Alison Keddilty remembers back to the tough times of sleeplessness and suggests some solutions
None of our six children have been good sleepers as babies, but our second baby was epically terrible. She wouldn’t go to sleep without a fight, she wouldn’t stay asleep, and she woke early every morning. I sat on our lounge floor sobbing whilst explaining to our Health Visitor that I was so tired that I could barely remember my name never mind look after a tiny, completely dependent human. I had tried everything, but nothing worked. What should I do? The Health Visitor took pity on me and referred us to the Sleep Specialist with the words “mother at end of tether”. I felt like a bit of a failure, but I had hope of a better future and the promise of someone to journey with me.
If I could go back in time and sit alongside that broken, sleep-deprived me, I would have a few things to say:
Accept the offers of practical help. Ask for help if no-one is offering. There is a reason for the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. Bringing up children in isolation is hard. It’s even harder when you are sleep deprived so don’t try and do it alone. The concept of an extended family or a ‘village of faith’ raising children can be seen in Deuteronomy. If you don’t have a village, find one. Drag your exhausted self to church or to toddler group and enjoy the sanity that comes from having a brew whilst someone else coos over your child. Maybe, in time, one of the people you meet will offer you some help.
Pray. I must have prayed a thousand times for sleep and pleaded with God for a better night. Did God always grant my wish for uninterrupted sleep? No. Did He always give me the energy or help that I needed to get through the day, sometimes in surprising ways? Every. Single. Time. Keep praying. If nothing else, at least you will be tired whilst focusing on being in the presence of God.
Ask other people to pray. Our toddler group team regularly pray for sleep for parents who turn up struggling with the broken nights. Often the parents return the next week looking refreshed. But if they are still struggling, I will set my alarm at regular intervals and get up to pray for them. Why? Because “When his people pray for help, he listens and rescues them from their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).
This too shall pass. I know that might sound cliched and annoying, but this is a chapter in your child’s life, not the whole story. One day they will sleep better.
And until that miraculous day when your little one starts sleeping through the night regularly, remember this, we have a God who says “come to me all who are weary”. So, draw near to God… and maybe ask your Health Visitor if they can refer you to a sleep specialist as well.
Alison Keddilty is a mother of five and Children and Families Mission Leader at Bishop Auckland Parish