The other morning my husband said the most offensive, horrible, untrue and downright effed up thing.

After I wore his Fitbit for the night to track how much sleep I WASN’T getting, he checked the results and merrily announced I’d logged a solid eight hours.

Eight hours. EIGHT HOURS. It’s important to note here that I am the owner of three children. One of whom is five months old and breastfed. Eight hours? Yeah okay mate. That’s why I frequently suffer ‘frozen nip syndrome’ (when you’ve breastfed so many times throughout the night that your boob is exposed to the elements) and regularly Google ‘Can sleep deprivation make you vomit with exhaustion?’ (jury is out on that one). Eight hours? I’d settle for three, sans nip flash.

The thing about sleep is that you don’t actually realise how much you need it til it disappears. And usually just like a pre-schooler who sees a mum at the park offering pink finger buns while all you have is sliced apple; quickly, without warning or remorse.

Real versus fake exhaustion

I remember the supposed ‘exhaustion’ I suffered in my mid-twenties. ‘I’m SO tired,’ I’d whinge to my partner. Tired from what exactly, Princess? Sitting at a cushy desk all day, working steadily without having to stop and wipe anyone’s bum? Boo frikkin hoo. Cry me a river and fill it with the HOURS of sleep I was actually getting. Yes, it’s possible I hold a small amount of resentment towards my younger self but can you blame me when baby won’t sleep? Long term, sustained sleep deprivation induced exhaustion can do strange things to the mind.

I’ve been walking the mum beat for just over six years now. In that time, I’ve managed to produce three offspring that do not share my respect and adoration for sleep. This has caused me to experience some pretty strong emotions about the issue. I’ve come up with a helpful rubric of exactly what the non-sleeping mother feels, thinks, eats, drinks and acts like. Should you meet one in the wild, you’ll know how to handle her (HINT: Gently and always bring something caffeinated.

THIS, my friends, is a step-by-step of what goes through the head of a mother when her baby won’t sleep.

THIS Is What It Feels Like When Your Baby Won’t Sleep

You will feel:

Like your eyeballs have been taken out of their sockets, rolled in coarse sea salt then stuck straight back in. Under-eye baggage for days. Touche Éclat concealer ain’t got nothing on dem bags.  At times, people may mistake the red rims and general vacant stare for that of a regular pot user. Rest assured, there is nothing illicit going on, just a baby who enjoys partying all day and all night.

You will look:

Like a homeless person. Top knots 4 lyfe. Buttoning up your pants often seems like too much effort. Drawstring everything becomes your friend. If you’re breastfeeding, a Bonds maternity singlet will be your uniform. At times, you may have a breast pad, that you rolled on during all the hours you weren’t sleeping, attached to your body.

You will think:

That your baby is broken. You will wonder what you’ve done to create this wakeful, punishing beast. There will be mum guilt for days. That sneaky bitch will spring up and bite you on the boob when you least expect it. You will ask yourself repeatedly if your child’s inability to sleep is your own fault and run through a list of the reasons why this is most likely the case. Is it because I feed to sleep/don’t feed to sleep/breastfeed/bottle feed/drink coffee/eat sugar?  And the list goes on.

You will be found:

Inhaling a double shot latte and crying into a muffin. If you don’t like coffee (you poor, poor bastard), you will spend time Googling ‘vitamins for energy’, ‘best tea for sleep deprivation,’ and ‘when will my baby sleep?’

Whatever you do, refrain from asking a mother exhibiting any of the above signs how their baby is sleeping. They may not be responsible for their actions.

Eventually, babies do sleep. They turn into toddlers, then pre-schoolers, then school kids who can be placed in their beds and remain there for six to eight hours. This is what we, the sleep deprived brethren, cling to. One day, there will be sweet, sweet slumber.

We just need to stay alive till then.

Need some more stay-alive advice? Check out our post on how to survive on minimal sleep (without overdoing the caffeine) And then try these 17 awesome tips for settling your baby.


Naomi is 3/4 latte drinking, peanut butter obsessed former magazine girl who now does stuff with words for a living while juggling 2.5 kids, 2 cats, 1 rabbit, husband and an unhealthy obsession with slow cooking.

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