A Sleep Deprived Mother’s Tale: Breaking the Baby Sleep Stigma

I am on a mission to ensure that no parent endures the pain of exhaustion, overwhelm, and relentless questioning of their value and self-worth when they have a child that consistently does sleep well.

I help parents tenderly and gently teach their children the “skills of sleep” so that their child has lifelong sleep habits, which results in a family system where ALL family members enjoy a full and well-rested life.

Below is an important and inspiring recounting of sleep deprived mother’s journey from overwhelm and self-doubt to feeling confident and balanced.

She is now living a well-rested life and reconnecting to her family vision.

With proper sleep, families can enjoy the keys to life: health, harmony, and vitality.

A Sleep Deprived Mother’s Tale: Breaking the Baby Sleep Stigma

A True Story By Kathleen Poorman

Her daughter was 19 months at time of Guilt-Free, Gentle Sleep Coaching

You’re texting one of your mommy friends and she suddenly asks “How’s your 6 month old doing with sleep?  Is she sleeping through the night yet?”  Your mind flashes back to the hour you spent walking and bouncing her last night, just like every night, pleading with her to please just go to sleep.  You remember how heavy her body gets after 5 minutes in.  You think about the list of things waiting for you when she’s finally asleep: the laundry, the dishes you haven’t done in days, the shower you never got this morning.  Forget the things you want to do.  This is sleep deprived survival mode.  

Your fingers hover over the phone, your mind racing to come up with something positive to say.  You don’t want to look bad. You can’t admit you truly don’t know what to do to help your child sleep better. You’re her mom, your mother’s intuition should be on this by now, right?  So you text back “She’s doing pretty well.  Still learning how to fall asleep but I’m sure she’ll figure it out soon!” 

There.  That should keep her from asking again for a couple weeks.  You hit send and let the mommy guilt wash over you like the hot shower you never got. 

This is the full weight of the baby sleep stigma we hold over ourselves invisibly.  We feel trapped by what others will think of us if they knew the full truth.  But what if we told each other the truth, and put the stigma to rest for good?  What if by doing this, we could spread the knowledge of how to help each other, and we ALL SLEPT?  

Let me be the first to rip the cover off the baby sleep stigma.  Let me tell you my story.

Our child was never what we would call a good sleeper, and I was a sleep deprived mother.  Not knowing what to do, I Googled ways to DIY our own solution, but came away more confused than ever.  We stumbled our way into a mess of “sleep crutches”, or things that a child requires you to do for them before they can fall asleep.  We kept adding new ones over time, thinking they’d be the final fix to help her sleep through the night. 

At 16 months of age, she had a whopping 7 sleep crutches.  She’d become the proud owner of our guest mattress (on the floor of her room) because she wouldn’t fall asleep without me beside her, and was too heavy to move into a crib once asleep.  She’d ninja kick, roll around, and pull escape acts repeatedly.  It wasn’t uncommon for this routine to take over an hour before I could try to sneak out of her room.  Bonus points if she didn’t wake up!  Four hours later, she’d be up again, crying for me.  When my husband tried to help her, she’d scream for me until she threw up.  I’d spend the rest of my night on her mattress in impossibly uncomfortable positions.  It was infuriating chaos.

After several months of getting little to no sleep this way, I finally lost it.  I hadn’t had a solid 8 hours of sleep since before the “squished bladder” stage of pregnancy.  I told my husband something had to change or I was sleeping somewhere else.  Taking the first real step towards sanity, I did what seemed unthinkable.  I asked for help. 

I called a professional sleep coach named Joanna Clark (owner of Blissful Baby Sleep Coaching) who taught my husband and I what we didn’t know about sleep.  She listened to our story, taught us the science behind our daughter’s sleep needs, and created a plan with us that we carried out with her continual guidance.  We did weeks of prework to set the stage and then devoted time each day to sleep training.  We were consistent and made it the main priority for that month.  It took lots of hard work, but almost anything worth having does. 

We were stunned when our sleepless child became a “good sleeper” in a matter of days.  To compare, her bedtime now includes reading 2 books, laying her in her crib, saying goodnight, and closing her door behind us.  Either my husband or I can do this routine.  She falls asleep on her own quietly and sleeps a solid 11-12 hours each night.  It is a true night and day difference.

We had been missing two things: A solid education on a baby’s sleep, and the guts to ask for help.

It was really hard calling Joanna and admitting that I didn’t know what to do with my own child.  I was afraid of being judged by others for needing help.  I also wondered “How could a complete stranger know my child’s needs better than my intuition?”

It took asking for help to realize that sometimes, asking for help is what your mother’s intuition is telling you to do.  It’s starved for knowledge until you give it something to run on. 

Once I finally slept and regained brain cells I’d done without for 2 years, I realized I was mad.  Why didn’t I know to do this sooner?   Where was this information in the pregnancy books or in my midwives’ handouts?  And even worse, why did I feel like the only one struggling in the first place?

We got brave and decided that it was time to share our whole story with everyone who’d listen.  The more we shared, the more we realized how many people are struggling with the same problems.  We heard repeatedly “Our grandson doesn’t sleep through the night and he’s 5!”  Or “They spend hours trying to get their kids to sleep!”  Oddly enough, the truth came mostly from grandparents or relatives, hardly ever from the parents themselves.  And no one knew what to offer them for help.

Maybe, just maybe, we don’t know what to do because we don’t talk about it. 

Imagine how my story could have changed if I had said to my friend via text “You know, she’s not sleeping well at all.  I just don’t know what to do to help her.”  What if she had been in the same boat before, and had asked for help and gotten it, and now knew to pass it on to me?  What would it be like if we truly believed it was ok to not know it all on our own? 

I’d love for every sleep deprived parent to find out.

And so, I am prying away the talons of baby sleep stigma by sharing my story with you.  I am shouting it from the rooftops that IT IS OK TO NOT KNOW!  I am unapologetically saying that I, a mother, needed baby sleep help and asked for it.  And I’m begging you, if this is you as well, to step out from the shadows of self-shame, ask for help, and pass along the torch.  It’s up to us to offer honesty and gain so much in return. 

We may all sleep better for it. 

Kathleen Poorman, Jasper, GA. Her Daughter was 19 months at time of sleep coaching.