One challenge that many mothers face is the feeling of guilt, commonly known as ‘mum guilt.’  Despite motherhood being an exciting journey filled with joy, love, and unforgettable moments, this emotional burden can often interfere with various aspects of a mother’s life.

One area where mum guilt tends to rear its ugly head is sleep. I know mum guilt is holding many families back from exploring sleep training and taking those vital steps to solving their little ones’ sleep issues. Let’s explore why.

Mums feel like they won’t be giving their baby what they want

I’ve spoken to mums who feel they shouldn’t sleep train their baby or child because they believe it is a mother’s job to adapt and respond to whatever their child wants. But what happens when this ‘want’ is negating a ‘need’. Is it more important that your child has cuddles in the middle of the night, every single night, or is it more important that they sleep through and get the sleep they need to support their fast developing brain?

Mums worry sleep training will damage attachment

There’s a common myth out there that sleep training will damage the attachment a child has to its parents. This is just not true. Here’s why.

Attachment styles in children are formed over much longer periods of time. You can’t alter an attachment style in a few days or weeks. Anxious or avoidant attachment styles are created by parents who are either incredibly inconsistent in the way they show affection to their children (i.e very loving one minute and cold and uninterested the next) or parents who repeatedly do not respond in anyway to their children, or do so in a nonchalant manner.

The whole point of sleep training is that it creates consistency. You little one knows what to expect night in, night out and knows what your response will be each time. Consistency is the key aspect of creating and maintaining a secure attachment style in children.

Mums feel like sleep deprivation just comes with the job

Do you ever find yourself thinking, ‘I just need to grin and bear it, they’ll sleep one day’? This doesn’t have to be the case at all. And when will that ‘one day’ be? Being a mum doesn’t mean you HAVE to be sleep deprived. All babies and children have the ability to sleep well. Beyond the newborn weeks, healthy sleep habits can be created. Sleep deprivation should never just be accepted.

Mums think sleep training means ‘cry it out’

Again, this is a myth. It may have been true years ago, but now we know so much more about sleep and ways we can gently support little ones to sleep well. I don’t use ‘cry it out’ as a method. ‘Cry it out’, otherwise known as the extinction method, means leaving your little one to cry for as long as it takes without returning to them. While many studies show this is not damaging if used as a temporary fix, I don’t believe it is useful or fair to either child or parent.

My methods may take slightly longer, but they are gentle and responsive and are based on your child’s temperament. No ‘cry it out’ involved.

Understanding mum guilt

Mum guilt is a pervasive feeling of not doing enough as a parent, not doing things right or making decisions that may ‘mess up’ your children in the long run. It can be triggered by numerous factors such as balancing work and family life, spending time away from your child or even when you take some time for self-care.

This constant self-doubt and worry can lead to stress and anxiety which are known culprits for sleep deprivation. Mothers often find themselves lying awake at night ruminating over their perceived shortcomings as parents.

The impact of mum guilt on sleep

Lack of sleep due to mum guilt isn’t just about feeling tired. It can have serious implications on both physical and mental health. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to conditions like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and weaken the immune system. On the mental health front, it can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression.

Moreover, lack of proper rest impacts your ability to function optimally during the day. It affects your mood, energy levels, productivity and even your interactions with others including your children.

Strategies to overcome mum guilt

Overcoming mum guilt is crucial for maintaining good health and ensuring you get the restful sleep you need. Here are some strategies that might help:

1) Practise Self-Compassion: Remember that no one is perfect and it’s okay to make mistakes. Instead of beating yourself up over perceived shortcomings, try to treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you’d show to a friend in a similar situation.

2) Seek Support: Share your feelings with trusted friends, family or a professional counsellor. They can provide perspective, reassurance and practical advice.

3) Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that it’s impossible to do everything perfectly. Prioritise tasks and let go of the things that are not essential.

4) Take Time for Self-Care: It’s important to take care of your own needs too. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and taking time out for relaxation can help reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality.

5) Take gentle steps to fix sleep issues: Everything is worse when you are sleep deprived. If mum guilt is holding you back from sleep training, take a moment to really question why that is. What is it that concerns you most? What are your fears? I’m very open to having honest conversations with parents, so if you would like to talk this through on a free, no-obligation call, please do consider booking one here.

Let go of mum guilt

Mum guilt is a common experience, but it doesn’t have to rule your life or rob you of precious sleep. By understanding what triggers these feelings, seeking support and practising self-compassion, you can begin to overcome mum guilt.

Remember, being a good mother doesn’t mean being perfect or doing everything yourself. It means doing your best within your capabilities while taking care of your own health and wellbeing too. So let go of the guilt, get some restful sleep and wake up refreshed for another day of the beautiful journey called motherhood.