I Don't Care About Sleep, But What I Do Care About Is.........
An acquaintance asked me the other day why I'm so passionate and obsessed with sleep. And it made me realise something….. I actually don't care about sleep all the much ( unless im at home and unable to nod off that is) But what i do care about is being a confident and connected mum. Being a mother is the hardest most demanding job in the world yet so rewarding but going to work on a job with no sleep and n real idea what to do is no fun, being a new mum for many is exactly that. Going to work at a new job without any training or experience and no sleep whatsoever on top of that. We all know we are not at our best without much sleep, imagine having to perform at a job with no training and no sleep. Welcome to motherhood!!
I fell into my night work and sleep coaching by accident or some would say it's fate. I have always loved kids especially babies and toddlers so it was a no brainer for me when it came to careers at school. I wanted to work with kids in some capacity, my own mum was a nurse when before she had us and retrained as a nursery teacher when she became a mum, so my school holidays were spent in the nursery class room with 3 & 4 years olds. My love for babies came when my baby cousin was born. I loved the way they smelt, how fast they grew all the skills they developed and then I loved toddler hood too, their little emerging personalities and characters and there demand for independence.So after gaining my NNEB, and working as a day nanny and room leader in the toddler room in a nursery. I started night nannying at 19 just to earn extra cash but I underestimated what a full night of Sleep meant to the mums I worked with.
Then I became a mum myself at 23 and all I cared about was being the best mum possible, I must confess I was cockily confident about becoming a mum, I had so much experience with babies and toddlers I wasn't the slightest bit phased and thought, I have this mum thing figured out……… til that first night in hospital with my baby daughter, no sleep at all combined with painful breastfeeding had my confidence shot in one night! ( nobody tells you how painful and tiring establishing breastfeeding is even 15 years later I remember that first time my baby latched on my nipple like a vice grip.
That one night in hospital changed things for me, I had a newfound respect for all the mums I had worked with. Here I was with all this knowledge and experience with babies and after one night of no sleep I felt completely incompetent!! I got home from hospital and thought…… "what the fuck do I do with this kid?"
Thank God for my mum, she saw the bewildered exhausted and terrified expression on my face and sent me to bed. After a few hours of sleep I felt restored and almost back to normaI, I got a text from one of my former clients who had become a really good friend congratulating me on the birth of my daughter and immediately thought of all my clients. Now I knew how they felt at home with a new baby and it was terrifying even for me, the difference between them and myself was that i knew what i was doing with babies and toddlers, they didn’t. How much more daunting an experience for them it must be.
That’s when my passion for what i do changed. I realised for myself how lack of sleep can impact you as a new mother, with hormones flying around your body, recovering from the birth and caring for this little person who is very demanding and vocal when you get things wrong (to be fair they’re vocal when you get things right too), it's not just mild tiredness or exhaustion. I realised that lack of sleep made me forgetful, emotional and slightly nuts, I knew what to do with babies, yet here i was bewildered and confused after only one night of no sleep and constant feeding. After the initial hiccup of fear i got back on track with some help and support from my mum, got my daughter sleeping through the night with a combination of co sleeping,breastfeeding on demand and some independent sleep habits by 8-9 weeks old.
When I returned to night nannying my whole mentality had changed, it wasn’t just about helping my client recover from birth and getting rest, for me it became about empowering and supporting these new mums. I wanted to give them confidence, and help them feel connected with their babies and reassure them that the insanity & amnesia from sleep deprivation was temporary. Recovering from birth and being able to catch up on sleep was the initial reason my clients hired me as their night nanny but over the years i wanted to help these mums to feel confident in their new role as a mum as well, i shared the norms of infant sleep with them, i shared the reasons why little ones struggle to sleep at times, i taught them that developmental leaps & milestones could impact on sleep and that even their own mood and feelings could have an impact on their little ones. ( FYI the other mums in your NCT group lie all the time about how well their babies sleep either that or they have full time maternity nurses)
I wanted to help them feel confident and in some sort of control ( although we all know the little ones rule the roost now) me supporting them gave them much needed rest and time to adjust to this new and demanding role. Allowing them time to themselves to sleep and taking over care of their little ones did that for them. Teaching them how to help their little ones understand that bed or nap time was coming, and/or how to self settle, helping them to identify and understand sleep cues and signals from their little ones gave them & the importance of flexible routines & habits . Sharing with these mums what i had learnt about little ones in my years as a nanny and nursery nurse had helped them to feel confident, and showed them that actually they were the experts on their babies not me, i just pointed them in the right direction. Sleep is a very small part of the puzzle, without it things can unravel very quickly for both mum and baby ( if a mum is suffering with sleep deprivation you can be sure that perhaps your baby is just as tired too)
That one night in hospital helped me realise early on for myself that without adequate sleep for mother and baby, Life in this new role can be daunting and intimidating at best EVEN when you know what you're doing. For me, when working with the amazing clients i'm so fortunate to be able to work with and for, getting them more sleep is just one of my goals ( that's the bit i know a lot about but) it’s about helping you become the best possible mother you can be, That all i wanted when i first became a mum,Plenty of rest & sleep & support can help you be that. And i love seeing the blossoming of mums from exhausted mess to confident mummy, because i know how scary and daunting being a mum can be without the support of someone who has some idea what they’re doing.
Now my baby is a 15year old who is taller and feistier than me & motherhood is even more challenging than ever. Now my goals are getting her to say anything other than ‘mum can i have some money’ ‘ thats on fleek’ or ‘thats peak’ ( still trying to figure out if fleeking or peaking is a good or bad thing) and getting her OUT of her bloody bed of a weekend ( if i don't tell her to get up she’s not up before 3 pm i bet you wish that was your struggle huh?). Give me kids under 2 anyday!!!
My role in life now i feel is to help and support those new mums crippled with exhaustion because along with that tiredness, comes self doubt, resentment and anxiety and also an unhappy and sleep deprived child too, none of which are conducive to positive parenting. Parenting in the 21st century is hard enough as it is without excess lack of sleep to contend with.
If you’re reading this and would like to join my facebook community you are very very welcome. We share how our nights are, what we can do to help improve our little ones sleep and also just have a laugh together, supporting and empowering one another as mothers. You can join us by clicking here!!
If sleep deprivation has gotten too much for you and you need some help to sort your little ones sleep habits do get in touch, send me and email or check out my support packages, you can have me help you as much or as little as you want or even just schedule a chat with me, ( a lot of 2nd/3rd time mums love this option as they often have a good idea of to do just need someone to bounce ideas around with.)
Talking with my clients is one of my favourite things to do so if you need a chat do reach out, don’t suffer by yourself. I don’t judge you, or criticise your past actions, i support and advise you with ways forward in keeping with your parenting style and your little one’s personality and sleep needs. Click here to look at packages or book a call with me.
Charmaine Walters is a mum, night nanny, infant sleep coach and the creator of The Soundly Sleeping Club. Her online resource and members club for sleep deprived parents. To learn more about The Soundly Sleeping Club and how joining can help you not only get more sleep but help you better understand why your little one can struggle with sleep at times (and what you can do about it!) click here