Rookie error: 7 terrible baby sleep mistakes I made as a first time parent

Kinderling News & Features

That first year of bub's life is a bleary-eyed mess of sleepless nights, cuddles and a lot of worry. Karina Lane shares what she learned during this crazy time period.

When I had my first baby a few years back, I was clueless about baby sleep. And boy, did I suffer for it. As well as spending the best part of a year sleep-deprived and strung out, I was an emotional wreck, constantly beating myself up for not having a baby that ‘slept through the night’.

Looking back now, I know I made some rookie mum sleep mistakes that prevented any of us from getting a decent kip in those early months. But to be honest, the biggest mistake I made during all that time was treating a full night of sleep like it was some sort of holy grail.

Don’t get me wrong: if I had a baby now, I’d still be yearning for a decent night’s sleep. But I wouldn’t be all stressed out about it. I’m sure the way I obsessed about sleep made the whole situation a billion times worse. In fact, if I’d known a few things back then, I would have spent less time worrying about sleep and more time accepting my little night-guy for the baby he was.

Here are 7 baby sleep mistakes I made:

1. I had no clue about sleep

I didn’t know the first thing about baby sleep cycles or what babies actually needed when it came to sleep. This meant I did a number of things that completely backfired when it came to sorting my baby’s sleep out, like keeping him awake for too long between naps or putting him to bed later at night so he’d sleep for a better stretch. Big mistakes. Big. Huge.

2. I tried to make my bub fit the mould

I read a stack of baby sleep books and tore my hair out over every one of them. It took me ages to figure out that these books weren’t designed for my baby, who had his own little temperament and needed a tailored approach, not a textbook one. Treating these books as gospel made me feel like my baby was broken and that I was failing in the sleep department. But the truth was, he had his own sleep style, and there was nothing wrong with either of us – just my approach.

3. I stressed too much about bad habits

My baby used to love being rocked and fed to sleep, but I was warned constantly about the rod I was creating for my back. This meant I beat myself up for enjoying watching him fall asleep in my arms and put us both through hell trying to get him to fall asleep without me, way before he was ready. Now I know that there was nothing wrong with helping my baby fall asleep, and I could have tweaked things gently and gradually to help him get there on his own.

4. I didn’t know about help was available

Back when I was exhausted and desperate, I didn’t know about the services and help around for sleep-deprived mums, like private sleep consulting  and sleep school. Believe me, if I’d known back then that you could take your wakeful baby to some other place, where they help you get sleep on track PLUS let you slumber for more than 45 minutes in a row, I would have been at their door, suitcase in hand.

5. I bought into the hype

When it comes to sleep, every parent is looking for the miracle fix that gets their baby to suddenly love it. I was no exception to this, and bought into every sleep gimmick going: the lullaby machines, the sleep CDs, the special sleeping bags. My shelves were lined with the latest books promising sleep solutions. Nothing worked. And my wallet was lighter than it had ever been.

6. I compared my family with others

Every mum I met seemed to have a perfect sleeper for a baby, and I couldn’t help but compare myself with them, which left me feeling seriously inferior. Once I was past my sleep-deprived fog, I realised that all babies come with their own sleep style and habits, so comparing the baby that goes down every night from 7pm-7am with my little night owl was a pointless and painful task.

7. I was stressing too much

It’s hard to avoid getting obsessed about sleep when you’re not getting any. In fact, when you have a new baby, sleep seems to be the focal point of every conversation, even with complete strangers. But I wasted way too much time and energy stressing out about sleep and what I should have been doing differently, when in fact those months passed in the blink of an eye, and my baby learned to sleep in his own time.

This post originally appeared on Babyology.