The 12 month itch- When will it get better?

The 12 month itch- When will it get better?

‘The first 6 weeks are the hardest, it’ll get easier after that.’ 

‘My babies all slept well after three months, the fourth trimester is such hard work. It will get better.’

‘6 months was the golden time for us. Introducing solids seemed to help a lot. It will get better.’

’12 months saw it get so much better for my guy. Something just clicked. It will get better.’

’18 months, our baby slept through for the first time! I promise, it will get better.’

‘At 2, our babe started toddling off to bed at nap time. It will get better.’

It will get better, it really will, but I remember clearly hearing all these arbitrary points in time being peddled out to me with my first and I used to have to really regroup as each of these ‘finish lines’ or ‘lights at the end of the sleep deprived tunnel’ passed without so much as a hint of my baby sleeping better.

Each time, I’d feel the doubts creep in. The frustration rise. The worries that it would always be so and WHEN would it end?!?

It’s funny that although this caused me much angst and frustration in my own experience, I catch myself promoting this kind of benchmark thinking both in real life and in my blog. I’ve had to ask myself why.

I’m thinking the reason we do this stems from a very good place. It comes from empathy, it comes from wanting to support mothers who are currently in the midst of this incredibly challenging weary time in our lives and wanting to be able to offer them some relief and encouragement. ‘This too shall pass’ is the mother’s mantra but never had I heard more frustrating words than hearing those words while I lived day in day out with the kind of sleep deprivation that can only be described as torture and with no light at the end of the tunnel, I swear I felt like I might just drown. And so, the kind hearted people around me who keenly felt my struggle and knew what I’d been through already with my little firecracker would try to offer me the comfort of an end point …

The end point they offer is all so relative to their own experience though and what they call ‘better’ is not necessarily what you or I would call ‘better’ and so the confusion, frustration and worry continues.

If so and so’s baby slept through from 3 months, why is our little treasure still waking every 2 hours?!’ Or ‘So and so’s baby slept through once he had crawling mastered. She’s been crawling for months now and still we can’t get more than 3 hours straight .’ Or ‘Mum said, that molars can be really rough on sleep, but he’s had his for a month now, what else is going on?!?’

Nothing is wrong with any of these statements per se, for some babies, there does seem to be a magical wand moment where ‘zipadeedee fidalee fa’ suddenly the sleep seems to settle. Teething, milestones such as crawling, walking and talking, separation anxiety, the incredible physical growth of our babies during the first 2 years or so of their life is remarkable and ever so disruptive to their sleep. BUT, it honestly does not help anyone to compare what one baby did and when their sleep improved and make any kind of assumption about your own child’s unique sleep pattern.

It’s unfair on them but also, it is ever so unfair on you.

YOUR baby couldn’t give a toss about what little Joe Blogs did after he mastered crawling, nor how easily he sprouted teeth without so much as a hiccup in the night.

THEY will ultimately decide when they are ready and physically able to sleep more easily and for longer stints at night.

My little Grubby Bubby turns 1 in a week and I can tell you how much ‘better’ his sleep is than it was as a newborn but I can also tell you how much ‘worse’ it is than when he was 3 months. I can tell you how much ‘better’ it is to be able to pop him down for his naps than it was for the months he only slept on my chest. I can tell you how much ‘better’ it is now he only needs 2 naps a day instead of 5. I can tell you how much ‘better’ he is to settle at night now with a quick boob and he rolls as far from me as he can. But I can also tell you that at his ‘worst’ he can wake every 40 minutes all night.

Overall, things ARE better, but at 12 months, after a full year of giving, I think many of us really thought we’d be further down the sleep track then we are. I know, I too wish it were so.

 But, I think at this time, it’s important to give pause. Yes, there is a candle on the cake that wasn’t there last month, but apart from that nothing has changed, no incredible birthday leap into independence occurred. Our baby may now be a toddler but they are still babies.

They have come such a long way, WE have come such a long way with them. Let’s not let our weariness overcome us.

They still need us as intensely as they did yesterday, they are still undergoing enormous physical and mental growth and they STILL only need us this intensely for such a short time in the grand picture of life.

Keep faith in your baby, keep faith in yourself.

You ARE getting there. Every settle, every nurse, every cuddle, every wake up is one less time your baby will need you so.

Let’s reset again, tired mama. Things WILL get better but this is the here and now. Focus on this time with your baby, they won’t always need you so. Xxx
Here are some articles to help you understand why your 12-24 month old may be still waking-


Sarah Ockwell Smith

The Wonder Weeks

The Milk Meg

Pinky McKay

💙Enjoying reading Grubby Mummy articles? Find us on Facebook 💙


Want to be less worried, confused or frustrated with your baby’s sleep? 

My top tips for getting your head around and accepting normal infant sleep for new and expecting mamas-
1. Expect that your baby will wake ALOT and want to nurse back to sleep most times throughout the first year and beyond. 

2. Even if your baby starts sleeping longer … expect it not to last. 

3. Expect there to be times when your baby will be super hard to settle and may be impossible to put down. 

4. Expect that your baby will catnap during the day (20-40minutes) and you may spend more time getting them to sleep than they actually stay asleep. 

5. Expect that at times, you will need to call in back up support to help you get the rest you need while meeting the night time needs of your baby. 

6. Expect that you may need to consider some sleeping arrangements that you may not see as your ideal situation (eg. Bedsharing when you really wanted a cot sleeper). 

7. Expect that your baby will want to sleep on the boob and not let go at times. This is normal and not a sleep or supply problem. 

8. Expect that in a few short years, it is a long forgotten ‘ stress’ and all you miss is all the cuddles , nursing and closeness.

Expect these things and then, if it turns out your baby finds sleep more easily than this, winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Realistic expectations (even if you consider them low expectations) make it so much easier mentally to prepare, surrender and make peace with your baby’s sleep behaviour. 
Your baby is so much more than their ability to sleep. Expect little in the way of sleep and enjoy them for the whole person they are 💙😴👍🏻

💙Enjoying reading Grubby Mummy articles? Find us on Facebook 💙


A baby’s perspective on the conditions of unconditional love

While I was deep in the heart of sleep training my first baby, I loved him unconditionally. 

I adored that baby of mine and would have moved heaven and earth for him. The reason I was sleep training was that I honestly and whole heartedly feared for his growth and development if I didn’t get him sleeping ‘better’. It was the hardest and most heart wrenching decision I have ever made and although ultimately, has become one of my deepest regrets, it was not a decision made out of lack of love or a limit on love.  

Despite this, my completely helpless, innocent, trusting, ever so wakeful little firecracker, was for the first time, experiencing conditions to my love.

His need for love from birth was simple, even if the effort required to keep up with those needs was exhausting. Love for a baby is felt on an extremely physical level. They feel loved when they are held close, comforted and secure. They feel love when they see your face appear and you lift them up when they cry. They feel love when you make eye contact and smile and delight in them. They feel love when you scoop them up and soothe their worries with cuddles, rocking and boob.




Honouring each and every cry

These needs and the love that they feel when they are met, do not stop at nap time, they do not stop when the sun goes down.

The decision to sleep train suddenly placed conditions on each and everyone of these core needs for my baby.

I had to restrict my touch at nap time and bed time as much as I possibly could to allow my baby to learn to ‘self settle’.

I could cuddle my baby to calm him down once he was hysterical but then once he’d calmed, the cuddle had to end, no longer could he fall asleep in the calm, safe place of my arms.

I could no longer breastfeed my baby to sleep nor feed him on demand at night. We had acceptable times to go between feeds overnight to stamp out unnecessary ‘comfort sucking’ and using me as a ‘dummy/ pacifier’.

I could no longer simply hear my baby cry and assume he needed a cuddle. Now, I had to listen and try to decide if he was ‘just protesting’ or was he ‘emotional’? Did he need me to pick him up or would a bit of shhhhing or tapping his mattress be enough?

So many arbitrary conditions to my demonstrations of love that my baby knew, trusted and understood.

So many new barriers to my arms. So many new barriers between us.

My love was still wholehearted but it was no longer pure and unconditionally felt by my baby.

He was at sea with our loss of synchronicity.

We found our way back to each other, we regained our trust. We recovered our broken hearts but the scars still remain.

For me, those scars have been one of my ultimate life lessons.

Loving unconditionally within your own heart and mind is one thing but true love without conditions only lives when it is felt by the one that you love.

Babies are complex and unique but to love them is really quite simple- show them your love, every day and every way that you can.

Love does not need conditions, limits or rules.

Love is love. It’s yours to give and theirs to keep and will never be something you regret as long as you live.

Follow that baby mama, they are by far your best teacher.

💙Enjoying reading Grubby Mummy articles? Find us on Facebook 💙


The mellow mediocrity around Mothering

There is an undercurrent in all things mothering today that really worries me. There seems to be this push for keeping a lid on all things mothering, to keep things mellow, to keep things ‘safe’, to keep things mediocre, to stem discussion.  
A blind acceptance if you like, that whatever a mother does, doesn’t really matter because she’s doing her best, so hush you and your big voice. The ‘mummy wars’, ‘mum shaming’, ‘fed is best’ and other such campaigns and slogans are the biggest and most obvious pieces of evidence of this overwhelming push to perpetuate the myth that the choices we make as mothers don’t really matter.

Mothering Matters.

Mothers and mothering may not be valued highly by society or indeed by some mothers themselves but this does not make their work, their impact and their legacy any less profound.

I am passionate about all things mothering. I take great pride and put a huge amount of time and energy into my mothering and I strongly believe that as a passionate mother, who is passionate about mothering, it is my role to help set some fire in other mother’s bellies or stoke the embers of fires on slow burn.

I have been told on a few occasions now, that I am nothing but another little, insignificant ‘mummy blogger’. The term ‘mummy’ before blogger is used derogatively – as though being a ‘mummy’ makes my writing somehow inferior or unimportant or unworthy fluff, as if whatever a ‘mummy’ may have to say is not worthy of respect.

I am a loud and proud ‘mummy blogger’ who aims to write intelligent, thought provoking articles to reach other mothers who are currently on their mothering journey and benefit from the support, ideas and questions I raise in their setting.

I don’t need to quieten down my passion about the way I do things for fear of upsetting other mothers. One feature in most mother’s journey is vulnerability. Another feature is uncertainty. The blind acceptance model of ‘whatever you do is just fine’ is horseshit in my mind.

We all come to parenting with preconceived ideas, our own childhood experiences, family situation, personalities and beliefs. Each child is born into a unique family, with their own unique personality, needs and challenges. There is no one size fits all approach to mothering but at the same time, it is ridiculous to assume that a mother will not grow and learn throughout her journey.

She does not live in a vacuum. 

If all she is surrounded with is the messages that what she does, doesn’t really matter, how can we ever hope to do better than mediocre? Yes, she will no doubt be doing her best, just as we all are, with the knowledge and resources she has at the time, but does that mean that maybe, just maybe, there may be ways and means to improve as she travels along her journey? I honestly believe there always is. If she is only ever met with walls shutting down passionate conversation, if she only ever gets to read weak as piss articles of fluff, if she never has one single view of hers even slightly challenged, how will she ever grow and become all she could be as a mother?

Becoming all she can be as a mother will look vastly different for each and every one of us. I am not trying to say we should all strive for any one ultimate image of mothering. THAT would be disrespectful.

We are not drones, we are not robots, we are not stuck with the program we are wired with that society and culture dictates.

It is no coincidence that the loudest voices in the campaign to shut down debate and questions come from the camps who stand to lose the most if attitudes did shift.

In today’s society, a mother’s instinct and ability to trust it and her baby is shunned and mocked on so many levels and yet, a mother who is encouraged to listen to her gut and watch her baby to work out whether the path they are on looks and most importantly FEELS right, would save so much heartache. And yet, the mother who breastfeeds on demand, with no regard for birthdays, the mother who answers her baby’s cries unquestioningly, who holds her baby to sleep, who cosleeps or bedshares will need to battle her way through mainstream society and its misguided disdain for her efforts and her work.

A mother who chooses to mother through instinct and follows her baby is not a martyr. She is not setting women’s right back 50 years, she is not someone who sees herself as in anyway superior or inferior to her peers. SHE is nurturing her child in the way that feels right to her.

Her nurturing may seem selfless or even a ridiculous waste of time to the outside world but the mother who has the courage and support she needs to nurture is mindful of her power. SHE has great power and influence.
She is the future. 

Mothers are of infinite value to our society and their own belief in their own impact on their children’s lives and their ability to grow and learn on their mothering journey is central to breaking out of this miserable mellow mediocrity that currently pervades motherhood.

Mothers who have found your inner fire– it’s up to us to raise our voices and speak of our learnings and the journey yet to come. It’s up to us to place mothering and mothers higher on the mantle. To give this role the respect and honour it deserves.

No more mediocrity, no more blind acceptance or silencing of debate. 

We can and should do better as a society. We owe it to mothers and the future generations to come. 

💙Enjoying reading Grubby Mummy articles? Join us on Facebook 💙

The hard nights

The hard nights

Last night was a particularly bullshit night. Today I feel that old bone weary tiredness I used to live with daily. It seriously f#%^ing hurts. 

Last night, I said, ‘I can’t do this!’. ‘What’s wrong with your kid?’ I asked my husband. ‘I’m so over this. Just go the f#%^ to sleep.’ I told my poor baby. 

I felt so very sorry for myself and had all the, ‘you’ve done this to yourself, Carly.’ thoughts that featured so heavily with my first. 

Last night, my 11 month old seriously struggled with sleep. He was restless and unhappy. From 12-3, he could not settle. He wasn’t playing but he wasn’t asleep. He was sitting up, crawling around, moaning, on the boob, off the boob, on my chest, off my chest, on his side, on his back, sitting back up … rinse and repeat. 

Nothing was working. Nothing seemed to help. Panadol, cuddles, boob, cuddles, boob, cuddles, boob, different position. Rinse and repeat. 

I was SOOOOOOO ridiculously over it. I was tired. I was out of ideas. He still couldn’t settle. 

My husband took over for a little while so I could be untouched briefly. 

He still couldn’t settle. 

I took back over and after more of the same, he eventually flopped onto my chest one last time and slept. He slept and I slept. 

A couple of more wakings before dawn, but some boob and he was back to sleep. 

He woke cranky. Still tired. 

I woke cranky with sore nipples from his restless, rough nursing through the night. Still tired. 

My husband took him while he got ready for work and I got 20 minutes to myself. 

It was heavenly. 

It was all I needed to reset a little. 

I came out to the day, still bone achingly tired but with a clearer head. I had time to feel sorry for myself but also time to reflect on just how hard my poor baby struggled last night.  He was a mess. He needed me SOOOOO much. I couldn’t seem to fix whatever it was that was making him unsettled but I was there for him. I had his back. I may have grumbled and grouched but I was there for my little human who was having so much trouble in the night. 

I was there for him when he woke. I was there through his struggle and I was there when he finally found relief and sleep. 

I was there for him. 

He won’t always need me as intensely as he did last night. I may never know exactly why he struggled so much on this occasion but I will forever know that my very presence meant that he got through it with support, with trust and with love. 

I spent the night just wishing for morning. I hated the night one more time. He’s not even Wonder Weeking, this is meant to be our ‘sunny’ time. Nights like this bring out all of my insecurities and doubts. 

But, I will never get that time with my little man again. It is one less time he will find comfort in my arms or at my breast. It is one less time he will NEED me so. 

The bullshit nights are hard but I truly believe they also lay the foundation for our relationship with our babies for the rest of their lives. 

Hang in there tired mamas x

💙Enjoying reading Grubby Mummy articles? Join us on Facebook 💙

The never ending wakeful baby advice -The Bed Time Top Up

The never ending wakeful baby advice -The Bed Time Top Up

As the mother of an extremely wakeful breastfed baby, I lost count of the number of times I had it suggested to me that I give my baby a bottle of formula at bedtime to help him sleep longer. 
 I am a breastfeeding advocate, anyone who reads my blog would know. This does not make me anti formula but it does make me someone who is anti using formula for no valid reason for MY babies (reiterating the ‘MY babies’).

This brings me to the point of this post- in the effort to help a mother with a wakeful baby, please be cautious of throwing out suggestions that may impact on that child’s normal wakeful behaviour and the breastfeeding relationship of that mother and child when there isn’t evidence to suggest your advice will have the desired effect and even if it does, perhaps the desired effect is a double edged sword and its potential risks outweigh the advantages. 
Allow me to elaborate- it is now widely acknowledged that both waking at night and breastfeeding are two PROTECTIVE factors against SIDS. A baby arousing out of deep sleep regularly and cycling through lighter sleep, waking to nurse and then drifting back to deeper sleep before cycling again, is the healthy, ideal pattern for a baby’s sleep to reduce their risk of SIDS. Formula feeding increases the risk of SIDS. This has been backed by studies.

The fact that I, and many other mothers of wakeful babies are given the advice to ‘top up’ our babies with formula to make them sleep ‘better’ in no way respects these basic SIDS findings.

A baby sleeping more deeply because their tummy is chocker block with milk derived from a very large beast that has produced it for their very large offspring and is much more difficult for my baby’s immature gut to break down than my perfectly designed, human breastmilk, seems like a bizarre if not downright dangerous piece of advice.

In effect, this use of formula is almost a prescription of medication- it has been suggested purely to ‘fix’ the waking of a child. Formula is 100% necessary in some scenarios and there is no doubt it provides nutrition for babies. But, suggesting a mother give her baby, who is otherwise thriving beautifully on breastmilk, formula for the sake of making them sleep longer and more deeply … I smell a rat.

Most mothers would actively question and cautiously attend to the use of any medication for their baby. It is only natural that we only wish to use medication when it is in fact required and beneficial to our child.

The use of formula to effectively ‘medicate’ a baby to sleep is not based on science.
Here are a couple of articles to give you more information on it- 

Evolutionary Parenting

Australian Breastfeeding Association


Pinky McKay

So if there is no evidence to back up its use, why is it still suggested by so many and why does it seem to work for others? 

Well, in part, I think it is still suggested because we live in a society where we need to ‘fix’, ‘mould’ and ‘conquer’ anything we see as problematic or abnormal. In our fixer-upper world, a baby who doesn’t fit the sleepy ideal needs ‘fixing’ and as sleep is prioritised above all else, we have come to making recommendations of techniques and strategies that focus solely on this desire without much critical thought into the impact of these techniques and strategies.

Formula is harder to digest than breastmilk, therefore, if you only believe or only accept that a baby wakes out of hunger over night, you could easily believe that a wakeful baby is not satisfied by breastmilk and therefore formula would help them be less hungry and therefore they would not need to wake.

For some formula fed babies, this does seem to be the case and they wake very infrequently. But, looking at the evidence, you have to wonder also at whether their lack of waking is due in part to their temperament and also their tendency to sleep deeply, which raises SIDS alarm bells for me.

Overall, the idea that our babies only wake out of hunger is a very narrow although extremely popular view and is certainly one of the ‘go to’ pieces of advice that is dished out by not only well meaning family and friends but also health professionals.

The problem with health professionals being the major port of call for very tired mothers is that their very medical training can actually blur their approach to infant sleep. If you asked many of these professionals, what evidence they have to back their advice on infant sleep and what sort of training they have done around infant sleep or breastfeeding, you are likely to find it is extremely minimal and rarely up to date.

Yes, some babies DO have problems that are exacerbating their normal wakeful behaviour but these babies are the MINORITY. The vast majority of babies of tired mothers who are asking for advice on their baby’s sleep, do NOT actually have sleep problems that need to be pathologised, treated or fixed. The mother’s exhaustion is real and it can be a very big problem but ‘fixing’ her baby is not the answer. Telling her to fill her beautifully nourished baby up with formula is not the answer. Telling her to train her baby not to call out to her to help when they wake is not the answer.

As an exhausted mother, at breaking point, I was told yet again that I should try a top up of formula. I sent my husband out for formula and cried the whole time as he prepared the bottle and then tried to feed it to our baby. Our baby would have none of it. He filled his cheeks and spat it everywhere, so I never got to see the effect it would have. 

I no longer feel guilty for all the things I tried during my, ‘I am so f#%^ing exhausted, let’s give anything a crack, I just need this kid to sleep stage’. I was desperate and I did what I thought was best with the knowledge I had at the time. I DO however feel let down by the people I trusted giving me advice that is not only not backed by evidence to say it works but also isn’t safe as it increases the SIDS risk for my baby. I needed them to have my back while my vision was blurred from sleep deprivation. I needed them to give me accurate advice. 

Do I have all the answers? No, I do not. I have written quite a few articles on practical suggestions that may help very weary mothers that do not involve sleep training and I ponder, read and discuss this daily. But I do not think that I am the only one who should be thinking on this. I don’t have all the answers but I do strongly hope that through continued discussion of the strategies and techniques that are routinely offered up to mothers can have a more critical eye cast upon them to bring light to the less than ideal position we as a society find ourselves in.

We owe it not only to our very tired mothers, but also to those babies who are subject to this advice.

We must do better and to do better, we must first reflect on what we currently do and why.

💙Enjoying Grubby Mummy articles? Join us on Facebook💙

The well rested baby

The well rested baby

Anyone who has had a baby and been within sniffing distance of a mainstream baby sleep book or received advice from a mainstream care provider would have no doubt been told that quality sleep is paramount to their baby’s growth and development and that in order to be well rested, their baby needs a certain amount of sleep for their age and to sleep in nice big chunks of time.  
This sounds like sensible advice and also a highly desirable scenario for a parent who would also reap the benefits of those heavenly chunks of time while their baby peacefully slumbers, grows and develops.

Unfortunately, this advice is contrary to the way the majority of human babies behave and leads their parents to question their baby’s ability to sleep and their ability to respond to their child.

If however, you do even a cursory review of studies into infant sleep behaviour and a look into the experience of mothers whose own babies did not fit this sleepy ideal, You will quickly discover a very reassuring trend- human babies can be well rested, develop and grow beautifully without ever achieving the elusive X amount of sleep for their age and rarely in big, long chunks, flat on their back, on their own, in their cot.

Breathe a sigh of relief.

A well rested baby is a baby who’s mother responds to their individual sleep needs and provides the comfort, security and support they need to achieve their sleep in a way that works for that baby.

To achieve this, generally, a baby who is in close proximity or contact with their caregiver, responded to quickly and soothed back to sleep as often as they require in the quickest way possible, will have no trouble being well rested.

A baby’s sleep requirements at day and through the night rapidly change and evolve throughout their first year of life and beyond. There is no hard and fast rules here and from my own experience, what my 3 month old baby required of me to keep him well rested is vastly different to what my 11 month old baby requires now. In some areas, his needs were more easily satisfied at 3 months than they are now and vice versa. The key is keeping yourself flexible, available and in sync with your unique baby.

There has been times when my baby has not been well rested and I have had to sit back and review what we have been doing and what might help him going forward. For example, while he was very little, he slept beautifully in the carrier and I could easily get him a big, long snooze all snuggled up in the morning while I took my toddler to our activity for the day- playgroup, library, groceries etc. Because I knew he’d sleep well then, it wasn’t a big deal if he only had quick kips for the rest of the day, he was well rested and calm. But as he grew, he started to become harder to settle in the carrier and often his sleep was only short and he’d be cranky. For a while, I accepted that he’d just have his short kip in the carrier and then while my toddler was having his lunch time nap, I’d lay with and nurse my baby to help him get a nice long snooze in at lunchtime. This worked for another few months. Then, he started waking earlier and was struggling to hold out for his first nap until we were out, so now he goes down after a nice long boobin session, onto his little floor bed and has a snooze before activities. Sometimes he sleeps for a long while and has a shorter lunch nap, other times it is short and we still have a nice long lunchtime boobin nap.

This is his general pattern. There are still days and even weeks when he simply can’t sleep longer than 20-40 mins for any one sleep and he may be a bit more tired and cranky than usual but through those times, I simply put him in the carrier or offer him more breastfeeds to help keep him calmer and restful even if he’s a bit low on sleep.

At night, if my baby wakes every 40 minutes to an hour all night, he never truly ‘wakes’. He stirs, calls to me, a boob appears and he is straight back to sleep.

From my time of attempted sleep training and before I started bedsharing, my first baby definitely was not well rested a lot of the time. He was severely sleep deprived and so was I during this period where I set arbitrary rules on how and when I’d settle him.

The sleep school told me that 4 hour minimum for feeds overnight was an acceptable window to expect at his age (4.5 months) and to persist with other settling methods if he woke before this to teach him that he wouldn’t be able to rely on boob every time he woke.

In my house, this looked like- my baby waking at maximum 2 hours after previous settle. My husband and I ‘allowing’ him some time to resettle without our help (Read- cry with a 100% fail rate), we’d then go to his door and reassure him we were there by ‘shhhh’ing him. When that didn’t work, we’d go to the cot and pat his mattress and ‘ssssh’ him. When he got too upset (usually within minutes) his dad would pick him up, offer him his dummy or a drink of water and rock and sway with him. He’d howl and howl and howl. We’d both be trying to remain calm and low key while our insides tore up. My husband would then try taking him for a walk to get the crying away from me. It always failed.

We were so f#%^ing desperate that we persisted with this god awful failed process for weeks post sleep school.

My poor baby was beyond exhaustion but all it did in my sleep training indoctrinated brain was reiterate just how important it was that I get this right. HE NEEDED MORE SLEEP! His growth and brain development depended on it.

What I was missing was that, yes, my baby needed a hell of lot more sleep to be rested, but that he’d get SOOOO much more sleep if I simply responded to his NEEDS in exactly the way my body and his body were built for.

It is no mistake that a baby falls quickly back to sleep when put onto the breast at night. Our night time breastmilk is full of lovely sleep inducing hormones that not only help our baby back to sleep but also the mother. Our very clever bodies, know the importance of both mother and child being well rested and also recognises that it will be required to help our little human manage their normal wakeful behaviour.

A baby wakes for so many reasons at night. Nutrition is only one reason. Breastfeeding/ nursing your baby at night satisfies practically every need your baby may have- pain relief, comfort, reassurance, calming, hunger, company and many more.

Some babies are extraordinarily hard to settle and extraordinarily hard to keep well rested. This is a extremely heartbreaking and exhausting situation for a mother to find herself in. For many of these babies who seem to resist all attempts to soothe and fights sleep to the death, it can appear that sleep training is the only answer. If they are distraught and crying while their mother soothes them in arms, surely it won’t make things any worse having them cry while they ‘learn’ to ‘soothe’ themselves?!? Nothing could be further from the truth. These baby’s bodies are not releasing the stress hormones that are released in response to sleep training because although they are still crying and fighting, they KNOW that they are not alone, they know their loving person has them, they know that they are fully supported as they struggle with whatever they are struggling with that makes sleep so incredibly hard for them to come by.

Put yourself in their shoes. When you are inconsolable and unable to simply switch off your crying, how would you wish your loving person respond to you? Would you like them to stay with you and support you while your overwhelming feelings have control of you or would you rather say,’ well I gave you a cuddle and told you are okay but you still keep crying, best sort yourself out. I’ll be here but I can’t help you directly anymore.’

I know what I’d prefer and I’m a grown woman with a far more developed ability to control and process my emotions than my underdeveloped baby ever could hope to.

These hard to settle babies, who cry a lot and wake very frequently, often have underlying health issues and to train them to stop signalling for help from their caregiver does nothing but mask the real issues at play and plants the very first seeds in that child’s heart and mind that their very real needs and feelings, are only selectively attended to and at times, no one will listen. Heartbreaking but true.

Attending to any underlying issues and continuing to meet your baby at their point of need will see your baby the very best rested version of themselves.

A well rested baby does not have to fit a perfect sleepy mould.

You know your baby. You know what works and what doesn’t work right now. It’s okay to admit your baby isn’t well rested all of the time, just as it is okay to admit that maybe it’s time to try something different to help keep your baby getting the rest they need.

It may not be perfect. It may not be easy. It may not be convenient.

Waking is normal. Sleep is messy.

To be well rested, a baby does not need to be trained. They simply need your understanding, awareness, flexibility and response.

Hang in there tired mamas x

💙Enjoying reading Grubby Mummy articles? Join us on Facebook 💙

‘Don’t tell me not to think I’m tired! I AM tired!’

‘Don’t tell me not to think I’m tired! I AM tired!’

I know you are tired, mama. Nobody denies you are sleep deprived.  
I have been criticised before for always including the tip to stop focusing on how tired you are, and have been told it is like telling a depressed person not be sad or a cancer patient that they aren’t sick.

But you see, the mind is a very powerful thing and you DO have the power to control your mind.

For me, if you are going to stand any chance of making it through the weary first years of life with our babies with any kind of happiness and fond memories, you are going to have to take your thoughts and mental well being in hand, particularly if you are blessed with a wakeful little person. Being able to shift your focus off your weariness is not to deny that you are tired, but to simply to tell your body and mind that it’s okay to be tired and that while you will do all you can to get yourself rest, it’s okay to think about other things.

Feel free to brush this off. If you think this is bullshit, go ahead and keep on telling yourself, ‘I’m so tired! I’m so exhausted! I can barely function, I’m so tired!’ And you just watch your body and mind fall into line. You will feel every ounce of weariness and tiredness and exhaustion that you focus your thoughts on and they will be amplified as you give those thoughts your full, undivided attention.

That’s how our mind and body work.

Just as you may have learned techniques to help refocus your energy and thoughts during labour and delivery to try and shift your mind away from the pain of contractions, you too, can employ similar tactics to help you combat your tiredness.

Just as a person with depression or anxiety may be taught mindfulness or techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that assist that person to manage their thoughts and feelings and take the unhealthy feelings in hand and recast them in a healthier light.

Just as a person who has cancer can acknowledge their illness and the challenges and trauma of the journey ahead while still focussing their energies on positivity and potential, you can CHOOSE to shift and control your focus.

***As a side note- being sleep deprived is not in anyway comparable to the experience of cancer. I am merely alluding to the effect the mind can have on challenging experiences in life and not trying to diminish the all encompassing experience that is cancer. ***

In my experience as a mother of a wakeful child, I lived the first 6 months as an anxious, depressed, wallower.

I wallowed in my weariness. I lamented my lost sleep. I bemoaned my child’s waking. I stressed and worried about my broken, disrupted night’s sleep.

I calculated how many minutes or hours until he may next wake, I calculated how long I’d been awake. I calculated how long it was taking me to get to sleep. I calculated how much sleep I’d not had.

My calculations always equalled exactly the same amount = I AM SO F#%^ing exhausted, I feel like death warmed up! This child is going to kill me!!!

Now if you go about your day with this awful algorithm dominating your every thought and you live in this never ending Pity Party mode, I can tell you firsthand, you are going to be the most miserable, depressed, shell of a person and mother.

But this algorithm is lying to you! This set of calculations tells you that you cannot enjoy motherhood or life as you know it as long as you have a wakeful child and as long as you remain sleep deprived! The good news is, THIS IS NOT TRUE!

These sad and sorry calculations only take in one part, albeit an important part, of your life that is sleep. There is more to life and your beautiful, wakeful baby than how much sleep you are or are not getting!

Accepting that you are going to have disrupted sleep and that you will need to work out how to get the best quality sleep and rest you can to handle these very normal night time behaviours of your baby can take a huge weight off your shoulders and allow you the breathing and mind space to think of something other than sleep.

Some days it will still get you. I had one such day last week. No amount of mind shifting and refocusing could deny it.

I was exhausted.

This is not only normal but also I think an excellent protective factor your body is demonstrating. Your body will tell you when enough is enough. The mindfulness and distractions only work when your body is able to cope and then when it really does warrant your attention, it let’s you know in no uncertain terms that your weariness DOES require your full attention.

On that day for me last week, I slept during the day for the first time in months. My body ordered me to take the opportunity as a matter of urgency. I felt about 3 billion times better even though it was only a 20 minute kip. I found that the moment I woke, the weight had lifted again. I could do it all again. I could think of other things and get on with my day. Sleep deprivation in tow but not as an anchor holding me back.

The mind is a powerful thing, mamas. Where is your focus right now?

Acknowledge that weariness, honour your opportunities for rest and focus on all that is good in your world.

You will have endless years to catch up on lost sleep in the future. Right now, your baby needs you intensely both day and night. Focus on meeting them at their point of need. You are doing marvellous things for that child of yours.

Chin up tired mama xxx

💙Enjoying reading Grubby Mummy articles? Join us on Facebook 💙

The special things I did to help me connect with my second baby

The special things I did to help me connect with my second baby

Every child and every pregnancy is a blessing, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying, it can be hard to find the same wonder, awe and excitement second time around. It’s just not the same, no matter how much that second baby was wanted, wished for, dreamed of and worked for.  
For me, I was not in anyway ready to be pregnant again and was actively trying to not get pregnant when I found out I was expecting. Instead of the tears of joy and relief I felt seeing those two lines first time around, this time a cried heavy, hot terrified tears of ‘what the hell am I going to do with another one?!?’ Then I cried some more thinking about my first born having to share me. Then I cried some more because I knew my husband also wasn’t ready. Then I cried some more because I was still nursing my first at least 2 hourly around the clock and I was ever so tired and I had no idea how I would be able to do it all. Then I cried even harder, full of guilt for this unborn, undreamed of, unplanned, tiny wee soul in my belly, who I knew I would love with every inch of my being and I knew I would have to make this work for in the end.

It was not the happiest time in my life.

But that’s okay.

I was in shock. I wasn’t ready, but I honestly believe this is partially why we are pregnant for as long as we are. It gives us time to be and feel ready. It gives us time to get our head around things and gives us time to find our feet.

I think it was our 12 week scan that finally saw me truly happy to be pregnant again. I had found my protective mama bear streak was well and truly in force again right from the time 2 lines came up and with an early scare or two and the complete feeling of dread and heartache that immediately came, I knew I already loved and wanted this little soul with all my heart, but the happiness did take time.

Even once the happiness arrived, there was still so very little time for me to focus on being pregnant with this new little baby, I swear weeks would go by and I’d almost entirely forget that I was in fact pregnant.

A toddler with almost constant needs both day and night and the daily grind, simply did not leave me much time to ponder.

It was after my 12 week scan, which our toddler had attended, that I realised that it might help and benefit both my baby and I, for me to consciously make some time for ‘us’.

If I didn’t want to look back on my time being pregnant as a blur of toddler and very little recollection of this baby in my tummy, especially if this were to be my last, then I needed to work out how to take stock every now and then.

So here’s what I did-

  1. I organised someone to have my toddler for at least some of my antenatal appointments– Having my toddler in my antenatal appointments was 100% necessary some times but can I tell you, those appointments were less than ideal. Between entertaining him and feeding him endless snacks while we waited, trying to stop him touching everything in sight while I tried to wee in a cup in a hospital toilet, to trying to actually mention more that a cursory, ‘yeah, I think I’m okay, just very tired.’ When my obstetrician asked how I was travelling and then strapping the toddler into pram so I could lay on the bed for a two second ultrasound through which the toddler howled and I tried to soothe from a distance, then balancing him on one knee, holding both hands while I had a blood test so he couldn’t assist with the needle and then getting in the car to realise I hadn’t asked any of the questions I had and hadn’t even glanced at the screen to see my baby. It sucked.  Organising either a play date with a friend or my husband to come and sit in the waiting room with the toddler became a god send.  I actually started to look forward to my appointments. Not only did I get to focus on my baby for a little while and savour seeing his wriggly little body on the screen and hearing how he was growing and progressing and asking questions about things, I also got to have that time to enjoy and think about me and my pregnant self. I got to sit and chill out in the waiting room. I got to talk with other pregnant mamas, who were tracking along with me and admire our growing bellies. I could pee in a cup without commentary. I could just breathe and be in this moment.  I never thought I’d come to love or look forward to antenatal appointments as much as I did, but they are something I actually look back on fondly. This is probably helped by me having the most beautiful obstetrician on earth who I actually enjoy seeing.  
  2.  Once babe was kicking, I’d try to respond to his kicks and tumbles by either stroking the spot or talking back to babe- I would sometimes go all day without really noticing any of his kicks, but every night when I’d lay down to sleep, he’d get his little groove thing on … that was our time. Our time for gentle rubs and quiet words. My little life in my tummy.  
  3. I packed an emergency labour bag for my toddler, wrote instructions and teed up several back ups for just in case– I found I was becoming increasingly worried and nervous about my toddler as I entered my third trimester. My first labour was so ridiculously fast, I had very valid worries about how quick this labour would be and what I would do if I went early before my mum arrived to stay at 38 weeks. It started to become a preoccupation and my sole focus. A lovely midwife I spoke to about my fears made the excellent suggestion that I go home and pack up a special bag for my toddler with everything he’d need in case of emergency, write out a list of instructions and attach a house key to it and then tee up my emergency contacts (preferably more than one) who I could call and meet us at the hospital if things kicked off quickly.  I did this, and the calming effect it had on me was enormous. My focus was able to shift back to my baby and my thoughts and energy became all about birthing him safely, knowing his big brother would be okay.  
  4. I organised care so my husband and I could stay with our new baby in hospital for a couple of nights – We had never even had a single night away from our big guy before the birth of his brother but I knew what a strong bond he had with my mum, his Nana, and she had settled and resettled him off to sleep many times. I decided that as long as he was coping well with Nana and Pa, then my husband and I would take the opportunity to stay in hospital (thankfully we had a private room and the option for him to board), as our dedicated time to our new baby. To bond, to have unlimited skin to skin, to try and work out feeding and to sleep and rest as much as we could, knowing our toddler was happy and well cared for. We knew once we got home, we would never have the same opportunity for such unrivalled time with this baby.  In hindsight, it is one of the sweetest times in our lives. Our toddler visited morning and night and he had the most amazingly special time with his Nana and Pa and we lived and breathed our perfect new baby with no stress and no pressure. I honestly could not have asked for more.   
  5. I organised family support for the first 4 weeks after the birth– I knew that I’d eventually need to work out how to meet my baby’s needs on my own but I also knew that I’d be in the best place to do that if I granted myself some time to recover physically, allow my hormones to settle and allow myself time to work out the intricacies of my new baby and establish my milk supply all while my toddler had other hands on deck to ease both he and I into our new world.  We live far from family and so when they come, they stay with us. I know for some families this would not be ideal, but for us … it was the best thing ever. For the first 4 weeks, I did not cook, clean, change a toddler nappy, hang out a load of washing AT ALL!!! My amazing husband, parents and parents in law, took this and largely my toddler on and you know what? We ALL benefited from the experience! They have the most sensational memories of their time here and a treasured bond with their darling grandbabies that can only be forged through genuine loving, trust, time and affection. They also have my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for their time, dedication and love to our little family while we needed them so.  

So that’s it. This was my way to way to find special second time around.

I may have started my pregnancy in a less than ideal frame of mind, but oh my goodness, taking my thoughts and feelings in hand by accepting them and then working to find more positivity not only for myself but also for this baby who deserves nothing less than to be cherished and adored, was by far the best decision I ever made.

These simple steps made the world of difference and allowed me to take stock and be mindful of the wonder of pregnancy, birth and my new baby, and for that I will always be grateful.

💙Enjoying reading Grubby Mummy articles? Join us on Facebook 💙