Since it is Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Awareness Week, I’ve decided to share why my 3.5 month old son and I recently went to sleep school. I am a very private person, so I feel very vulnerable in writing this blog. Many of you reading this will know me personally. But I hope that by being honest, I will encourage someone else to ask for help.
My eldest son is 4 years old and I cannot remember much of the first few months of his life. I was so sleep deprived. In all honesty, I think I had postnatal depression or anxiety that was not formally diagnosed. I would have trouble sleeping even when he was asleep, and was constantly irritable, teary and very on edge. It took a lot for me to accept help, and I would never ask for it. I decided to go to sleep school when he was 5.5 months old, and this helped us both get more rest and helped me start to feel like myself again.
Second time around we had trouble conceiving Jack, and ending up needing IVF. I was very anxious during pregnancy and sought support from a psychologist.
Jack is now 3.5 months old and for the past 4-6 weeks we were co-sleeping as he would scream every time he was put in his cot. This led to me sleeping less, and even when he was fast asleep I would be wide awake for hours. My mind would never stop. I was irritable, short tempered, teary and shouted at Max all the time. I even had a minor car accident and I couldn’t tell you who was at fault.
I knew this had to stop. I could feel myself going downhill. Again, I sort help from my psychologist, and decided to go to sleep school again.
It was tough. I cried on 3 out of 4 of the nights; worried that Jack would hate me or start to reject me. I cannot handle hearing my children cry, so I always picked them up immediately and held, breastfed or co-slept so that they didn’t cry. But these things were no longer working for me.
At sleep school, they teach you to listen to the different cries, and to identify what each one means. I learned not to rush in immediately, to give Jack a chance to help himself fall asleep. I comforted him when distressed, but left him alone when he was grizzling. He started falling asleep in his cot!
As I mentioned at the start, I am worried about writing this. There are strong opinions on this type of ‘sleep training’. I myself used to be quick to judge. What I have learned, and what I want people to be aware of is that if a mother is not feeling ‘right’, she cannot be the sort of mother that she wants to be.
For me, sleep deprivation is a major problem. I knew that once I was getting more restful sleep at night my mood would improve, my mind would be clearer, and I would stop shouting at my older son all the time.
I am happy to say that both Jack and I have been sleeping better since sleep school. He goes to sleep fairly easily, wakes for his breastfeeds and then settles quickly back to sleep. I am more alert, more clear headed and much more patient and tolerant.
So to finish up, I just want to say two things:
1 – Before you judge someone for ‘sleep training’, please consider that they might be really struggling, and it could be their last resort
2 – If you identify with my story, or feel like you are drowning, please reach out and ask for help.
Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA)