My Daughter, Sleep Deprivation and When It’s Time To Ask For Help

aria sleep

My Daughter, Sleep Deprivation and When It’s Time To Ask For Help

If you follow me on Twitter, or are a regular reader of my blog you will know that sleep, or the lack of it is an over-riding theme of my life at the moment. I actually think that sleep deprivation might be my kryptonite, but I can certainly see why it is used as a torture device.

My daughter has never been a good sleeper, from her entry into this world she was born screaming and my husband and I rapidly fell into a blur of 3 hours per night sleep. Not her fault of course, diagnosed with cow’s milk protein allergy and silent reflux at 5 weeks old, she was in pain and couldn’t settle.

When she was small and her reflux was bad sometimes the only way I could settle her from screaming was to breastfeed her. Which eventually led her to a cycle where she would only sleep if I breastfed her. If she woke in the night I would have to nurse her to sleep or she would just cry and cry. I tried lots of things to change this. I even tried to convert Aria from breast to bottle nothing worked. I was up every 1 to 2 hours per night. One day I thought I was losing my sanity and parked up in the car park in Tescos I sat and cried because I was so exhausted.

Through hard work and some advice from The Blissful Baby Expert who very kindly contacted me on Twitter and emailed me advice. I managed and it wasn’t easy to wean Aria off breastfeeding to sleep. I then eventually moved her to cup when I decided it was time to stop breastfeeding. That wasn’t easy either, but probably another story!

But until 3 weeks ago, Aria was still waking every night at least for a milk feed. She’s quite slim, she’s dairy free, and when I talked it over with her dietitian as her diet isn’t very fat rich we debated whether she might still need it. And, to be honest, as she woke drunk it and went back to sleep straight away I kind of was ok with that as it wasn’t depleting my sleep too much. But I was also wondering at 21 months, if she still honestly needed a milk feed and I just couldn’t come up with an answer. In fact, I actually wrote about this in October – My Daughter Still Doesn’t Sleep Through The Night – Is It Time To Change Things? I had initially forgotten about this blog post, and reading my words back I realise that in 5 months nothing has changed really. It’s not unusual for Aria to still wake for a good two hours in the night and there are days when I wonder if it’s getting worse.

Then, about 3 weeks ago, for various reasons I decided to try cut out Aria’s milk in the night. I started by offering her water instead and trying to settle her from there. I’ll be upfront and honest with you it hasn’t been fun. The first few nights she ended up in our bed, there were lots of tears. I did notice she increased her food in the day after the first night and now she has to have two good snacks in the day as well as three solid meals. When I offered her water instead of milk at first she would drink the water. After a couple of days she would refuse the water and want nothing more than for me to hold her.

I was in a quandary, should I reintroduce the milk again. Just as I was beginning to really fret, she slept through for two nights straight – I began to wonder if I had cracked it. Then came one of the worse nights ever with Aria crying inconsolably for 3 hours, I tried calpol and nothing seemed to work. We then fell into a pattern of hellish nights and then she would sleep through and repeat. It really reminded me of her newborn days. I attempted cutting out her nap in the day, but with the lack of sleep in the night she was ratty and tired it didn’t work, so then I tried a nap every other day. Which is what we’re currently doing. I’m still not convinced this is working!  She seems to get really ratty and weepy on the days without a nap.

I have recently begun to wonder if there was more to her sleep problems, she hasn’t been on reflux medication for well over a year. But perhaps the milk was helping appease some reflux in the night, and by cutting it out I have taken away something that was helping her?

Then, throw in a stomach bug into the house, my husband away for most of the month with work, and any sleep I was getting and I was averaging about 4 or 5 hours a night all in all disappeared. I wouldn’t even say I am a weepy person, but one morning in utter exhaustion of it all I found myself crying because I was so tired once more. I was also (am still) worried I was just doing it all wrong. Was I missing something?

On my sister’s advice I decided to call my health visitor for help. I have to admit I am really skeptical of health visitors I haven’t always had the best experience, but the lady was really sympathetic and helpful. Then she said she would refer me to a sleep specialist. I didn’t even know the NHS had sleep specialists for children?

Today, I had my first call with the sleep specialist. She doesn’t think I did the wrong thing about cutting out the milk, she gave me a sympathetic ear and lots of advice. Also told me to put Aria’s nap back in, which in my gut feels right, but we’ll see. We’ve set an appointment for a home visit and in the interim I am to keep a sleep diary and keep on with what I have been doing. We talked about what could be wrong with Aria, from night terrors to her reflux. I don’t think either of us know the answer yet. But I am grateful to have help and that there might be a way to do the right thing.

As I finish writing this, I’m not even sure this is a great blog post and more a stream of consciousness as I try to get my thoughts about it all in writing. Yes, I might be exhausted, but it can’t be good for Aria to be up and crying so often in the night. I worry that it might be psychologically damaging her somehow to be crying so much, and what if there is something medically underlying we’ve missed? I guess only time will tell. Watch this space and wish us luck! And if you’ve made it to the end thanks for reading all the way through my ramble!

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
A Cornish Mum

22 thoughts on “My Daughter, Sleep Deprivation and When It’s Time To Ask For Help

  1. Oh lovely, I really feel for you – Toby only started sleeping through consistently a couple of months ago at two and a half. Of course I still don’t get much sleep because now Gabe is up too! Toby was the same, still having milk in the night at 20 months – sometimes 3 or 4 bottles (and this was when I was working full time and 5 months pregnant!) For ages I thought it was because he was so skinny and needed the extra calories but eventually realised it was because reflux was still causing him pain at night, even though he was fine during the day. We put him back on ranitidine and although he still woke up sometimes it was easier to settle him and he didn’t need the milk anymore. We started reducing his dose when he was two and went from 3.5ml twice a day to now having 1ml just at night. Although it’s hardly any (less than Gabe has) if we try to stop it completely he starts waking up crying again. We sometimes give him more if he’s got a cold or if I know he’s eaten something that can be a trigger for him. I’m not saying Aria’s trouble is reflux but it might be worth having a look at. And I hope you get some sleep soon!

    1. Thanks Sarah I do keep wondering if this is to do with it. We’re keeping a sleep diary at the moment for the sleep consultant and it’s quite interesting to see the patterns all down in black and white. There are times where she just won’t settle. I really appreciate your advice x

  2. Oh bless you, Laura, this sounds so hard. I really struggled with sleep deprivation as T would wake up 4+ times a night until just before his first birthday. He still has bad nights (last night being one of them!) but things are so much better now. I don’t have any advice but I know you’re not doing anything wrong and that it must be so hard so I’m sending a virtual hug. I really hope the sleep specialist can help xx

    1. Thanks Helen, that sounds tough too and I am glad things are better now. I don’t expect her to sleep through the night every night etc but it’s the bouts of crying for hours which I just do not know what to do with her. I am hoping we will have some answers soon

  3. We struggled a lot with sleep deprivation when my daughter was a baby. She woke a lot, I trained to be a parenting instructor with an amazing organisation called Hand in Hand parenting, partly because I was puzzled by why my daughter was waking even when she wasn’t hungry. I wrote up a blog post recently about some of the amazing discoveries I made about sleep Sharing because there is so much about sleep that traditional parenting books don’t mention, and so many parents are suffering. I was amazed when I discovered these! My daughter sleeps really well these days.

  4. I feel your pain! My youngest daughter didn’t sleep through until 17 months and that was when I weaned her off the bottle. She wasn’t too keen on waking for water in a beaker 🙂 Then my eldest daughter 8 months ago decided to stop sleeping through the night and for 5 months I was up every night with both my girls. I was lucky if I got 3 hours of broken sleep a night. Sleep is the toughest thing to crack, you can’t make anyone go to sleep. I wish you well and I really hope the HV and you can work together to help you and your daughter. x p.s if she has any great ideas for my eldest daughter please send them my way!! x

    1. Oh goodness that sounds utterly exhausting I do think lack of sleep starts to send you crazy after a while. I hope you get some answers for your oldest soon and some sleep xx

  5. Oh goodness you poor thing. Sleep deprivation is definitely a form of torture, I’m currently feeling that at the moment with the 3 year old and 8 week old tag teaming. I really hope you and the HV can get her sleeping better soon, for both of you X

  6. Oh Laura, I really feel for you. My eldest had severe reflux and that was quite a nightmare! He’ll nurse, throw up, nurse, throw up, on repeat even throughout the night. I even told my doctor who said it was just “spit up”. So we never tried anything else except breastfeed and soothe. I was simply exhausted and him being my first child, I just blamed myself. We also only realised how severe his reflux was until we had #2 and we knew what normal “spit up” actually was. Hopefully you’ll get some answers too!

  7. I feel for you and I do sympathise, my two were terrible sleepers. My son in particular was awful, he would scream for hours every night as a baby and toddler and we had no idea what was wrong. We tried everything and nothing worked. I remember staying at other people’s houses and feeling like such a terrible mother because I couldn’t stop him screaming, even when I lay down in bed next to him he didn’t stop so it wasn’t a comfort thing. I think he finally slept through occasionally when he was 3 or so, but by then I had another baby that wasn’t quite as bad but was still up several times a night until she was about 3 as well! At the time it seemed as though it would go on forever but of course it didn’t and now it is just a distant memory, they are 7 and 4 now and I only get woken up in the night once or twice a week now which is wonderful (although they both like their early starts!). It will pass but it’s awful, and especially if it seems as though everyone else’s baby and toddler are sleeping so much better. Sleep deprivation is terrible and can have such a negative impact on what should be a wonderful time with young children, I do feel that I would have been a much happier mother and done more fun things with my toddlers if they’d let me sleep more at night! I hope it passes soon for you xx

    1. Thank you Jennifer I really appreciate the comment I feel a lot like you said that I would be a happier mum if I could just get some sleep, but I also have to remember it will pass x

  8. I feel so sorry for you, Laura. My wife went through a similar thing with our first child. Fortunately, we were able to get her the help she needed. I hope you find your solace soon.

  9. I’m sat on the sofa at the moment next to a napping husband because we don’t sleep ???? We have tried to change to water in the night but we couldn’t stick it! I couldn’t face the screaming! Sadly, I caved and started giving him milk again! I know this isn’t going to help in the long run, but I just can’t get him to settle any way!!!

    It was a lovely ramble to read! And I love reading (not love that people aren’t seeping because it’s not nice) but that I am not alone!!!!

    1. You are so not alone. And it’s exhausting. We’ve actually got my daughter to sleep now. It took 2 years, how old if your little one? There is an updated post on this. We realised eventually the reason she needed the milk in the night is she was suffering from reflux and the milk was soothing it. It’s made a phenomenal difference x

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