One of the things that came as a total shock to me when I first had a baby was the lack of sleep. I quickly realised that my baby did not know or care that it was night time and it was time to sleep, he needed what he needed day or night. At nine months, he finally slept through and I remember telling people, "he didn't sleep through until he was NINE MONTHS, can you believe that?!"
Then when we had son 2 I was determined we were going to make sure that didn't happen again. Although he was breast fed I tried to introduce a bottle straight away to use for his last feed of the day. He wasn't having any of it. In fact he would not touch a bottle until he was 10 months old. I have heard other opinions on this, but it is my belief that breast fed babies do not sleep as well as formula fed ones. It's probably something to do with the composition of the milk, but anyway being breast fed certainly did nothing for the sleeping patterns of my baby and I was so exhausted we co-slept and he was an unwitting "attachment baby", though this was not a conscious choice.
At ten months he was still waking for 3-4 feeds during the night and I had gone back to work. People kept saying, "go to bed early", but there was really no point as he was waking up between 7 and 10pm anyway so my sleep would have been disturbed. At this point, he started to take a bottle, though he was like a new born as he wasn't used to the sucking action needed to drain the bottle so it took ages during the night for him to drink. Many people said things like "give him water", or "reduce the size of the feed". But he was absolutely starving and nothing else would do.
When he turned one, I decided enough was enough, unfortunately son 2 did not agree and was still keen to have milk in the night. He was eating well in the day so I just couldn't understand why he was still waking up all the time.
By this time my life had been affected in every way by the lack of sleep. I had lost weight, I was pale and drawn. Worst of all my personality had been affected, I was very snappy and impatient and had completely lost my sense of humour. Nothing was funny anymore and I had lost the ability to smile and enjoy myself. All I talked about was his sleeping problems and asking people for advice I knew I would never take. Then I started to have more serious health problems, I constantly had colds and flu, I would catch mystery tummy bugs all the time that didn't seem to affect anyone else. My hands would shake all the time, I just couldn't keep them still. Then I started with the most terrible heartburn that had me in tears most days. I felt stressed and the slightest problem seemed insurmountable. I felt embittered and miserable in my dealings with others and couldn't shake it off. I also started to forget things, nothing would stay in my memory. This was hard to take as my memory has always been so good, in fact I have relied on it many times in exams when I haven't bothered to study and it has rarely let me down.
I can see why sleep deprivation is considered to be torture. When you are so utterly sleep deprived all you can think about it sleep, even hunger and thirst does not compare.
Now son 2 is 14 months old and last night he slept through. I feel human again, though still not myself. I am hoping this is the start of good things and a better time for all of us.
What are your experiences of sleep problems with young children, and how did you overcome them?