic, fair and manageable expectations of not only their baby but also themselves.

Confidence and belief are a big part of parenting. Feeling like you are able to work as a team and that what you are doing feels right for everyone is such an important way to maintain a healthy dynamic and connection as a family navigates this weary season in their lives.

This is why I bang on about normal infant sleep behaviour. I see it as central for hoping to make a shift in the way today’s society responds to babies and their sleep needs.

If you would like to read up on what is ‘normal’ for infant sleep, here are some useful articles to start you off –

Evolutionary Parenting

Sarah Ockwell Smith

Pinky McKay

The Possums Clinic

Meg Nagle

Professor James McKenna

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I just want to enjoy my baby!

I just want to enjoy my baby!

While putting my darling toddler to bed tonight after a very trying day, I lay there and reflected again on what we’ve been through together and what a joy and delight he is in my life. I didn’t always find joy and delight in him though. 

At my lowest, one thought kept swirling through my head, ‘I just want to be able to enjoy my baby.’ I desperately wanted to enjoy him but I could not fathom how I could possibly enjoy him unless he started to sleep. 

I battled on desperately trying to achieve the unachievable… To make him sleep like a ‘normal’ baby. I continued to fail. I almost started to grieve the fact that I would never get to enjoy my baby. 

It is so hard for me to think back on that time without getting a little frustrated with myself. The answer was right there in front of me all along. But I couldn’t see it. 

The answer was to simply start enjoying my baby. 
Enjoy the baby I had in all his glory. 
Enjoy his intricacies, his uniqueness, his human weaknesses, his heavenly strengths. 
The only thing holding me back from enjoying my baby was my head. My heart had been there from day one but my head. 

That damn head. 
So full of overthinking, so full of SHOULDS and SHOULDN’TS. 
So full of worry, anxiety and fear. 
My head that didn’t know who to listen to and who not. 
The head that desperately pawed through sleep training books and forums looking for answers. Magical fixes. 
Damn head. 

It robbed me of a good 6 months of simply enjoying my baby. 
This baby who is now the most delightful, engaging, gentle soul. 
It’s hard to imagine or recall how I ever could not have enjoyed him. 
My darling first born. 
He taught me how to mother. 💙

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