The first rule of sleep club: Why do most parents lie about their lack of kip?

Lisa Watts

109353214 300x200 The first rule of sleep club: Why do most parents lie about their lack of kip?A recent study carried out by NetMums established that only a quarter of babies are sleeping through the night at 12 weeks old, with only 63% sleeping the entire night by the time they are one-year-old. That makes a lot of us sleep deprived, right? I for one fall into that category and my almost-three-year-old still doesn’t sleep well.  What is more staggering is that 62% of parents admitted to having lied about how well their child sleeps under the pressure to appear like the perfect parents.

Why do we feel the need to ‘keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to all things child related? Does it make you a bad parent if you can’t get your baby to sleep through the night by 12 weeks? Of course it doesn’t, so what makes us feel so much pressure?

Lauren Mudliar, mum to two year-old Beau and newborn Coco said: “The golden ‘7am – 7am’ is worn like a badge of honor and if you don’t have yours then often you’re made to feel like a failure. You can have the calmest bedtime routines, feed Weetabix before bed, control cry through the night, you can do a million different things, but at the end of the day, if they don’t want to sleep they won’t! After two years I’m used to our 5.30am wake up calls & now wouldn’t swap those morning cuddles in bed for the world. It’ll all be over before I know it.”

It’s not only mums joining in this debate, Nan to five grandchildren, Jane Conway added: “I was only having this conversation with my daughter yesterday, she thinks she is doing something wrong because according to her friends their babies sleep right through the night, and my grandson who is now four months still doesn’t. I told her that I bet half of them are not even telling the truth. It certainly isn’t down to bad parenting and when I was up most of the night with my kids I used to get through by thinking of all those people who couldn’t have children and how they wouldn’t care if they had to stay up all night!”

So who is to blame for the pressure parents face to be seen as ‘perfect’ by their peers? Is it the unrealistic notion of  the so called ‘experts’ and their tight schedules or other parents boasting how well their child sleeps or by lying to cover up the fact they are not coping with sleep deprivation at all. It’s hard to believe that some parents are so desperate for sleep they are willing to pay £1,000 a week to hire a sleep specialist, as the survey found that one in 50 parents had tried this approach.

One mum who was tempted to go down the sleep specialist route was the author of parent blog MotheringMushroom she said: I was tempted to do this myself at the beginning, having been told by a health visitor that my baby’s wakefulness was due to my failure to sleep train him. He wasn’t even nine-months-old at the time.”

Netmums Health Visitor and sleep specialist Maggie Fisher said: “While many so-called parenting gurus are well meaning, they can set unrealistic expectations of babies’ sleep patterns, and when children don’t follow it, parents feel like failures and are convinced they are doing something ‘wrong’.”

In my opinion, often the books that are incredibly strict make parents feel this way, and should really be filed in either the horror section or my personal favourite, fiction. But the guru’s aside, why is it we feel the need to lie to other parents about our child’s sleeping habits?

Catherine Davies, from Southampton said: “I found that parents I knew who had children over the age of six months would lie about how well their child slept as if there is an unwritten rule that at that age babies must sleep through. I would say it’s important to be honest and open as other mums can have great tips and advice. They all get there in the end, whether it’s five weeks or five years.”

Lucy Kneller-Hole added: “I don’t think I could get away with lying as I look like I’ve had hardly any sleep for 20 months!”

Looking other end of the scale, at those lucky parents who achieve the holy grail and get their child to manage a full night’s sleep. How do they feel about talking to mums whose children don’t sleep well? Debbie Willis, mum to two girls told me: “When my little ones were babies I had pretty good sleepers and I used to feel guilty about how well they slept so was always careful about who I told and tried not to boast – I knew I was one of the lucky few.”

Finally Cath Jevon added: “There are miracle babies that sleep through from day one or whatever, and their mothers are not sleep-deprived and borderline psychotic and therefore able to verbalise how wonderful a phenomena it is to have such a baby. The rest of us are barely able to raise a coherent sentence in baby groups so our voices aren’t necessarily heard.”

Looking at all the feedback from parents I have spoken to, it seems to me that you are either dammed if you do or dammed if you don’t. You just can’t win. Parents with children that sleep through the night don’t like to boast and parents whose children are horrendous at night don’t talk in case they are judged to be a bad parent. The first rule of sleep club; don’t talk about it!

Image credit Getty Images

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  • Debbie Hughes

    Why do we judge others, what is the saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Motherhood is already a guilt trip why can’t we support each other, why do we expect all babies to be the same when we know everyone is different. I think milestones are just more pressure for parents, can your baby, crawl, walk, sleep, talk the list goes on. I try not to compare but it is really hard, we should have faith and not worry so much. Parenthood is just a long list of do you remember when we use to ….. But honestly would you swap?

  • robinbaldock

    Maybe its a class thing (I’m told I have no class) but I thought parents bragged about not getting any sleep as a badge of honor around how difficult rearing children is but “its worth it of course”.

    Also “sleep training”? Ugh! How Brave New World is that?

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