I don’t know if I ever had PND. I had some pretty low moments. Some more intense than others, some that lasted longer than others. Some that came much later than others.
But what I do know is that it was (and still is) bloody hard, and that there were some things that helped and some things that my goodness did not. I’m able to see and say that more clearly with hindsight, and I wish I could go back to those early days and tell that new mama me what I know now. But I can’t…so I’ll share them with you instead, as part of Maternal Mental Health week and in fact month, in the hope that it shines some light for even just one person going through the darkness right now.
So I’ve been thinking about it all, and for me, there are 6 biggies that can make the difference between either mental wellness or mental wobbliness: sleep (surprise), meeting my basic needs, being honest, language, other people, and filling my own cup…and similar themes come up for all of them.
So I’m going to share my thoughts on each of these pillars in turn as a series of posts, starting with sleep today.
Here we go:
There is no escaping the fact that as a parent sleep goes up the crapper. It really does. And not just at the newborn stage, way way beyond that and it’s a well documented fact that broken sleep, lack of sleep and lack of deep sleep all contribute to maternal mental health issues.
AND there are still things we unwittingly do that add to that and things we can consciously do to alleviate it as much as possible.
I’ve written and spoken many times and at length about how our mindset makes such a huge difference to the effect our little one’s sleep has on us. The language we use, the stories we tell…you can read more about that here (link 6 ways making our sleep struggle worse blog).
For me, aside from and on top of the physical lack of sleep there are other reasons sleep has such a major impact on our mental health today:
- We take it personally, we somehow think it’s our job, and duty to get our littles to sleep and then when they won’t or don’t or it ‘goes wrong’ we think it’s our fault and we feel like a failure. The entire sleep coaching world (other than science rooted, holistic sleep coaches like me) and all those books add to that feeling of burden and guilt and play absolute havoc with our instincts and our mental wellness
- Having taken it personally we squash ourselves into this place of victimhood, we believe the sleep is happening TO us, we make it all about us and we martyr ourselves to it…again, more dodgy ground for mental wellness
- We compare ourselves and our little ones to ‘everyone else’ (actually we tend to only compare ourselves to those better off so we can torture ourselves with worry and frustration and feeling like a failure again)…
- …and as a consequence, and thanks to decades of societal nonsense, we have ridiculously high and misguided expectations of how sleep is going to go, how it ‘should’ go…so when it doesn’t we’re disappointed, wracked with guilt and not in a great place mentally
- And the reason we have such misguided expectations is because we’re entirely uninformed, no MISinformed about what normal, biologically healthy baby and child sleep actually looks like, how it works, what helps it, what hinders it and how to support your child to achieve more of it naturally when they’re developmentally ready.
All of this places enormous pressure on us…we place enormous pressure on ourselves, and then we top it off with even more pressure to perform and do all the things and keep a tidy house and get ‘our body back’ and bounce back into work and so it goes on, all whilst living with the very real realities of little person sleep….is it any wonder our mental health suffers?
I don’t think so.
So what can we do? How can we alleviate some of it?
- Get informed
- Work on our mindset to change how we think and feel about sleep
- Let go of what we can’t control and focus on what we can control
- Advocate for ourselves and our needs
These are the foundational pillars of my work with mamas…it’s not just about the sleep, it’s about everything that’s touched by the sleep and everything that touches the sleep in return. It’s all linked.
There are a number of ways I can support you with this, on a one to one basis, via group coaching or under your own steam… you choose the best way to improve your situation:
Tackle Sleep in 10: A self-paced online programme with videos, pdfs and links to valuable resources, live Q&As with me and real simple, actionable steps to make the learning your own. You will not only unravel your little one’s sleep for good, but will learn how to navigate the twists and turns of sleep deprived motherhood without completely losing your mind or yourSELF in the process.
Mindful Sleep: A 10 week live coaching programme with just 10 other people and group coaching calls with me. This is about so much more than sleep. It’s an incredibly valuable parenting resource to help you tune in to your little one, rebuild your trust in your own instincts and deepen your connection as a family, beyond sleep whilst rediscovering the person you once were, the one hidden under all the sleep shizzle. The start date for the next programme will be announced shortly. Click here to register and be the first to find out!
Sleep Calm and Carry On: A bite sized masterclass where I take you from sleep rage, to sleep sage, in just 3 days (and only 15 mins a day!)…even if it feels impossible. This will run four times a year and dates will be announced soon. The most recent Masterclass will be available for you to purchase shortly. Click here to register your interest and be notified as soon as it’s ready!
And I’ll be sharing more in the next few blog posts…next up, getting our needs met, basic or otherwise! click here to go to part 2 now