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Looking at the ‘choices’ in the decision to sleep train- Part one: why I felt I had no choice

I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but there is always a choice not to sleep train. 

As an extremely sleep deprived, vulnerable, desperate first time mother with an extraordinarily wakeful baby, I sleep trained and I can say, hand on heart, I did not feel like I had any other choice.

I did not feel like there was any other choice.
I wasn’t told there was any other choice.
I wasn’t supported to consider any other choice.
I had no idea, there was any other choice.




For those who have never contemplated sleep training and never felt so backed into this corner, it can sound like a cop out and surrendering of responsibility to say, ‘I had no choice to sleep train.’ In a way it is. BUT, I wasn’t in the headspace then to realise this and I went into sleep training at my lowest ebb. I was in deep mental, emotional turmoil and I did not trust myself on any level anymore. I was convinced I was doing this mothering thing wrong and that the way I had been doing it was damaging my baby’s growth, development and wellbeing.

My world was a fog of confusion, anxiety, bad information, worry, stress and strain.

Today, I decided to write out just some of the strain I felt that lead into my decision to sleep train.

It’s fascinating for me now to see how if I just unpacked each one of these stressors and strains one at a time, there WERE indeed choices I could make that did not involve sleep training. But while they were all piled on top of me, while I was so very unwell and while ALL of the advice I was receiving from those around me was that I NEEDED to sleep train for both of our sakes, I could see only one path. One way to go. One solution.

My stressors fell into four categories-

1. My baby– oh my goodness! That baby! Oh how I adored him. The love of my life and an incredible piece of perfection. But holy wow, was he intense. I had never encountered a baby like him before. He seemed petrified by life outside the womb and allergic to the feeling of falling asleep. He was wide awake, his lungs were loud and strong and he demanded more care, nurturing, comfort and assistance to feel secure than any baby I had known. Being his mum was SO hard. Being his dad was SO hard. Nothing we did ever seemed to be enough. No amount of anything seemed to help him find calm for any length of time and all the things we had thought we had up our sleeve often yielded little in the way of ‘success’ and any success was often short lived and quite often that would be the one and only time it worked. We tried SO hard. We started off pretty relaxed thinking he just needed to settle into life outside the womb but when he grew more and more unsettled and we grew more and more tired and frustrated, we let the doubts any new parent would naturally feel, creep in.

  • What were we doing wrong?
  • Was there something we were missing?
  • We had quite a few people with babies of the same age and none of them seemed to be facing the problems we were, what did they have going on that we’d missed?

Once the questioning started, we commenced a slide. The slide away from trusting ourselves and trusting our baby. We began to look outside of our little family unit for ‘answers’.

We desperately wanted to get this right.

Right for us, as his mum and dad but more so, right for him. We didn’t want him unduly suffering at the hands of his ‘amateur’ parents. Nope, we wanted him to be a happy baby, who loved sleep so that he could grow and develop and love life.

The other thing that commenced was the advice and the explanations for what we should do to correct where we had gone wrong.

The information we received was damning.

We WERE doing it all wrong.

  • We didn’t follow a Feed-Play-Sleep routine and so we had allowed nursing to sleep to become a negative sleep association.
  • We didn’t place him down drowsy but awake, so naturally he was confused when he woke up somewhere else.
  • He couldn’t self- settle, no wonder he couldn’t link sleep cycles.
  • He often catnapped which of course meant he was perpetually overtired and didn’t we know that sleep promoted sleep.
  • It was official- our baby was a crap sleeper because we set him up to fail and let him ‘rule the roost’.

On top of this, we faced criticism that we were also making our baby anxious as he fed off our anxieties. Apparently, he would have been a calm, relaxed baby if only we were calmer and more relaxed. Can I just point out how much easier it is to be a relaxed, non anxious parent when you are parenting a baby who is not anxious?!? Also, how much easier it is to be less anxious when you don’t live with the anxiety that your anxiety is causing your baby’s anxiety? (Feeling confused or anxious just reading that sentence? Welcome to my head back in the day).

Then the appointment that sealed our fate … at my baby’s four month appointment at Child Health, we were told that he was chronically sleep deprived and it would be affecting his brain development.

Do you know how much hearing this broke me? There was nothing left in me to question this analysis / diagnosis.

This was my reality and I believed it as gospel truth. I had no reason to think this was a falsehood and so, as any caring mother would do, I laid all my feelings aside and agreed with the only ‘answer’ I had been offered: sleep training at Mother/ Baby unit as a matter of importance and urgency.

We received both a Medicare rebate and private health pay out… this was serious and legitimate. It was my baby’s health and wellbeing at stake.

I did not see it as a choice to consider, it was THE choice we HAD to make.

And so we did it.

I can easily tease each part of this tale apart and call BULLSHIT to each thing that lead up to it all now, but back then… well, I made the best decision I could with the knowledge and resources available to me at that time. I knew what I knew which is not what I know now. AND THAT IS OKAY! As the beautiful Emalitza from Raising Ziggy pointed out in her most recent blog piece, none of us come to this parenting gig knowing all there is to know and there is nothing wrong with that. It is for this exact reason we should approach all things parenting with an open heart and mind but also stay well aware that NOBODY has THE answer and that anyone selling a ‘fix’ may as well sell you snake oil.

2. The second part of the pressure and stress in my brain came from me and the new uncharted territory that is mothering and honour, privilege and humbling experience of being someone’s mum.

HOLY SHIT! It was a baptism of fire. I actually thought I’d be quite a natural at mothering. I’d always loved and wanted babies and children. I worked with primary aged children and loved nurturing the little people who entered my world. I loved pregnancy and was ever so excited to have my little person but then, I am also a perfectionist and a people pleaser. I have always strived to do things not only ‘right’ but also better than just good or okay. At university, a pass would not suffice, anything less than a distinction would see me angry with myself for not doing this, that or the other. In my personal relationships, I strive so hard to keep everyone happy and onside. I love being loved and can’t stand conflict or feeling that I have disappointed or let someone down.

I am hard work on myself.

My expectations for myself as a mother were ridiculously high. To this day, I swear that is why I was blessed with the little firecracker I received. He needed to come into my world to break this cycle. I needed to find new and better ways to feel good about myself and discover what is truly important in life and the endless push for perfection was never going to get me there.

But, the point all of this is I had an enormous weight of stress within me leading into the decision to sleep train. I was not in anyway comfortable in my new identity as mother and the lack of self belief and confidence was crushing. This doesn’t even consider how much worse all of this was when I was chronically sleep deprived myself.

I was a shell.

I was not capable of making well thought out decisions and I most certainly was not in the head space to consider that professionals who spend their whole working lives advising mothers and their babies, may be giving outdated or inappropriate advice and that if there were other options out there, why they wouldn’t also mention them.

I needed help and support.

I trusted their judgement ahead of my own.

As a new mum, I wholeheartedly believed I HAD to sleep train. I did not think I had a choice.

So the perfect storm was brewing- my baby’s wellbeing was at stake and I was failing at being the mother he needed.

3. The next piece of the puzzle was my relationship. My husband and I are a fabulous match and to this day, I would not want to do this life with another human but NOTHING tests your relationship as much as an unsettled baby, chronic sleep deprivation, feeling like you f#%^ing suck at parenting your kid and brewing mental health issues. Add in the fact that the baby in question won’t settle AT ALL for his dad, won’t take a bottle and screamed nonstop when daddy took him to give the Boob Lady a break. Just for fun, throw in hours of one of us being stuck in a darkened room trying different settling techniques to try and eek out the elusive sleep you’ve been told your kid needs. Oh and then when you get them down for the night after yet another marathon shitfight, clean the kitchen and plonk on the couch for 2 minutes only to hear said child wake with a howl and GROUNDHOG DAY/NIGHT, let’s jump on that merry-go-round again.

So much of the time my husband could not do a damn thing to relieve me of this relentless pressure and need. He felt like a useless, stressed out, third wheel as he watched me struggle with my feelings of resentment and jealousy of his freedom while we also mourned the relationship we had before THIS baby and the relationship we’d imagined he’d have with our baby, too.

He tried so damn hard.

He’d have given his bloody kidney to me if he’d thought it would have helped relieve the strain and so, upon hearing we were in fact screwing up our child, he also heartily supported the decision to sleep train. He was with me every step of the way.

He, too, felt we had no other choice. We could not keep living the hell we were in.

4. The final piece of the pie, comes from our lifestyle and the lifestyle expectations we had for ourselves and our family. We had no clue what was or wasn’t normal for a human baby when it came to sleep and all mainstream advice seemed to indicate we were perfectly reasonable to expect our baby would fall asleep on his own, in his own sleep space and that night feeds (the only ‘real’ reason your baby wakes at night) would decrease in a straight line over time to a point where we could categorically rule out his ‘need’ to wake and nurse.

We believed this was reasonable and so it became our expectation.

  • We expected to be sleep deprived and that we might struggle with other things in the immediate newborn period but we expected that it would end relatively soon after that.
  • We expected to be able to settle our baby to sleep if he was tired without too much fuss.
  • We expected we should be able to put him down for sleep.
  • We expected he’d sleep long enough for us to get other things done.
  • We expected that after some time in a basket by our bed that he’d transition to sleeping in a cot in his own room.
  • We expected to still find time in the evening for ‘us’ and that after a while, we’d be fine to arrange a sitter so we could go out in the evening as a couple once again.

We did not consider any of this to be unreasonable. We truly thought this was fair. And it was, for MOST of our friends and acquaintances, so why not for us?

Our child health Nurses, our GP, mainstream infant sleep books and sites all confirmed these expectations.

And under this net of expectations, we filtered OUR reality.

Our baby, his sleep, well they just didn’t measure up. There must have been something wrong. A problem to be fixed. A solution to be found.

The way he behaved was just so far removed from the ‘normal’ we’d been lead to expect, it was logical to us that this ‘Sleep Problem’ our child had would be impacting on him. How could he possibly be okay if he slept so much less and ‘worse’ than his peers who seemed to get a solid 12 hours each night and consolidated that with long, hearty naps each day?

We had no idea there were any other ways of managing this wakeful baby of ours but in light of these expectations we held, it is unsurprising that we could not for the life of us see WHY we should even consider accepting and adapting our life to match his ‘unhealthy’ and ‘problematic’ sleep patterns.

We didn’t give it more thought because we honestly didn’t think we should have to.

And so, the chronically sleep deprived baby who was suffering as a result of his inability to sleep alone, joined by the chronically sleep deprived, vulnerable first time, perfectionist mum, with the desperate to help, out of his depth dad, all wrapped up in mainstream society’s unrealistic view of infant sleep and the ways in which it is viewed and managed … we HAD to sleep train.


The weight, the pressure, the stress, the strain, the knowledge, the beliefs, the trust, the intentions all lead us there.

We own our experience.

We can see at every single turn how we came to our decision and as much as we can see now how utterly wrong we were, we made the best decision we could at that time.

My goal and possibly my life work will be to see a very real shift away from this feeling that mothers so often get, that they have no choice but to sleep train.

There is always a choice not to sleep train but how that choice looks, will be unique to each family.

Babies do not need sleep training. They know how to sleep. Society just does not like how it looks. It’s not tidy, it’s not straightforward, it’s cyclical and at times elusive. It’s not predictable and it doesn’t always allow the freedom and ease society likes it to have to allow the parents to get on with ‘more important’ work that isn’t the time spent helping their baby get the sleep they need in a manner that is normal for that baby.

We can and should do better. Our very tired mothers and their babies deserve to know their true choices.

Part two of this series will see me go into greater detail illustrating where my choices lay in my particular situation. Coming soon …

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Surrendering to your baby’s sleep needs is not about becoming stagnant

It seems lately, I am hearing the ‘so we just have to suck it up?!?’ Or ‘so it’s just a matter of ‘wait it out’, there’s nothing I can do?’ queries more frequently and I think that maybe it’s because there is a misconception about the idea that ‘surrendering’ to your baby’s needs somehow means throwing your hands in the air and all is lost as you dig down deeper into the trenches of sleep deprivation and you just have to suck it up while you wait until your baby is 5, maybe 10 or at least before they head off to University. 

It seems to be attached to a feeling of helplessness.  

My own experience of surrender did involve a momentary stop and take stock element where I worked out what the hell my baby actually did need from me and it did at times feel like I was up to my nostrils in mud trying to keep my head down in the trenches as I pulled my weary body through yet another shitty patch of 20-40min sleep hell.

But as I’ve made it much further through my journey, I can now see that surrender is far from static.

Surrender is malleable and responsive, although it is a particularly slow moving beast who moves in an unpredictable pattern governed by your unique baby and your unique family.

Surrender is all about not fighting or swimming against the tide. It’s about finding comfort and a higher level of trust in the natural current and going with the flow, even when you hit some heavy rapids and you feel completely washed out.


If you have just found your surrender and have just accepted that this is where your baby is at right now and they need you every bit as intensely as they do right now. You are accepting the here and now. This is not forever.

As you follow your baby’s lead, you will find gradual changes will naturally occur or windows of opportunity will open up where you can gently encourage minor adjustments to keep things ticking along for you all.

  • The baby who only sleeps on your chest, will one day allow you to put them down or lay next to you instead of on you.
  • The baby who never sleeps more than 20 minutes in their cot but then has 2 hours on your chest after being picked up, will one day bust out a 1.5hour sleep in their cot or on your bed as you roll away like a stealth ninja.
  • The baby who has only ever slept while there is a boob in their mouth may be gently night weaned once they reach an age where they understand what is going on.
  • The baby who has needed to be rocked to sleep, may one day accept rocking in the rocking chair, then simply sitting and cuddling and then one day, they may be happy just to hold your hand as they drift off to sleep.
  • The baby who only sleeps during the day while snuggled up tight in a carrier, will one day transfer.

These are but a few examples of what I mean. There is nothing to fear in surrendering to the here and now. Nothing in surrender will be set in stone.

It is also a perfectly normal part of the mother-baby relationship that at times, you will feel at odds. Your baby will need more from you in a way you wish they didn’t. Sometimes, it is all we can do to accept this mismatch, but at other times, we CAN make changes to regain the balance in both the mother and baby’s favour.

I have two examples of this-

1. I chose to night wean my 15 month old as I was 5 months pregnant and had severe breastfeeding aversion and he was wanting to nurse hourly around the clock. The nursing was making me feel physically ill and my skin crawled. My toes would curl, my teeth clench and my hands bunched into fists. I had to fight against the urge to throw him off me, each and every time he nursed. It was KILLING my relationship with him. He needed my comfort. I respected that. I did not deny he needed me. I simply could not keep meeting those needs through nursing anymore. It was an undeniably hard time for him but he was cuddled, sung to, reassured and continued to sleep with us in our bed. He was not alone through this change. I still met his needs for comfort and reassurance as he continued to wake at least every couple of hours, but no longer through breastfeeding. Our relationship was restored and was as strong as ever.

2. By the time my guy was 2, he was horrible to have in our bed. He was restless and extremely rough in his sleep. Hitting, kicking, thumping. Things really came to a head when my husband copped a heel to the privates more than once in the night and he told me he couldn’t do it anymore and went to the spare room. When we talked it over, we both agreed that he wasn’t yet ready to spend a full night in his room (he starts the night there but always migrates sometime around midnight), but we needed him out of the bed. We decided to buy him a lovely comfy single mattress and add it to our King size floor mattress. I made a bit of a fuss with him about picking a new quilt set for it and he and I practiced laying on it so he knew exactly where I was and how he could still reach out and touch me and hold my hand but he could also roll and thump and kick around with hurting anyone. It worked a treat.

My major tip with these kinds of changes is to be wary of making them unnecessarily if your child does not seem ready. Your baby is the best gauge of whether what you imagined should be the plan is in fact a good match or not. If they are ready, changes should be pretty uneventful- more a natural step forward than some momentous jump.

Never be afraid to take a step back if your baby seems stressed or you feel stressed. Both are reactions that deserve recognition.

Not being ready now, does not mean they won’t be ready ever.

Keep things in perspective. Our babies are biologically designed to grow more independent with sleep over the first few years of life … This process is not one where you look for development and growth every other day or even weeks. Look over months and years and you will see a beautiful progression.

Surrender to now, knowing that it is just for now. There is no long term with babies. You have not entered the twilight zone.

Surrender is a great way to allow you to take sleep out of sharp focus. When you stop zoning in on all the unhelpful details of your baby’s sleep, you open and free your mind to take in everything else that is going on in your baby’s world and indeed your own life.

So yes, surrender but don’t stagnate. Embrace the flow and trust the ride. You will make it out the other end. You really will.

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Do you think there is a place for sleep training if it suits a child?’

Do you think there is a place for sleep training if it suits a child?’

I was sent a question asking,

Grubby Mummy, I’m curious to hear your thoughts after a discussion I had with a friend today. We read your sleep school article and the ones about the sleep whisperers and get that you are very anti sleep training but we wondered if this was just because you think it doesn’t suit some babies such as your own. He sounded very intense and high needs and like sleep school was very traumatic for you both but we know people who’ve been to sleep school and seen sleep consultants who swear by them and think the benefits outweighed any negatives.

Do you think there is a place for sleep training if it suits a child?’

Short answer, no.

Long answer, no but for a couple key reasons.

Firstly, it is normal infant sleep behaviour for a baby to wake and nurse frequently for the first 12 months and beyond, not a sleep problem. If a child is waking infrequently and nursing infrequently, they also do not have a sleep problem. Neither the frequent nor infrequent waker nor any baby in between, is behaving in a way that is biologically unexpected. I do not believe that a baby who is behaving just as they should be ‘needs’ to be trained to sleep in a manner that society has decided is more desirable to fit in with what is seen as the holy grail of parenting- a self settling baby who sleeps through the night.

Secondly, my second baby actually fits the bill for what you’ve described and I think sleep training would ‘work’ on him very quickly.

This thought actually makes me feel sick.

I am so grateful this baby came after his big brother. If he had been my first, I most likely would have ‘succeeded’ at sleep training him and my parenting path would be vastly different to the journey I have been on as a result of our ‘failure’.

For me, even though I do think I could train this baby of mine to sleep all night, self settle, sleep in his own cot, stop night nursing and not call out for me at night, I could not think of anything I would rather do less. Why?

Despite him being ‘suited’ personality wise to training, his natural sleep pattern still involves waking, sometimes frequently, mostly infrequently and nursing back to sleep each time. It is what he asks for as I follow his lead.

I will not sleep train this flexible, relaxed baby of mine because regardless of what I stand to gain, it is nowhere near enough for me to consider risking what may possibly be lost in the process.

My distaste for all things sleep training runs deep and although it was spawned through traumatic personal experience, it has grown ever since as I have learned more and more about normal infant sleep and also the benefits of gentler approaches to infant care. Some may argue that there is no proof that sleep training harms babies. For my babies, this isn’t enough.

My instincts, my heart and my baby all tell me that responding to my little one both during the day and throughout the night is the path that feels right.

Many will disagree with me. I am okay with that. Sleep training is the norm these days. It is mainstream and pumped down mother’s throats daily (particularly if they have a wakeful baby). Voices of dissent from the norm are important. So I will keep sharing my view on this topic. Not to upset those who choose or have chosen the sleep training path, but for those who are looking for an alternative view of this weary season in life. One that doesn’t involve changing their baby.

Sleep deprivation’s a bitch but I will manage this weary season in my life without sleep training my baby regardless of whether he is ‘suited’ to the process or not.

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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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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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‘I bet you can’t wait to get them out of your bed!’

‘I bet you can’t wait to get them out of your bed!’

Actually I can. 
Time passes by too darn quickly watching my babies grow to ever want to live just ‘waiting’ for the future. 

I’d rather live in the here and now. 
Right now I live in the land of twilight cuddles, nursing, sweet milk breath, tiny hands, kicky legs, sleepy sounds, toddler nightmares, teething pain, cries in the night that I can calm just with my touch, my presence. 

My bed is incredibly full right now, although the new addition of a single mattress next to our King has created the space we all needed to feel comfortable. 
I didn’t choose bedsharing first time around. My baby chose it and I will be forever grateful to him for forcing my hand. 

Second time around, we chose it from the start. Why?

  • Because it feels so right for us. 
  • I get more rest. 
  • My babies have me promptly when they need me. 
  • I can be the parent I want to be through the night. 
  • It’s easy when we travel. 

My husband and I will have years of our bed to ourselves. 

I can wait for that. 

Right now, our family bed is for our family. Always present. Always comforting. Ever loving. 

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Is the difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ souring your time with your baby?

Is the difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ souring your time with your baby?

This is a question I’ve pondered before and I’ve found myself back there again today. Today, it was a mix of my own way of talking and thinking about my baby and toddler but also listening to a mummy of a very young baby and toddler venting.

My contributions were-

 ‘why won’t you go to bloody sleep?’ While trying to convince my wonder weeking wonder that sleep was indeed what his cranky arse needed.

And ‘I just got you to bloody sleep! Why won’t you just stay there!! It’s your fault you woke up and now I need to get the baby down.’ After my cranky toddler didn’t transfer from car to bed as I’d hoped.

The mummy with the little baby contributed-

 ‘she won’t sleep anywhere but on the boob at the moment.’

 And ‘even when I’ve gotten her enough sleep, she still won’t be happy. She’s always cranky right now.’


Now it may all sound a bit nitpicky but trying to change these thoughts from ‘won’t’ statements to ‘can’t’ statements can actually really help you mentally while working through the many frustrations we face with our babes.

The reason for this is that by using the word ‘won’t’ we are inadvertently implying that our baby can do whatever it is that is giving us the shits but they are choosing to be a little arsehole who will not take this option.

By choosing the word ‘can’t’ instead, we are able to acknowledge that our baby, while still giving us the shits is currently unable to simply do whatever it is we desire. Therefore, we are able to see they are not actually being an arsehole who chooses to make our life hard but a small person who is in fact struggling with an action.

This difference can really shape your current relationship with our baby or toddler (certainly not irreversibly) and as I learned first hand, YOU are the one in control here.

You have so many things that aren’t within your control as a mama that sometimes I think it’s really important to reflect on what is. Two things in our power and control at all times are our thoughts and actions.

We can choose to focus on meeting our baby at their point of need and accept that at this moment they simply can not do everything we ask or desire or we can focus on where we think they should be and grow ever more frustrated that they won’t live up to these unrealistic expectations.

So here’s our challenge. Think of all the ‘won’ts’ you are currently putting on our baby and turn them around and rework our thoughts into ‘can’t’ statements. 

Let’s rework our expectations.

Here are some more possible ‘won’t’ moments that may be in your world …

• Baby won’t self settle

• Baby won’t be put down

• Baby won’t sleep in bassinet/ cot

• Baby won’t sleep for more than 20-40 minutes

• Baby won’t resettle.

• Baby won’t sleep without boob

• Baby won’t stay lying in cot

• Baby won’t stay asleep unswaddled

• Baby won’t play alone.

• Baby won’t go to strangers

• Baby won’t settle for anyone but mum

• Baby won’t stop crying in the car

• Baby won’t stop moving/ crying while you try to get them to sleep

Now we’ve clued in and identified our thoughts, let’s try to make the mental shift away from all that they won’t do to what they simply cannot do right now. If they could the would. They can’t so let’s give them and ourselves some grace.

Breathe a little and rest easy knowing that while our little people cannot do these things, before we know it, they’ll be grown and will have mastered these and many more accomplishments all in their own time.

Accept. Breathe in. Rest easy. This too shall pass. 

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