Written by Jess Raubenheimer-Free
Becoming a mother is an experience fraught with uncertainty, anxiety and downright fear. Am I doing this right? Is my baby sleeping enough? Eating enough? Pooping enough? Am I causing irreparable emotional damage by letting her cry for 5 minutes while I go to the bathroom? Is my milk supply dwindling? WHY ARE YOU CRYING?
When it's 3am and your baby has woken up for a 4th time that night, and you're so exhausted your eyes are burning, you turn to the person who is always awake. Can always answer your questions. Google.
Some examples of things I've actually googled:
- "baby waking every 4 hours"
- "4 month sleep regression"
- "baby self settles during the day and bedtime but not during the night"
- "can you die from sleep deprivation"
Okay the last one is a joke, but seriously, can you?
The problem isn't so much the googling, it's the results. In that moment you're really looking for evidence that you're not alone, because being up at 3am feels like the loneliest thing in the world. Instead you'll be targeted with what you "should" be doing to get your baby to sleep.
While you're breastfeeding baby to sleep because that's the ONLY way you'll both get some sleep, you'll read that you shouldn't be doing that. When your back is aching from rocking and bouncing your precious babe to sleep, you'll read that you're creating a sleep association.
Our daughter went through a phase of waking multiple times in the night when she'd previously been sleeping 7/8 hour stints. We were doing all the things we had been told to do, everything that the sleep consultants and guides advise. Heck, she was even self settling 80% of the time. But during the night when it was dark and she was alone in her cot (less than a meter from me, but still alone) she wanted her mummy. She wanted to snuggle in against her favourite person in the world and sleep cosily. And I love it when she is there, despite the massive crick in my neck from sleeping with my arms in a protective cocoon around her.
"BUT DON'T DO THAT!" Shriek the sleep consultants and the sleep articles. She'll learn that she needs YOU to go to sleep and want to sleep in your bed until she's 21. She'll never be an independent individual. If she doesn't sleep though, she'll be obese, have memory problems and learning delays.
And so the cycle begins again, I google because I am worried that I'm doing the wrong things. Wringing my hands all day and night worrying. Is there something I'm missing?
The truth is, baby sleep is complex. Take a super complex thing, combine it with sleep deprivation, the deepest love you've ever felt and throw in a dash of anxiety and you have a recipe for disaster. This is only my first child, but I've learned pretty quickly to take all the sleep advice with a grain of salt.
All I'm saying is, put down the phone, mama. Stop googling. You are an absolutely amazing mother and the ONLY mama your baby needs. Trust your instincts.