It’s no secret that sleep deprivation is hard. It’s no secret that all we want to do is curl up on the couch and sleep. It’s no secret that sleep deprivation makes us cranky and irritable. But, what about when it drives some parents or babysitters to the unthinkable?
Even one news story about a parent hurting their baby due to sleep deprivation is one too many and today I read three! It is so hard to read the stories about a mom who is so sleep deprived that she is so frustrated at her baby that she shakes the baby or otherwise hurts him. But, in some ways, I understand.
It’s not that we ever even came close to hurting our boys, but there were several times we said to each other, on a particularly hard night, that we understood how some people shake their babies out of sheer desperation and exhaustion! Certainly, it’s not something these parents plan. Certainly, these moms feel horrendous and nothing they do can change their actions. I remember one mom who came to me after she ran two stop signs with her kids in the car. Sleep deprivation does crazy things to us! I’m sure many of us can relate to the feeling of desperation and exhaustion, even if we, ourselves, have never been pushed as far as some of these moms:
• A mom was convicted of manslaughter in Winnipeg back in April when she was “tired and frustrated” and threw her 3 month old into his bassinet.
• This mother is still waiting for her babysitter to be brought up on charges for giving her 10 month old muscle relaxant and Sudafed to make him sleep!
• Another mom told her lawyer that she had post-natal depression and was sleep-deprived when she shook her baby causing brain damage.
Although some of these parents obviously have other “issues”, it is for these types of stories that I am so passionate about helping other parents with their baby’s sleep. It is for these stories that I worry about the mom whose 18 month old still wakes up 5 times a night! Frankly, I found it exhausting to wake up for one feeding for a whole year. Doable, obviously, but exhausting! I am actually in awe when a parent comes to me after a year with a baby, now toddler, still waking up numerous times per night.
It is always my hope when people come to this site that they feel less alone and can get some help for their family to all get more sleep. It is also my hope that the non-judgmental attitude comes across well when I say we all really do need to find our own way. It downright worries me that some people are so much against cry it out that they stress so much how much you will damage your child, that many parents will go through endless months of sleep deprivation to avoid it. I just have to hope that most of us seek help before we really do get to our wits end.